A Collection of Medals to Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiments

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Date of Auction: 17th September 2009

Sold for £6,800

Estimate: £2,500 - £3,000

A fine Second World War relief of Tobruk operations D.C.M. group of seven awarded to Platoon Sergeant-Major W. J. Kemp, Bedfordshire & Hertfordshire Regiment, who was wounded during a ferocious hand-to-hand engagement in the early days of Operation “Crusader”

Distinguished Conduct Medal, G.VI.R. (7811727 W.O. Cl. 3 W. J. Kemp, Bedfs. & Herts. R.); General Service 1918-62, 1 clasp, Palestine (7811727 C./Sjt. W. J. Kemp, Bedfs. & Herts.); 1939-45 Star; Africa Star; Defence and War Medals; Army L.S. & G.C., G.VI.R., Regular Army (7811727 Sjt. W. J. Kemp, Bedfs. & Herts. R.), generally extremely fine (7) £2500-3000

Footnote

D.C.M. London Gazette 24 February 1942. The original recommendation states:

‘Platoon Sergeant-Major Kemp was in command of a platoon which was attacking a strong enemy position outside the eastern perimeter of Tobruk fortress on 22 November 1941. This Warrant Officer, from the outset of his platoon’s advance over a long exposed approach to the enemy’s position was in advance of his men, continually encouraging them.

On arrival at the enemy’s defensive wiring this Warrant Officer stood, completely regardless of his personal danger, in an exposed position, directing the sections of his platoon through the gaps he had found.

His coolness and courage had an enormously steadying influence on his platoon. The care with which he directed his platoon through the wire and on to various objectives (enemy posts) ensured the success of the attack.

When the objectives had been taken, this Warrant Officer in spite of his wounds, crawled between the sangars in which his platoon was disposed in order to cheer his men. Throughout this period the area was being heavily shelled and mortared by the enemy. The area was also under enemy machine-gun fire.

Throughout the attack the conduct of this Warrant Officer was of an exceptionally distinguished order in the face of the enemy.’

William John Kemp was serving in the 1st Battalion, Bedfordshires and Hertfordshires, at the time of the above cited deeds, a unit of 14 Infantry Brigade in 13 Corps, then employed in furthering the aims Operation “Crusader”, namely the relief of Tobruk. And the ‘strong enemy position’ in question was a feature known as Tugun, ‘B’ Company’s daylight attack resulting in heavy casualties - the regimental history takes up the story:

‘Then suddenly Tugun came to life. Every type of weapon was discharged at them - enemy artillery, mortars and anti-tank guns joined in. ‘B’ Company just carried on; it was a magnificent display of courage and determination. There was no supporting fire. Lieutenant Ablitt was first man in. He landed in a trench and started fighting three Italians. Platoon Sergeant-Major Kemp discovered a gap in the wire and, leaning on one of the picquets, used his walking-stick to shepherd his platoon through. After a brief but bloody hand-to-hand battle the position was taken. ‘B’ Company was about 45 strong when they started; just 20 reached the objective. For the remainder of that day the remnants of the Company were subjected to heavy shell fire. It was not till that night that it was possible to use an armoured carrier to take up ammunition and evacuate the casualties. Over 60 prisoners were taken, together with much arms, weapons and booty. The action was in broad daylight and widely observed by other units of the Division. Great credit is due to the commander and his fellow soldiers.’