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 £1,800

Estimate: £1,600 - £2,000

A Great War 1917 ‘Capture of Westhoek, Ypres’ D.S.O. group of five awarded to Lieutenant-Colonel P. R. Whalley, who commanded the 3rd Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment, September 1916 - April 1919

Distinguished Service Order, G.V.R., silver-gilt and enamel, with integral top riband bar, minor enamel damage; Queen’s South Africa 1899-1902, 5 clasps, Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Transvaal, South Africa 1901, South Africa 1902 (Lieut: P. R. Whalley, Worc: Rgt:) top lugs removed, suspension slack; 1914-15 Star (Capt. P. R. Whalley. Worc. R.); British War and Victory Medals, M.I.D. Oak Leaves (Lt. Col. P. R. Whalley.), mounted for wear, generally very fine (5) £1600-2000

Footnote

Provenance: Sothebys, October 1983.

D.S.O. London Gazette 26 September 1917 (details published in London Gazette 9 January 1918):

‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He took charge of a difficult and dangerous situation which had arisen owing to the right flanks of his division being exposed. Quickly grasping the state of affairs, he made excellent dispositions, and refused re-inforcements, although they were offered to him, acting with such determination and good judgement that from the moment he took over this sector there was never any doubt that the position would be maintained.’

M.I.D. London Gazette 18 December 1917 and 28 December 1918.

Percy Roger Whalley was born at South Hook Fort, Herbranston, Pembrokeshire, in September 1881. He was the son of Lieutenant-Colonel P. Whalley, R.A., and was educated at Kelly College, Tavistock and R.M.C. Sandhurst. Whalley was commissioned Second Lieutenant, 2nd Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment in March 1901. He served during the Second Boer War with the Battalion in operations in the Transvaal in May 1901, and in the Orange Free State, May 1901 - May 1902. Whalley served as a Railway Staff Officer, 26 November - 21 December 1901, and advanced to Lieutenant in April 1902. Whalley and the 2nd Battalion finally left South Africa in September 1904, and he continued to serve with the Battalion in India from 1906.

Whalley, in company with Lieutenant L. Watson, received the Battalion’s new Colours during a presentation by the Viceroy of India. He advanced to Captain in March 1909, and served with the 5th (Militia) Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment. Whalley was appointed Adjutant of the 1/8th Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment in April 1914, and was serving in that capacity at the outbreak of the Great War. He served during the Great War with the Battalion in the French theatre of war from April 1915.

The 1/8th Battalion found themselves in or near the front line covering Ploegsteert Wood, north of Armentieres, between April - June 1915. The following month they moved south to the Picardy area, as part of the 144th Infantry Brigade. Whalley served as Brigade Major, 144th Infantry Brigade, October 1915 - March 1916. He served in the same capacity with 143rd Infantry Brigade, March - September 1916, before being appointed to the command of 3rd Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment, with the rank of Acting Lieutenant-Colonel, 5 September 1916.

Whalley commanded the 3rd Battalion from September 1916 - April 1919, apart from 16 - 22 September 1918 when he was required to temporarily assume command of the 57th Infantry Brigade. Whalley joined his battalion when they were in the line at Ovillers/Leipzig Salient/Thiepval area. They moved north in October, and wintered at Armentieres. Whalley distinguished himself during the Capture of Westhoek, Ypres, 10 - 12 August 1917. During the aforementioned action the 3rd Battalion Worcestershire Regiment were present as part of the 25th Division against Westhoek:

‘The attack of the 25th Division was to be made by the 74th Brigade, with the 7th Brigade in close support. After dark on August 9th the 3rd Battalion Worcestershire moved into the support trenches on the Bellewaarde Ridge, the trenches which they had held a week before. An hour before the attack was due to start, “A” and “C” companies were ordered forward to take position close behind the right battalion of the attacking Brigade, the 13th Cheshire.

At dawn on August 10th the British artillery opened fired simultaneously with one tremendous crash, and the assaulting battalions charged forward as swiftly as was possible in the heavy mud. They just avoided the reply of the enemy’s artillery, which in three or four minutes struck all along the line of the British front trenches. The two companies of the Worcestershire lying in close support suffered more severely than did the attacking troops who, taking the enemy by surprise, fought their way forward up Westhoek Ridge, topped the crest-line and pushed down the further slope. There advance was checked. The reverse slope of the Ridge sheltered several concrete block-houses, still undamaged. The 13th Cheshire were held up and sent back messages for help.

“A” and “C” companies of the 3rd Worcestershire were ordered forward. 2nd Lieut. A. W. Vint led “A” Company up and over the Ridge. By the time he reached the forward platoons of the Cheshire the protecting barrage had lifted and the enemy’s machine-guns were sweeping the bare ground. He organised an attack and led his men forward, working from shell-hole to shell-hole across several hundred yards of bare ground till he could close on the block-house, which was captured by a bold rush. Within half-an-hour from the start the objective of the attack had been gained and the victorious troops were endeavouring to establish defensive posts along the swampy valley of the Hannebeek. Orders were sent back for “B” and “D” companies of the 3rd Worcestershire to move up to the old front line below the Westhoek Ridge.

Then, as had been anticipated, began the severest trial. From north, east and south the enemy’s shells came tearing to burst along the captured ridge; worse still, on the right flank the 18th Division after a hard struggle in Glencourse Wood had been driven back to that wood’s western edge, thus exposing the right flank of the 13th Cheshire. Soon they were taken in enfilade by machine-guns from the wood on the slope above them. By 11 o’clock all the senior officers of the Cheshire battalion had been hit and, at the request of their wounded C.O., Lt. Colonel P. R. Whalley, commanding the 3rd Worcestershire, went forward, and took command.

By that time enemy counter-attacks were beginning. Bodies of the enemy could be seen struggling forward through the swamps of the Hannebeek. Again and again they came on, but they were easily shot down by the British fire.

All counter-attacks were repulsed, though the fire from the machine-guns still swept the ground from the right flank. Throughout the day, Colonel Whalley commanded both battalions inspiring all with his courage and determination (awarded the D.S.O.).

Darkness closed down. The 3rd Worcestershire reassembled west of the Ridge and reckoned their losses - some fifty in all, including three officers: marvellously light considering the intensity of the fire.’ (The Worcestershire Regiment in the Great War, by Captain H. FitzM. Stacke, M.C., refers)

Early during the German offensive of March 1918, Whalley was ordered to report for duty at HQ 74th Infantry Brigade. He returned to the 3rd Battalion during the first week of April, and was invalided on 6 April 1918. After a period of recuperation in England, he rejoined his battalion in France, 10 June 1918. Whalley temporarily commanded the 57th Brigade, 16 - 22 September 1918, before returning to lead the Battalion at ‘The Affair of Shepherd’s Redoubt’, 25 September 1918. The success of which was duly noted by the Divisional Commander , ‘a warm message of congratulation to Colonel Whalley and the whole Battalion was sent by the Divisional Commander General Jeffreys; and the Brigadier [A. J. F. Eden, commanding the 57th Brigade] in forwarding the message added, “I realise that the Regimental Motto “FIRM” is as much inwardly implanted in the mind of every officer and man of the 3rd Battalion The Worcestershire Regiment as it is outwardly displayed.’ (Ibid)

After the war Whalley served as Brigade Major, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire Infantry Brigade, Southern Command, April 1920 - March 1922. He advanced to Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel and was posted for service with the 1st Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment, at Meerut, India, in November 1923. Whalley was appointed Lieutenant-Colonel, Reserve of Officers, and served as commanding officer of the 2nd City of London Regiment (The Royal Fusiliers), Territorial Army for four years until May 1930. In later life he resided at Hunstmead, Moretonhampstead, Devon, and died at a nursing home in Torquay, 19 February 1956.

Sold with Souvenir Booklet for the 1st Battalion The Worcestershire Regiment, Meerut, India, March 1925, in which the recipient is pictured. A file of copied research, with several photographic images of the recipient in uniform.