Medals to Great War Casualties from the Collection of the late Ian Livesley

Date of Auction: 5th July 2011

Sold for £1,700

Estimate: £1,200 - £1,500

A fine Great War ‘Palestine’ M.C. group of three awarded to Captain Haddo Reginald Drummond Fraser, 5th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment, attached 1st Battalion, Herefordshire Regiment, who was killed in action on the Western Front on 1 August 1918

Military Cross, G.V.R., reverse neatly inscribed ‘H. R. Drummond-Fraser, M.C., Captain, 5th Cheshire Regiment, killed 1 August 1918’, with original case of issue; British War and Victory Medals (Capt.) nearly extremely fine (3) £1200-1500

Footnote

M.C. London Gazette 7 November 1918 ‘For conspicuous gallantry during an attack. On two occasions when direction was uncertain he ran out by himself with great courage, remaining standing in his forward position, directing operations. By his gallant conduct, the line was advanced in the face of intense machine gun fire by a distance of 1,200 yards.’

The following obituary is extracted from The Altringham, Bowden & Hale Guardian Newspaper, 16 August 1918:

‘Captain Haddo Reginald Drummond Fraser, killed in action on August 1st, was the youngest son of Mr D. Drummond Fraser of Earlescliffe, Altrincham, joint managing director of the Manchester and Liverpool Bank.

He was educated at Tan-y-Bryn Preparatory School, Llandudno and Charterhouse. He was in the middle of an honours course in engineering at Clare College, Cambridge when the war broke out and on the very first day offered his services. However, he was rejected on account of short sightedness. Later, eleven regiments rejected him for the same reason and also on account of an intermittent heart beat.

He had, however, made up his mind that his place was in the fighting line and again renewed his offer to serve. He steadily refused every job offered to him at home and his persistent determination to join up was, at length, rewarded by a commission, in April 1915, in the Cheshire Regiment to which his brother, Lieut. Murray Drummond Fraser, already belonged. He joined a new reserve battalion, which was then in the course of formation under the command of Colonel Bromley. It was while he was undergoing his training that his brother was killed at Ypres in June 1915.

Captain Drummond Fraser had a very thorough training, during which he went on many courses, such as were given at Oxford and Altcar (where he obtained a first at musketry). His Captaincy was obtained in the field and is not yet gazetted. He took out a draft to Egypt and went on the Palestine in May 1917 where he was attached to the Herefordshire Regiment. From here he wrote that he had had the good fortune to be in “all the stunts”.

He had two narrow escapes from being killed. The first was in August 1917 when he was one of a small party who were confronted by Turks with a machine gun. His party was outnumbered by five to one. He had asked permission to accompany the older officer “for experience”, an experience that nearly cost him his life. But his fearlessness and coolness were such that he was able to think with peculiar clearness in the very acme of danger. His coolness saved the party of whom six out of eight returned with nothing more than flesh wounds, torn clothing and bruising. The choice of the little party lay between surrendering and charging. They chose the latter, although they did not expect to be alive five minutes later. They were so close to the Turks that they could touch them without fully stretching out their arms. However, they fired and rushed head long at the Turks. A brother officer wrote to his mother - “your son shot a Turk with his pistol and broke through with some Turks after him. He must have had a close shave, for a shot carried away his cap! Suddenly, he threw himself to the ground and took out the pin of the bomb he was carrying. This bomb is timed to explode in five minutes. Your son held it for three and then threw it, catching one of the Turks in the “tummy”. Our party saw nothing of them after the explosion and so got safely back to our trenches.” The Divisional General and the Brigadier sent for the officers and told the C.O. to send their names for mention in dispatches and to recommend the officer in charge for the MC.

The second narrow escape was on November 6th 1917, when his regiment attacked up the side of a steep hill. He had just killed some Turks when a jar on the right side made him “pull up sharp” but an “all right, sir” from one of his men allowed him to continue the fight without a break, while his field glasses fell to the ground, cut in two by a Turk, who had got his bayonet right through the field glasses themselves, inflicting a merest flesh wound - “a pin prick” he called it.

Brave as he was, he was not foolhardy. He fought with his head as well as his hand. His consideration for his men was proverbial. He was by nature and temperament a leader of men. With him physical courage was always combined with moral courage of a high order. Although a mathematician, he had a literary taste and gifts of no mean order. We have had the privilege of reading one or two of his letters haphazard, and from one we quote a few lines - “For many years, I have celebrated the incoming New Year, clad in the conventional garb of English society...The old order changeth and giveth place to the new! For the bringing in of 1918 out here in Palestine was indeed very different. We were holding a series of strong posts, all separate and yet connected. I had to visit these during the night. I commenced one of my rounds at midnight, and so brought luck, I hope, as I am so dark, to all the various positions. As midnight was due, I got out to listen to the glorious peeling of the bells from the Mount of Olives. How every note seemed to spell “Ring out the old - ring in the new” (Tennyson was no ordinary man). Having heard the Old Year rung out and the New Year rung in, I immediately proceeded to the nearest machine gun and fired a cheering burst; just to show Mr Johnny Turk that we meant to do him this year. No vindictiveness was meant thereby. When I returned, a few of us solemnly drank a small portion of Palestine wine - very feeble - to celebrate the New Year.” ‘