Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (16 April 2020)

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Date of Auction: 16th April 2020

Sold for £4,800

Estimate: £3,000 - £4,000

A scarce Great War 1918 ‘German Spring Offensive’ D.C.M., 1916 ‘French theatre’ M.M. group of five awarded to Sergeant S. J. Menadue, 251st Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers, who at Givenchy, ‘with another was in charge of a portion of underground defence that was overrun by the enemy; they, however, refused to surrender, and remained below with an officer who was unable to walk, having always in view the possibility of an escape during the confusion. Their anticipation's were justified, and in spite of a heavy machine-gun fire and shell barrage they succeeded in carrying the wounded officer into safety and in rescuing six other men’

Distinguished Conduct Medal, G.V.R. (132221 Sjt: S. J. Menadue. 251/T’Lg: Coy R.E.); Military Medal, G.V.R. (132221 L. Cpl. S. J. Menadue 251/T’Lg: Co. R.E.); 1914-15 Star (132221 Spr: S. J. Menadue, R.E.); British War and Victory Medals (132221 Sjt. S. J. Menadue. R.E.) mounted for display, generally good very fine (5) £3,000-£4,000

Footnote

D.C.M. London Gazette 3 September 1918:

‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. This non-commissioned officer with another was in charge of a portion of underground defence that was overrun by the enemy; they, however, refused to surrender, and remained below with an officer who was unable to walk, having always in view the possibility of an escape during the confusion. Their anticipation's were justified, and in spite of a heavy machine-gun fire and shell barrage they succeeded in carrying the wounded officer into safety and in rescuing six other men. The happy result of this enterprise was due to the courage and resource of these non-commissioned officers, who were equally responsible for its success.’

M.M. London Gazette 21 September 1916.

Simeon John Menadue was a native of Scorrier, St Day, Cornwall, and was a miner prior to the Great War. He initially enlisted in the 10th (Service) Battalion, Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry (Cornwall Pioneers) before serving during the Great War with the 251st Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers in the French theatre of war from 10 October 1915.

The 251st Tunnelling Company served at Givenchy for the entirety of its’ war service. The following detail behind Menadue’s gallantry at Givenchy, in which he helped rescue Captain Walker, M.C., during the German Spring Offensive of 1918, is given in The Tunnellers by Captain W. Grant Grieve and B. Newman:

‘On 17th April, after a period of nine days in the line, the party at Givenchy was relieved by Captain Walker, M.C., Lieutenants Rees and Marsland and thirty-nine other ranks. Owing to the situation prevailing at the time, and the strong possibility of a further German onslaught, the Tunnellers were told off to special stations to assist the infantry in resisting the threatened attack. Their positions were as follows: Lieutenant Marsland, one N.C.O. and three other ranks at Moat Farm entrance to Bunny Hutch Subway, Lieutenant Rees and a party of twenty men at No. 4 shaft penthouse and the sap leading thereto. (This was rather an exposed position, but it was excellently sited to cover the north side of Caledonian Road penthouse and Moat Farm entrance.) One N.C.O. and four men in Givenchy Keep dugout system to act as guides and maintain liaison between the garrison in Givenchy Keep and Mairie Redoubt. Colonel Evans, 1st Black Watch, approved of these dispositions on the evening of the 17th April.

The Tunnellers then went about their lawful occupations of pumping, listening and maintenance in the mines, dugouts and subways.

Since 9th April almost incessant shelling had been directed on Givenchy, particularly on strong points like Moat Farm and Givenchy Keep, the exact location of which, no doubt, the enemy had noted during his brief occupation. They had resisted very well, although numerous direct hits had been registered on them. Scarcely a vestige of habitable trench remained.

On 18th April, after a bombardment of unprecedented severity which lasted eight hours, during which reserve and battery positions received a continual drench of gas shelling, the enemy launched a second attack on Givenchy. Again he succeeded in overrunning the first defences, and got possession of the shaft top at Moat Farm dugouts. A counter-attack was launched, in which the Tunnellers assisted the infantry, and relieved the pressure on the garrison in Caledonian Road penthouse. The senior infantry officer was killed and a second attack was led by Captain Walker, R.E. During this attack Walker was wounded severely in the leg by machine-gun fire. He managed to crawl back to Bunny Hatch Subway, and from there he continued to direct operations, and continually urged NO surrender! The Tunnellers were now the only defenders of the Moat Farm entrance. Beaten back from the entrance by bombs, they built a barricade farther back.

By early afternoon the subway had become congested with wounded, estimated at about two hundred. The enemy had gained possession of the entrances, and threatened to spray down gas unless the garrison surrendered. The hopelessness of the situation was further aggravated by the fact that supplies of bombs and ammunition had given out. In order to save the wounded further unnecessary suffering therefore, no further resistance was offered, and all the troops in the subway, including the survivors of two companies of the 1st Black Watch of the 1st Division were taken prisoner. They were ordered by the Germans, upon pain of death, to evacuate the subway via No. 3 shaft - and their order of going was arranged for them. N.C.O’s were to proceed first, followed by other ranks. In spite of the threat of death, three sappers secreted themselves behind pumps, tools and sandbags, eluded their captors, and so escaped.

Captain Walker was on a stretcher and Sergeants Newell and Menadue constituted themselves his bearers. As he could not be evacuated through the spiral stairway in No. 3 shaft, he was to be taken out via Moat Farm entrance, which he had so well defended. Accompanied by Sapper Turner and another sapper, they set off for Germany - at least so their captors thought! On approaching the entrance at Moat Farm, Sergeant Menadue went forward quietly to reconnoitre. There were two sentries at the entrance, both of whom he dealt with effectively. When the remainder of the party reached the surface they “changed direction” and made for Pont Fixe and not captivity.

Such incidents as these illustrate why the British Army is hard to beat. N.C.O.’s and men, when thrown on their own initiative, are seldom at a loss as to the action appropriate to the occasion, and they act quickly, without consulting the drill book. For his exemplary conduct Menadue was awarded the D.C.M. As a result of his wound, however, Captain Walker’s leg had to be amputated.... Of the three officers and thirty-nine other ranks who went into the line on the 17th, one officer and six other ranks returned to Company H.Q., the remainder being killed or captured.’

After the war Menadue returned to Cornwall and was employed at Tresavean Mine until its closure. He then worked at the Seleggan tin smelting works at Carnkie. Menadue resided at Higher Pennance, Lanner and died at St. Lawrence’s Hospital, Bodmin in August 1963. He is buried at Lannerth Parish Church, Lanner.

Sold with two original photographs of the recipient in uniform, a newspaper cutting for his obituary, and copied research.