A Collection of Gallantry Awards to the South Wales Borderers
Date of Auction: 28th February 2018
Sold for £380
Estimate: £300 - £400
Military Medal, G.V.R. (11958 Cpl. G. Wannell. D.C.M. 2/S. Wales Bord.) nearly extremely fine £300-400
FootnoteD.C.M. London Gazette 22 September 1916:
‘For conspicuous gallantry in action. He brought up a machine-gun to 40 yards from the enemy main trench, knocked out an enemy machine-gun under heavy fire at about 60 yards’ range, and held up a hostile counter-attack.’
M.M. London Gazette 14 May 1919.
George Wannell attested for the South Wales Borderers at Walworth, London, and served firstly with the 1st Battalion during the Great War on the Western Front from 26 January 1915. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his gallantry during the Battle of the Somme on 25 July 1916:
‘The 1st Battalion’s spell of rest had been but brief. By July 21st it was back at Lozenge Wood, prior to relieving the Northamptonshires of the 2nd Brigade in the front line near Contalmaison Villa in the small hours of July 24th. Here the battalion was confronted with Munster Alley, a trench south of the Bapaume road, which had already repulsed several attempts. Undeterred by this, at 2:00 a.m. on July 25th, “A” and “D” Companies, in two lines of platoons at fifty paces interval and thirty paces distance, began climbing out of our front line, here called Sussex Trench, and advanced, only to be met by a heavy fire from machine guns which our bombardment had failed to silence. However, Captain Walsh led his company forward with great courage and resolution and was magnificently backed up by the young subalterns on whom the leading of companies and platoons had now devolved. Second Lieutenant Garnons-Williams, who had remained at duty though wounded, set a fine example and kept his men in hand splendidly, Second Lieutenant Evans fell heading a charge, and close up to the German trench, Second Lieutenant Welsh led a party of bombers with great dash, refusing to go back even when wounded, while Second Lieutenant Skinner was hit when leading his platoon of “B” Company up to support some of “A” who had reached a shallow trench on the left just short of the objective. Among this party was Private Wannell, who managed to bring his Lewis gun into action and did splendid work, knocking out a hostile machine gun only a little distance away and being mainly instrumental, along with Company Sergeant Major Power, in repulsing a counter-attack. Elsewhere,no one could get anywhere near the German line and nearly all the other officers had fallen. Realising the failure of the attack, Colonel Collier ordered the companies to withdraw at once and to concentrate on getting in the wounded before dawn. Many were brought in, Company Sergeant Major Power going out fifty yards to the front to rescue one man. Four officers were killed and six, including Second Lieutenant Welsh wounded, while casualties among the rank and file came to nearly eighty.’ (The History of the South Wales Borderers, by Captain C. T. Atkinson refers).
Wannell subsequently transferred to the 2nd Battalion, and was awarded the Military Medal for further gallantry on the Western Front.
For the M.C. group of medals awarded to Second Lieutenant Welsh, see Lot 653.