The Collection of Medals to Great War Casualties formed by Tim Parsons

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Date of Auction: 2nd April 2004

Sold for £520

Estimate: £400 - £450

Four: Private W. Rainford, Scots Guards, who was killed in action at Rouges Bancs on 18 December 1914, in an engagement that witnessed a fellow Guardsman winning the V.C.

1914 Star (9007 Pte., S. Gds.); British War and Victory Medals (9007 Pte., S. Gds.), with related Memorial Plaque (Willie Rainford), the second with slack suspension claw, otherwise nearly extremely fine (4) £400-450


Willie Rainford, who was from Bingley, Yorkshire, was killed in action at Rouge Bancs on 18 December 1914, while serving in the 2nd Battalion, Scots Guards.

The Battalion sustained around 180 casualties that day, having encountered heavy machine-gun cross-fire on the Sailly-Fromelles road. One of their number, Private James MacKenzie, was awarded the V.C. for bringing in a wounded comrade under very heavy fire - see VCs of the First World War: 1914 by Gerald Gliddon, for further details.

Rainford is commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial, near Hainaut, Belgium; although he has no known grave, it is possible that his remains were recovered at the time of the Christmas Truce of 1914, when a burial was carried out by both sides in No Man’s Land.

This incident is described in Christmas Truce by Malcolm Brown and Shirley Seaton:

‘The Adjutant of the 2/Scots Guards, Captain Giles Loder, had led his battalion’s attack on 18 December [1914]. On Christmas morning he was in the front-line trenches away to the right, and observed the activity going on opposite the Gordon Highlanders as the bodies were collected and graves dug. So he climbed over the parapet and walked over the half-mile of open farmland to talk to the Germans and arrange burial for the Scots Guards killed in the same attack. He spoke with ‘an extremely pleasant and superior brand of German officer, who arranged to bring all our dead to the halfway line’. There were twenty-nine in all, most of them lying close to the enemy wire. Loder sorted through the bodies, collecting the personal effects, paybooks and identity discs. ‘It was heartrending’, he wrote later that day in the battalion War Diary, ‘to see some of the chaps one knew so well, and who had started out in such good spirits on December 18th, lying there dead, some of them with horrible wounds due to the explosive action of the high-velocity bullet at short range’. He detailed some men to bring in the rifles of his comrades but the Germans demurred at this; indeed, all rifles lying on their side of the halfway line they kept as spoils of war ...’