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 £1,400

Estimate: £1,200 - £1,600

Family Group:
A most unusual Great War ‘French theatre’ 1917 M.C. group of eight awarded to Captain T. J. Sellis, Sherwood Foresters, late Sergeant, Worcestershire Regiment, who received a Danish award for his work during the Schlesvig-Holstein Plebiscite of 1920, and went on to serve with the Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps during the Second War. He was Mentioned in Despatches for services in the field, March - June 1940, and as part of the unit’s evacuation from France during Operation Ariel
Military Cross, G.V.R., reverse engraved ‘2nd Lieut. T. J. Sellis 1st Bn. Sherwood Foresters 17th June 1918’; 1914 Star, with clasp (11699 Pte. T. J. Sellis. 2/Worc: R.); British War and Victory Medals (2. Lieut. T. J. Sellis.); 1939-45 Star, reverse engraved ‘Captain T. J. Sellis, M.C. Pioneer Corps’; Defence and War Medals, 1939-45, M.I.D. Oak Leaf; Denmark, Christian X, Slesvig Medal 1920, silver, mounted for wear, lacquered, good very fine

1914 Star (9746 Pte. W. E. Sellis. 2/Worc: R.) good very fine (9) £1200-1600

Footnote

Provenance: Flatow Collection, Spink, November 1998 (group only, single to Pte W. E. Sellis subsequently added).

M.C. London Gazette 16 September 1918:

‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. During an attack by his battalion this officer led his platoon forward to a position some 300 yards in front of the main position, whence he was able to deal with the enemy’s snipers and machine guns with great effect, thus rendering much assistance to the troops behind him. He maintained his position for eighteen hours, in spite of heavy fire. On another occasion, when his men were under heavy machine-gun and rifle fire at short range, he moved about in the open from post to post with complete unconcern for his own safety, encouraging and directing the men, to whom he set an example of gallantry and composure.’

M.I.D. London Gazette 20 December 1940:

‘in recognition of distinguished services in connection with operations in the field, March - June 1940.’

Thomas Joseph Sellis was born at Wainscott, Rochester, Kent, the third of four sons, in May 1891. He was educated at the Board School at Wainscott, and attested for the Worcestershire Regiment in March 1909. Sellis served in the ranks of the 2nd Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment, at Ahmednagar and Jhansi in India until 1913. Having returned to the UK, the Battalion was serving at Aldershot with the outbreak of the Great War.

Sellis served during the Great War with the 2nd Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment, in the French theatre of war from 14 August 1914. The Battalion served as part of the 5th Infantry Brigade, 2nd Division, and were actively engaged in the Battle of Mons, the subsequent retreat, and the battles of the Marne and the Aisne. Sellis advanced to Sergeant, and was commissioned Second Lieutenant in the 1st Battalion, Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment) in April 1918. He advanced to Lieutenant in October 1919, having completed his posting to the School of Musketry, Hythe, earlier in the year.

From 22 January 1920, with the 1st Battalion, Sellis served in the Plebiscite Area of Schlesvig-Holstein, the land bordering Denmark and Germany. At the peace treaty of 1864 between Denmark, Prussia and Austria, it was decided that if a plebiscite could prove that the northern half of Schlesvig had a clear Danish majority in her population, this part should be returned to Denmark. The Prussians, however, cancelled this decision and refused to take part in any talks. It was not until Germany had lost the Great War that the Plebiscite, supported by the British and French Governments, was held in 1920. During the voting period, Allied forces occupied the area; the 1st Battalion, Sherwood Foresters and the Chasseurs Alpin were the representative troops.

The Sherwood Foresters were based at Flensburg, whilst the voting in the Northern and Southern Sectors took place. The voting in the Northern Sector took place without any disturbances on 10 February 1920. The voting in the Southern Sector was to take place 14 March 1920, ‘On the 13th three small detachments of ten men under the command of Lieuts. Brittan, Twamley, and Sellis were sent out to the Ringsburg, Frorup, and Lindewitt to supervise the voting, and on the same day the Battalion moved into Flensburg to patrol the streets and keep order during the voting, and was quartered in St. Nicholas Schools.... No sooner had the plebiscite in the second zone been taken than the Kapp Revolution broke out in Germany, and it was reported that a force of Kapp revolutionists was concentrating near Hamburg, with a view to advancing on Flensburg.

It was therefore decided to send three small outposts out on the main roads on the southern boundary of the southern zone and on the 20th three detachments, under Lieuts. Mason, Warneford, and Sellis, moved out to Oversee, Neu, and Stedesend.’ (1920 Regimental Annual, The Sherwood Foresters, refers)

The above manoeuvres seem to have had the desired effect as no further disturbances occurred. Before the Battalion left Flensburg, the Danish Government requested to be allowed to fete those troops involved with the Plebiscite in Copenhagen. On 17 June 1920, together with the RN officers and ratings of H.M.S. Carysfort, they all received a commemorative medal presented by H.M. King Christian X of Denmark.

In September 1920, Sellis was seconded for service with the West African Frontier Force. He returned from Nigeria in December of the following year, and transferred to the Regular Army Reserve of Officers in June 1922.

Sellis re-engaged for service during the Second War with the Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps in December 1939. He served with No. 58 Company, and landed with them in France, 29 March 1940. They were employed as part of 14 Group, and the Company consisted of approximately 280 men. On 15 June 1940, the Second in Command with 210 other ranks departed to embark for the UK. The Officer Commanding, Lieutenant Sellis, and 44 other ranks remained on defence duties. The Company War Diary records that two days later, this rear party with 30 men from each of the three other Pioneer Companies were formed into one Composite Company and entrained for St. Malo. Their train came under aerial attack, and was set on fire destroying all of their kit in the process. They continued by road and were evacuated by ship to Southampton as part of Operation Ariel, 17 June 1940.

Upon returning to England, No. 58 Company was posted to carry out defence works on the South Coast. Sellis advanced to Captain, and was briefly posted to No. 4. Training Centre at Clacton, before being posted as Second in Command of the newly formed No. 247 Company at Clacton, in January 1941. He continued to serve in this capacity until January 1943, after which he served with No. 135 Company and No. 276 Company. The last two years of the war he was employed as Adjutant of a Convalescent Depot, and from December 1945 he took over as Second in Command of No. 622 (Italian) Prisoner of War Company based at Winchfield, Hampshire.

Sellis retired as Honorary Captain in December 1947, and died in Kent, 30 October 1969.

William Edward Sellis was the eldest brother of T. J. Sellis, and was born at Wainscott, Rochester, Kent, in September 1886. Sellis served during the Great War with the 2nd Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment, in the French theatre of war from 30 August 1914. The Battalion served as part of the 5th Infantry Brigade, 2nd Division, and were actively engaged in the Battle of Mons, the subsequent retreat, and the battles of the Marne and the Aisne.

Sellis subsequently transferred to the 1/8th Worcestershire Regiment, and was serving with C Company when he was killed in action, 24 April 1917. On the latter date the 1/8th Worcestershire Regiment War Diary records that the Battalion was involved in the attack on Gillemont Farm, and that the men of C and D Company took heavy casualties during the attack.

W. E. Sellis is commemorated on the Theipval Memorial, Somme. The Sellis family also lost another son during the Great War - A. J. Sellis was a Stoker in the Royal Navy, and was drowned 1 January 1915, when H.M.S. Formidable was torpedoed off the Devon coast. Both brothers are commemorated on a memorial in Frindsbury (All Saints) Churchyard, Kent.