A Collection of Medals to Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiments

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Date of Auction: 17th September 2009

Sold for £2,000

Estimate: £600 - £700

Family group:

A good Great War M.M. group of four awarded to Sergeant W. Batchelor, Bedfordshire Regiment, who, having been decorated for bravery during the German Spring Offensive, was killed in action in August 1918

Military Medal, G.V.R. (14124 Pte. - A. Cpl. W. Batchelor, 4/Bedf. R.); 1914-15 Star (14124 Pte. W. Batchelor, Bedf. R.); British War and Victory Medals (14124 Sjt. W. Batchelor, Bedf. R.), together with related Memorial Plaque (William Batchelor), good very fine and better

The Great War awards to his brother, Private H. Batchelor, Bedfordshire Regiment, who died of wounds in April 1915

1914 Star, with clasp (7615 Pte. H. Batchelor, 1/Bedf. R.); British War and Victory Medals (7615 Pte. H. Batchelor, Bedf. R.), together with related Memorial Plaque (Harold Batchelor), good very fine and better

The Boer War Medal awarded to their father, Private W. Batchelor, Bedfordshire Regiment

Queen’s South Africa 1899-1902, 2 clasps, Cape Colony, Wittebergen (2759 Pte. W. Batchelor, Bedford Regt.), good very fine (10) £600-700

Footnote

M.M. London Gazette 12 June 1918.

William Batchelor, who was born in Hemel Hempstead, won his M.M. for bravery during the 4th Battalion’s retirement in the face of the German offensive in late March 1918, regimental records stating:

‘During the retirement from Ytres, Private (Acting Corporal) William Batchelor kept the enemy at bay for ten minutes with his Lewis gun while everybody was retiring. He was entirely alone, but continued firing until his gun jammed. He then carried his gun himself, and made good his escape. His devotion to duty was magnificent during the entire period of retirement, and he brought his Lewis gun out.’

A full account of the Battalion’s gallant actions in March 1918 appears in the regimental history, an account that includes reference to the V.C. won by Batchelor’s C.O. on the same occasion:

‘This sector [Cambrai, opposite Marcoing] was heavily bombarded from 12 March onwards with mustard gas shell, and before the attack was launched the 4th Battalion had lost five officers and 264 other ranks. On 21 March the Germans made little progress on the front of the 63rd Division, but as it was at the head of the salient which we had created in the first battle of Cambrai and the divisions on the flanks had been pressed back, it was ordered to retire during the night to the intermediate line. This was the beginning of a fighting retirement through Ytres, Gueudecourt and Martinpuich. From near the latter place the Battalion was ordered up to High Wood on 26 March to reinforce the 189th Brigade, which was hard pressed in front of Martinpuich. There the Battalion hung on until its ammunition was exhausted, and its gallant conduct saved the flank of the Division. The withdrawal of the Battalion from its exposed position was made possible by the devotion of Lieutenant J. H. Blackwell, who when the commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel J. S. Collings-Wells, D.S.O., called for volunteers to cover the retreat, took charge of three officers and sixty other ranks. Lieutenant-Colonel J. S. Collings-Wells himself posted this small party moving about with the utmost disregard of danger, encouraging his men by his fine example, and after he had left to look after the placing of the main body of the Battalion, Lieutenant J. H. Blackwell remained until every round was expended, and was the last to leave the position. Under cover of this devoted little band, the Battalion made good its retreat to the Thiepval Ridge, whence in the early hours of 26 March it was withdrawn to Martinsart. But its rest was short. During the night of 26th-27th, the enemy had crossed the Ancre and gained possession of Albert, threatening to turn the flank of the 12th Division. So the remnant of the 63rd Division was ordered up to form a defensive flank at Bouzincourt. There the Battalion was placed near the 25th Brigade, and was ordered to make a counter-attack with the 1st Artists Rifles at 7.30 a.m. on the 27th.

The counter-attack drove the enemy back to the railway line and put an end to the enemy’s progress in this quarter. The Battalion was gloriously led by Lieutenant-Colonel Collings-Wells. He, knowing that his men were nearly dead beat after six days of fighting with very little sleep, lead the counter-attack in person, and though wounded, continued to cheer his men on until he fell killed just as the railway was reached. He was awarded a posthumous V.C., and few (if any) were better won throughout the war.

During the night the enemy made a final attempt to continue his progress, but was repulsed, and Lieutenant L. Hambling won the M.C. for gallantry in this action. The Battalion was then definitely relieved, and went back to rest. For gallant conduct during the retreat, Sergeant W. G. Marks, Lance-Corporals W. Batchelor and P. Le Gros, and Private W. E. Auburn were awarded the Military Medal. The Battalion’s casualties, in addition to those suffered from mustard gas before the attack, were 19 officers and 233 other ranks.’

Batchelor was killed in action in an attack on Ligny-Thilloy on 27 August 1918. He was 23 years of age and is buried in Beaulencourt British Cemetery.

Harold Batchelor, who was born in Hemel Hempstead, died of wounds on 30 April 1915, while serving in the 1st Battalion, Bedfordshires. He was 28 years of age and is buried in St. Sever Cemetery, Rouen.