A Collection of Awards to the Worcestershire Regiment formed by Group Captain J. E. Barker

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Date of Auction: 27th September 2017

Sold for £2,000

Estimate: £1,800 - £2,200

A fine Great War ‘Second Battle of the Scarpe - 23 April 1917’ D.S.O. and Royal Humane Society Medal group of seven awarded to Lieutenant-Colonel E. T. J. Kerans, Worcestershire Regiment, late Rifle Brigade and Imperial Yeomany. Having won his first medal aged just 13 years old, he was wounded in action during the Great War at Krithia, 27 April 1915, before going on to command the 4th Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment, 1915-1917. The latter period encompassing the evacuation from Gallipoli, the battles of the Somme and Arras, and the Battalion’s epic stand during the Second Battle of the Scarpe.

Distinguished Service Order, G.V.R., silver-gilt and enamel, with integral top riband bar; Queen’s South Africa 1899-1902, 3 clasps, Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Transvaal (9647 Pte. E. Kerans, 45th Coy. Imp: Yeo:); King’s South Africa 1901-02, 2 clasps (Lt. E. T. J. Kerans, Rif. Bde.) top lugs neatly removed for mounting purposes ; 1914-15 Star (Capt. E. T. J. Kerans, Worc. R.); British War and Victory Medals, M.I.D. oak leaf (Lt. Col. E. T. J. Kerans); Royal Humane Society, small bronze medal (unsuccessful) (Edward Thomas Kerans, 10th June 1893) with bronze buckle on ribbon, mounted for wear, minor edge bruising overall, therefore nearly very fine or better (7) £1800-2200

Footnote

Provenance: Spink Exhibition 1985, No. 28.; Fevyer Collection, DNW, September 2008.

D.S.O. London Gazette 4 June 1917.

M.I.D. London Gazette 15 June 1916; 13 July 1916; 4 January 1917 and 22 May 1917.

Edward Thomas John Kerans was born in February 1880, the son of Brigade Surgeon W. R. Kerans, Army Medical Department. As a student (aged 13) at great personal risk, Kerans attempted to rescue Martin McNamara from drowning in the Camcor River, Parsonstown, Ireland, on 10 June 1893. McNamarra while bathing was carried into a deep hole by the current, and was sucked down by an undercurrent. Kerans was bathing some distance away, and ran to the spot McNamarra went under before attempting to swim out to him. He dived several times but was unable to rescue him. (Ref. R.H.S. Case No. 26,842). For his efforts Kerans was awarded the R.H.S. Medal in bronze (unsuccessful).

Kerans served during the Second Boer War in the ranks of the 45th Company (Dublin Hunt), 13th Battalion, Imperial Yeomanry. He was commissioned as a Militia Second Lieutenant into the Rifle Brigade (The Prince Consort’s Own), in December 1901. Kerans was attached to the 5th Battalion (Queen’s Own Rifles Tower Hamlets Militia), and served with them in operations in the Transvaal, November 1900-August 1901; operations in the Orange River Colony and Cape Colony, January-May 1902, and in operations on the Zululand Frontier of Natal, September-October 1901. He was commissioned into the Regular Army in January 1903, and was posted for service with the 3rd Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment. Kerans transferred to the 4th Battalion, and served with them in Barbados later that year. He was a member of the Battalion’s polo team, which won the West Indies Polo Cup whilst he was stationed there.

Having advanced to Lieutenant, Kerans was attached to the West African Regiment in 1906. He rejoined the 4th Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment in India, in 1911. Kerans was appointed Adjutant of the Battalion in 1913, and was serving in that capacity at the outbreak of the Great War. He advanced to Captain in September 1914, and embarked with the 4th Battalion for the Dardanelles, 22 March 1915. The Battalion formed part of the 29th Division, and served with distinction during the landings at Gallipoli and in the subsequent battles of Krithia. Kerans was wounded in action, 27 April 1915, and sent back to the UK to recuperate.

Kerans advanced to Temporary Major, and returned to his Battalion in Gallipoli, 26 October 1915. The Battalion had suffered heavy casualties in his absence, and he was immediately appointed Officer Commanding. Kerans led the Battalion throughout the severe floods of November, the evacuation of Suvla and the subsequent evacuation of Helles (Brevet Major London Gazette 3 June 1916). He moved with the Battalion to Egypt, and then on to France. He commanded the 4th Battalion, as part of the 88th Brigade, 29th Division, on the Somme and ‘From Louvencourt moved forward via Acheux Wod and Mailly-Maillet to reserve positions at Auchonvillers (30/6). What was left of the Newfoundlanders after the fighting at Beaumont-Hamel passed through (1/7). Moving forward for an attack at 11.30am some 100 men would be lost before reaching British front line. There is an interesting account in the Battalion’s War Diary which illustrates the chivalry that often existed between each side. A member of the Battalion was out all night tending one of the wounded. At dawn the mist would lift to reveal that the two soldiers were only a few yards from the enemy. Immediately the Germans lifted their rifles but were soon ordered to stand down. Then an officer asked the Worcester in English if he would like to come in or return to his own lines. The man answered ‘I’ll go back to my own trenches sir’ - he was then allowed to do so. Later 2 stretcher-bearers would go out and bring in the wounded man. Relieved and to Mailly-Mallet Wood (14/7).’ (British Battalions on the Somme, by R. Westlake refers)

After the Somme the Battalion was engaged in the Battle of Arras, and then heavily engaged in the Second Battle of the Scarpe, 23 April 1917. At the latter the Battalion attacked at the head of the 88th Brigade and won their way forward to their objective, capturing three lines of German trenches within half an hour. However, they became isolated as the right part of the attack failed to match their progress. Hastily entrenched on a little copse at the southern end of the spur, the 4th Battalion soon became the focus of the German artillery and the subsequent counter-attacks. The Regimental History offers the following account:

‘At 4pm [the attack had commenced at 4.45am], after a crushing bombardment by heavy howitzers, the Germans delivered an overwhelming attack. A great flood of the enemy poured up the slope. The remnant of the Worcestershire detachments which had defended the copse all day still fought to the last. Desperate hand-to-hand fighting ensued until the last of the Worcestershire lads had fallen and the copse was in the enemy’s hands. The loss of that copse exposed the position on the spur to enfilade fire, so Colonel Kerans collected such men of the right flank companies as he could find, some fifty in all, and led them across the open and down the slope into “Shrapnel Trench,” where he reorganised the line and continued the defence. North of the copse, the survivors of the left flank companies held firm on the ground that they had won, and at nightfall they were still holding the crest-line of the captured spur.

As darkness closed in, Colonel Kerans (subsequently awarded the D.S.O.), who then commanded what was left of the Brigade organised a counter-attack against the copse. He collected the few available men of the 4th Worcestershire, the attached company of the 16th Middlesex and some forty men of the 2nd Hampshire. The counter-attack was bravely made, but it had no chance against the superior numbers of the enemy, and eventually the attempt to retake the copse had to be abandoned.

In the darkness the weary troops dug in, all three battalions intermixed. The survivors of the 4th Worcestershire were utterly exhausted, and, to make matters worse, very little food or water was available; for the enemy’s guns had shelled the main road all day and the Battalion transport had suffered severely.’

The 4th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment suffered casualties of 8 officers and 34 other ranks killed, 1 officer and 53 other ranks reported missing, and 3 officers and 325 men wounded during the course of the action. Kerans was awarded the D.S.O. for his gallantry during the battle. Shortly after the battle Kerans health broke down, and he was invalided back to the UK to recuperate.

Kerans advanced to Major in January 1918, and was employed as an Instructor in England. He returned to the French theatre of war in Spring of 1918, and was attached to HQ 29th Division. He subsequently commanded the 2nd Army Musketry School for the remainder of the war, and was present at Worcester Cathedral for a special service of thanksgiving for the return of the men of the Worcestershire Regiment after the war. Kerans transferred as an Instructor for employment with the Royal Tank Corps in 1921, and served with them in Ireland and Palestine, before dying in service 15 October 1927.

Lieutenant-Colonel Kerans was the father of Lieutenant Commander John Kerans, R.N., who was awarded the D.S.O. for his part in effecting the escape of H.M.S. Amethyst in the Yangtze Incident of 1949.

Sold with a file of copied research, and several photographic images of recipient in uniform.