A Collection of Medals to Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiments

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Date of Auction: 17th September 2009

Sold for £4,800

Estimate: £2,500 - £3,000

A fine Great War D.S.O., M.C. group of six awarded to Captain R. L. V. Doake, Bedfordshire Regiment: twice wounded, he personally accounted for several of the enemy in the course of winning his D.S.O.

Distinguished Service Order, G.V.R., silver-gilt and enamels; Military Cross, G.V.R.; 1914-15 Star (2 Lieut. R. L. V. Doake, Bedf. R.); British War and Victory Medals, M.I.D. oakleaf (Capt. R. L. V. Doake); French Croix de Guerre 1914-1917, with star riband fitment, mounted court-style as worn, the first with loose centre-pieces, lacquered but otherwise generally good very fine (6) £2500-3000


D.S.O. London Gazette 8 March 1919:

‘During the attack on Preux-au-Bois on 4 November 1918, he was in command of one of the leading companies of the assault. He led his company forward when the companies on either flank were held up, and, after killing several enemy himself, reached his final objective. He then sent parties out to either flank to help the other companies forward. This was completely successful and the whole objective was captured. He showed most marked gallantry and ability.’

London Gazette 16 September 1918:

‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He put up a most stubborn resistance with his company and remained with them after being wounded in the head. By his fine example he greatly encouraged his men.’

Richard Lionel Vere Doake, who completed his education at Merton College, Oxford, was commissioned in the Bedfordshire Regiment in September 1914. Witnessing much active service with the 7th Battalion in France and Flanders 1915-18, he won his M.C. for the operations around Grozat Canal in late March 1918 and, as cited above, his D.S.O. for bravery at Preux-au-Bois that November, on this occasion while attached to the 2nd Battalion. Doake was also awarded the French Croix de Guerre in June 1919, in addition to gaining a brace of “mentions” (
London Gazette 16 March and 8 July 1919 refer).

As stated above, he was wounded in the process of winning his M.C., similar misfortune having befallen him during an enemy bombardment of his Battalion’s trenches on the Somme in late June 1916. The regimental history takes up the story:

‘It was near the same spot that the Bedfordshire Regiment had a very bad bit of luck, having all the officers of one company killed or wounded only a few days before they were due to go over in the big show. Captain Doake, one of the survivors, gives the following account:

“On 26 June, ‘C’ Company, in support, had a bad time from enemy bursts of fire. The officers’ mess in a dug-out in Piccadilly got a direct hit, while all the officers were having supper, about 9 p.m. All became casualties, as well as some eight servants and other ranks who took refuge. A 4.2 howitzer shell struck the entrance and burst inside. The doorway was filled up, and the smoke and fumes suffocated the survivors. Luckily a passing man saw my arm, which had been pushed through a hole, and after a little labour Major (then Captain) Clegg and I were got out. But Lieutenants Baden and Hasler were killed, and Lieutenant Johnson died of wounds. The companies suffered severely that day from bursts of fire, which were very well directed and quite thorough.”

The rescue work of the buried officers was carried out by Private H. W. Fish. He at once began to dig, and, although the air was thick with gas and he was nearly choked, he refused to be relieved till the job was finished.’

At what point Doake returned to active duty remains unknown, but assuming his injuries were light, he most probably shared in the 7th Battalion’s later actions on the Somme, including a fierce hand-to-hand encounter at the Schwaben Redoubt on 28 September 1916, when 2nd Lieutenant T. E. Adlam won the V.C.

The same regimental source also adds detail to Doake’s D.S.O.-winning exploits at Preux-au-Bois in November 1918, care of a contribution made by Lieutenant-Colonel A. E. Percival:

‘Some excellent shooting by Bedfordshire officers is recorded during the attack. In one case Captain Doake, commanding ‘C’ Company, was moving through the orchards towards the village, accompanied by his batman, when he saw through a hedge a party of four Bosches with a machine-gun not more than 20 yards away. He and his batman opened fire, and he claims to have brought down all the four Bosches with four rounds.’