Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (3 December 2020)
Date of Auction: 3rd December 2020
Sold for £10,000
Estimate: £12,000 - £15,000
Subsequently awarded an M.C. in 1945 for his brilliant handling of a daring raid on an enemy camp at Long Ridge in the Danmap region during the Aitape-Wewak Campaign, Cory’s combination of gallantry awards is unique for New Guinea
Military Cross, G.VI.R. reverse officially dated 1945; Distinguished Conduct Medal, G.VI.R (NX7864. Sgt. G. E. Cory. AIF.) light contact marks to D.C.M., otherwise very fine (2) £12,000-£15,000
FootnoteM.C. London Gazette 21 June 1945.
The original recommendation for an immediate award states: ‘For gallantry and distinguished service in action. Lieutenant Cory was in command of a two platoon attack on a heavily defended position on Long Ridge, Danmap Area, British New Guinea on 1 February 1945. After his forward scouts had reported the location and dispositions of the enemy forces, Lieutenant Cory made a recce and manoeuvred his two platoons into a position for attack. Committing one platoon to a frontal attack along a razor back feature he went into the assault with the leading elements personally directing operations. By his brilliant handling of the two platoons Lieutenant Cory completely disorganised the enemy defences, rapidly exploiting and consolidating on the captured ground. His men accounted for 33 known enemy dead, 6 LMGs and obtained valuable maps and documents. An enemy operational order was captured giving the intention of an enemy force to attack our positions, and identifying two new enemy formations in the vicinity. This information was of vital importance to our forces. Lieutenant Cory’s sound tactical appreciation, daring and resourcefulness was mainly responsible for the entire success of the operation.’
D.C.M. London Gazette 4 February 1943.
The original recommendation for an immediate award states: ‘For gallantry and outstanding devotion to duty. During an attack on a strongly defended enemy position on the high ground to the west of Eora Creek village on 28 October 1942, Sergeant Cory showed exceptional courage and leadership under very heavy fire, whilst commanding 14 PIatoon. His platoon suffered heavy casualties in N.C.O.s. Sergeant Cory moved rapidly from section to section directing operations with complete disregard for his personal safety. He received a severe facial wound, and though temporarily blinded continued to direct the assault until evacuated. The great success achieved by his platoon was largely due to Sergeant Cory’s personal effort and bravery under exceedingly heavy fire.’
M.I.D. London Gazette 30 December 1941:
‘In recognition of distinguished services in the Middle East (including Egypt, East Africa, The Western Desert, The Sudan, Greece, Crete, Syria and Tobruk) during the period February 1941 to July 1941.’
Gilbert Ernest Cory was born on 23 December 1906 at Saumarez, near Armidale, New South Wales, Australia. He was admitted as a solicitor in 1931 but then struck off following personal bankruptcy and was working as a motor car salesman when he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 2 November 1939. Posted to the 2nd/3rd Battalion, 16th Brigade, he embarked for the Middle East on 9 January 1940, arriving at Kantara, Egypt on 14 February.
Middle East 1941 - M.I.D.
Cory first went into battle in the Australian Army’s opening action of the Second World War in North Africa when the 2/3rd Battalion took part in the 16th Brigade's advance against the Italians in eastern Libya during Operation Compass in December 1940. Successfully attacking at Bardia (3-5 January) and at Tobruk (21-22 January), his battalion remained as part of the Tobruk garrison when the advance continued. On 7 March 1941, the 2/3rd left Tobruk for Greece and, initially deployed north to the Veria Pass on 7 April to resist the anticipated German invasion, they engaged the enemy in battle at Tempe (Pinios) Gorge on 18 April. On this occasion the 2/3rd, together with the 2/2nd Battalion, blocked German movement through the gorge, allowing Allied forces to withdraw further south. Unable to prevent German forces from breaking through, however, the 16th Brigade was finally ordered to evacuate and, disembarking by sea from Kalamata on 27 April, Cory was shipped with the bulk of his Battalion to Egypt. Reforming in Palestine, the 2/3rd next took part in the campaign in Syria and Lebanon, fighting around Damascus (20-22 June), in the unsuccessful attempt to capture Jebel Mazar (24-28 June) and in the decisive Battle of Damour (6-10 July). However, with the war against Japan in the Pacific heating up, the Battalion was recalled to Australia and left the Middle East in March 1942. After a temporary diversion to Ceylon, Cory finally arrived back in Australia on 8 August 1942. He was mentioned in despatches for his distinguished services in the Middle East.
New Guinea, Kokoda Track 1942 - D.C.M.
Having already fought the Italians, Germans and Vichy French successively in the Mediterranean and Middle East Theatre, Cory, now a sergeant, was sent with his unit in September 1942 to the territory of Papua where the fighting against the Japanese on the Kokoda Track was reaching a critical stage. Overextended Japanese advances having finally been halted in mid-September at Ioribaiwa, the 2/3rd Battalion were sent as part of the 16th Brigade to relieve the exhausted and depleted Australian units on the Track and were tasked with launching a counter attack to drive the Japanese back through the Owen Stanley mountain range, past Kokoda to Buna in the North. ‘Along the route’, recorded the 16th Brigade, ‘were skeletons picked clean by ants and other insects, and in our nostrils the stench of the dead, hastily buried, or perhaps not buried at all.’
Arriving at Templeton’s Crossing on 19 October, the 16th Brigade, under Brigadier J. Lloyd, relieved the 2/25th and 2/33rd Battalions and continued to advance the next day, finding that the Japanese had withdrawn to Eora Creek where they had established themselves in strong concealed positions on high ground. Here the country offered what were possibly the most favourable conditions for defence along the whole length of the track between Port Moresby and Kokoda. Initially, under pressure from Generals Blamey and MacArthur, Lloyd decided they had little option but to assault the Japanese defences frontally but progress was halting and, amidst torrential rain, the Australians advancing up the gorge came under increasing mortar fire and grenades from the heights above, suffering a high number of casualties. Yielding to his battalion commanders’ representations, Lloyd agreed to a change of strategy and, on the 24 October, the 2/3rd battalion were ordered to work themselves up to the high ground around the Japanese right flank where, on the afternoon of 28 October, they attacked, neutralising each outpost and breaching the main Japanese defences. Here, Cory led No. 14 Platoon in an assault against a strongly-defended Japanese position. During the action, the platoon lost most of its non-commissioned officers, requiring Cory to move between sections to direct operations. Although shot in the face and temporarily blinded, he continued to take charge until he was evacuated and later transported via Milne Bay to Townsville.
The Australians had won a significant victory at Eora Creek, overwhelming the Japanese, who for the first time in the campaign, were seen to flee, dropping weapons and stumbling away into the bush. The 16th Brigade had lost 72 killed and 154 wounded in the action which was later described by Sunday Telegraph journalist Barclay Crawford as the ‘bloodiest and most significant battle of the Australian Army's campaign to retake the Kokoda Track’. Cory was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his part in the action and was promoted Lieutenant on 1 February 1943. His wound required extensive plastic surgery in Australia and it was not until July that he rejoined the battalion at Wondecla, Queensland.
New Guinea, Aitape-Wewak Campaign 1945 - M.C.
Cory had been among the first Australians to go into battle during the Second World War at Bardia in December 1940 and had fought until wounded on the Kokoda Track, having distinguished himself in both theatres. He would also be decorated for gallantry during the 2/3rd Battalion’s final campaign of the war - the operation to clear the Japanese from the Aitape-Wewak region on the north coast of New Guinea between November 1944 and August 1945. At Long Ridge, in the Danmap area, on 1 February, Cory commanded two platoons in a daring raid on a Japanese camp; the attack disorganised the enemy and inflicted heavy casualties. For these deeds he was awarded the Military Cross:
‘To the north and east of Mima Creek in the 2/3rd Battalion's area rose Long Ridge, a long steep spur which culminated in a mountain (later named Mount Hutchison) about 3,200 feet above sea level. Here, as mentioned earlier, patrols of the 2/8th Battalion had had several severe clashes with aggressive parties of Japanese. After a patrol had found a track along the top of the spur, Hutchison on 31st January sent out to Long Ridge a force commanded by Lieutenant Cory and including two platoons (Lieutenants Weir and Pope), and an artillery officer (Lieutenant Needham), with eight signallers and 10,000 yards of cable. The task given to Cory's force was to locate and destroy any enemy force on the track along this ridge, verify the existence of the track itself and check the position of streams on each side of the feature. Early on the 31st the men climbed from Mima Creek on to the ridge, there 2,500 feet high, and bivouacked. Next morning they climbed up towards what was later named Cory's Spur. The forward scouts sent back word that there were huts on the top of the slope and that they were occupied by Japanese. Pope's platoon attacked here, killing three while two others escaped. From this point three spurs rose. Cory chose the main one and the force began to advance along a narrow ridge from which rose a series of knolls on each of which unoccupied enemy positions were found. About 4 p.m. the forward scout, Private Perry, surprised a Japanese sentry and killed him silently with his machete, and soon reported a big camp and about 30 Japanese who were unaware of the presence of the Australians.
Cory deployed the force to attack this position, which was on a small plateau. This deployment took about twelve minutes with the Japanese working only a few yards away from the concealed Australians. Then Weir's men charged and had overrun three machine-guns and secured about one-third of the plateau before the Japanese had time to man the weapons that remained. Weir, although wounded, seized one machine-gun and fired it at the enemy. This leading platoon was now pinned down and Cory sent Pope's in. Pope reached Weir, who was in a Japanese fox- hole, but before they had time to say much to each other Pope was shot in the head. Sergeant Gooley [awarded the D.C.M. for this action] took charge of Pope's platoon, and his men pressed on throwing grenades and firing Brens and sub-machine-guns but were soon pinned down by the Japanese who had reorganised on the highest part of the plateau. The fire fight continued until it was nearly dark, by which time little ammunition was left. Cory's force then withdrew with its wounded and its spoils but was forced by the darkness to bivouac just a few hundred yards down the very steep side of the mountain. Next morning they returned to the battalion area well satisfied with the battalion's first successful action in this campaign.
There were 33 Japanese dead—confirmed a week later by a count of Japanese graves on the site—including 10 armed with swords and pistols. The captured weapons included 10 pistols, 37 packs full of new equipment , 6 machine-guns of which some had not been fired. Two Australians had been killed or mortally wounded, and 7 wounded. Captured orders showed that the Japanese force was a special raiding force 62 strong and was to link with the forward troops and attack.’ (Australia in the War of 1939-45 - The New Guinea Offensives by David St. Alban Dexter refers.)
Cory was appointed Temporary Captain in June 1945 and continued, post war, to serve on Morotai Island as Adjutant of the 67th Battalion. He was next stationed, from February 1946, with the British Occupation Force at Kure, Japan but was repatriated in May due to ill-health and was discharged to a disability pension in February 1949. He died at South West Rocks, New South Wales in 1977.
Cory’s combination of M.C. and D.C.M. for the Second World War is shared by one other Australian, Lieutenant F. J. Hoddinott, also of the 2/3rd Australian Infantry Battalion, who received a D.C.M. for Syria and an M.C. for the South West Pacific. Just six D.C.M.s were awarded for the Kokoda Campaign.
Note: A duplicate pair of gallantry awards to Cory, comprising, M.C. (reverse officially dated 1945) and D.C.M. was sold at Glendining’s, London, in September 1990. The D.C.M. sold on that occasion was officially impressed ‘NX7864 Sgt. G. E. Cory, Aust. Mil. Forces. Duplicate’, this being contained in a cardboard box of issue, with Queen’s crown on the lid. The lot was sold with a transmission letter from the Ministry of Defence Droitwich stated to have been addressed to the recipient’s son.
Note: This lot is available for viewing in Swanbourne, Western Australia, by appointment with our Australasian representative, John Burridge.