A Collection of Awards for Burma Operations during the Second World War

Date of Auction: 27th September 2017

Sold for £8,000

Estimate: £6,000 - £8,000

An extremely rare Second War ‘Battle of Imphal’ D.C.M., M.M. group of six awarded to Company Sergeant Major R. Lightfoot, Seaforth Highlanders, a regimentally unique combination of gallantry awards for the last war, for being an inspiration to the men of his Company throughout the attacks on Kasom, Lammu and Nippon Hill - during which he rescued a wounded man from ‘no-man’s land’, under mortar fire; and personally stalked and dispatched an enemy sniper

Distinguished Conduct Medal, G.VI.R. (CSM. R. Lightfoot, 1 Seaforth.) officially impressed naming, as issued by Calcutta Mint, rank partially officially corrected; Military Medal, G.VI.R. (3602167 A.W.O. Cl. 2. R. Lightfoot. Seaforth.); 1939-45 Star; Burma Star; Defence and War Medals 1939-45, mounted court-style for wear, generally very fine (6) £6000-8000

Footnote

Provenance: Hamiltons, Glasgow, 1980; Glendinings, July 2001.

D.C.M. London Gazette 8 February 1945:

‘At Kasom, Assam (Map Ref: Assam & Burma 83 L/NW 1/2” to 1 mile 692830) on the nights 15/16 April 1944 and 19/20 April 1944, during continuous attacks by the enemy, the conduct of this W.O. was of the highest order. By his coolness under heavy fire he was an inspiration to all the men of his Coy. When casualties occurred he was immediately on the spot, and personally attended to the wounded until they could be taken over by the M.O. During both nights whilst the fighting was at its fiercest, he continued to move from one part of the perimeter to another to encourage the men. Throughout, he showed unflinching courage and devotion to duty.’

M.M. London Gazette 28 June 1945 (originally recommended for a D.C.M.):

‘Throughout the whole of the operations lasting over the period March to July 44, the conduct of this W.O. has been of an outstandingly high order. He has consistently carried out his duties in the field with ability and success. In action he has been cool, brave and at all times showed a complete disregard for danger. At Kasom on the day of 15 April 44, and the night of 15/16 April 44, his Coy. was subjected to no less than five persistent and determined counter-attacks by the enemy. Each time they were repulsed with heavy loss and CSM Lightfoot did much by his personal example and devotion to duty to inspire the men to give of their very best. He kept moving from one section to another always ready by deed and word to encourage and urge them on. He gave of his best to help the wounded who could be evacuated at the time. Again on the night 18/19 April 44, his Coy. took over the defence of the village. Again the JAP made an all out attempt to capture the village, this time assisted by his 3 inch mortars whose bombs straddled the posn. Once more CSM Lightfoot gave his best, steadying and encouraging the men at every point. A man fell wounded by a mortar bomb outside the perimeter, and this W.O., at great personal risk immediately went forward and brought him in. At LAM-MU on 24 April 44, his conduct reached the same high standard. An enemy sniper cunningly concealed was giving the Coy. advance much trouble, and CSM Lightfoot went forward on his own, located and shot him. In subsequent operations at KHONGJOL on 18 May 44, at MALTA on 30 May 44, at NIPPON on 24 July 44, this W.O. showed the same high standard of conduct and devotion to duty which were at all times an inspiration to the men of his Coy.’

Richard Lightfoot served during the Second War with the 1st Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders in Burma. In 1943 the Battalion was actively engaged on the Chindwin River, and gave particular assistance to the Chindit Forces during this period. The Japanese invasion of India developed in April 1944, and the Battalion was engaged as part of the 1st Indian Infantry Brigade, 23rd Indian Division, in the capture of Kasom and other subsidiary operations to stem Japanese progress. Lightfoot served with distinction during these operations as Company Sergeant Major of ‘B’ Company, under the command of Captain B. M. Manson.

Major R. D. Maclagan, 1st Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders, provides the following account (published in Seaforth Highlanders, by Colonel J. Sym), the majority of which encompasses the operations during which Lightfoot’s gallantry came to the fore - at Kasom, Lammu and Nippon Hill:

‘On 7th April, 1944, it was learnt that the Brigade Group was to move into the hills, to the West of Imphal, on an ‘all pack’ basis, with the object of getting behind the Japs, who were attacking down the Ukhrul Road. On 10th April, the Battalion left Wanging, by march route and harboured that night, with the rest of the Brigade Group, at Road Head. The march up into the hills continued during the next two days, the Battalion was given orders to attack and occupy the village of Kasom, destroy the Headquarters of the Jap 15th Division, which was thought to be there, and capture the Divisional Commander.... A move forward was made under cover of darkness on the 13th, and the final advance to Kasom took place during the night of 14th/15th April. The Battalion reached a point on the spur, about a quarter of a mile away from Kasom, at first light after a very tiring and hazardous march.

The plan, for the Battalion attack on Kasom, was as follows: C Company was to take North Pimple and then carry on and occupy South Pimple, while A Company took over North Pimple. After the occupation of the main feature, Battalion Headquarters and Headquarters Company was to come up between A and C Companies. B Company [Lightfoot’s company] was then to search South Nala for the Jap Divisional Headquarters, followed by D Company, who were to search North Nala. The village was then to be occupied by B and D Companies.

By 6.50am both North and South Pimples had been occupied, only a small enemy sniper opposition being encountered. It was soon seen that considerable damage had been done by the Royal Air Force, in their bombing raid, the evening before... B and D Companies found small parties of Japs in the Nalas, but no signs of the Divisional Headquarters. The village was occupied without difficulty by B Company, D Company remaining on Sausage Hill. Shortly afterwards, a Platoon of Japs approached the position from the direction of Litan, but withdrew on fire being opened on them. During the afternoon, the Japs tried to infiltrate back up the Nalas, and started sniping B Company in the village. The Battalion attack had of necessity been put in without any supporting weapons, but at 4pm the Battalion Mortars arrived up on mules. That night, B Company was attacked in the village three times [see Recommendations above] and, although the attacks were heavy and pushed in regardless of casualties, they were all beaten off successfully. Heavy casualties were inflicted on the enemy, with slight loss to ourselves, three Men were killed and the Company Commander, Captain B. M. Manson, and four men wounded. Sound fire control was undoubtedly responsible for our success on this occasion.

The next day, C Company relieved B Company in the village and considerable activity was observed in Sokpao, to the North of Kasom. At dusk the position was shelled by Jap heavy mortars, and C Company was attacked several times during the night - mainly grenade attacks. These were all easily repulsed, C Company suffered only five casualties during the night; two Men were killed. Attempts to infiltrate forward, during the next two days, were unsuccessful. Meanwhile, the 1st Patialas attacked and eventually took Sokpao, and the enemy, in front of our position withdrew....

The Brigade moved off again, on 24th April, in another attempt to capture the Jap Divisional Commander, making for Shongphel where, according to Intelligence reports, he was supposed to be.... The Battalion left Kasom at 6.30am, with D Company, commanded by Captain J. S. Young, leading. The Battalion’s objective was Lammu, while 1/16th Punjab and Brigade Headquarters moved Westwards towards Shongphel.

At 7.45am D Company came under enemy fire from Lammu, about 1,000 yards from the village. The advance was continued, astride the road under cover trees for a further 600 yards, when the leading Platoon came under heavy automatic and mortar fire and was pinned down. The Commanding Officer then ordered C Company, under Major R. W. Kennard, to make an attack on the village from the left flank. The ground in that area consisted of a series of small spurs, with bare tops, sloping down Westward to the Thoubal River. C Company kept below the main ridge, but on reaching the lip of the Nala, running down from the village, it was met by a shower of grenades from a dug-in Jap position. At the same time it came under heavy fire and, as it could not advance on more than a Section front, owning to the nature of the ground, the leading Platoon was withdrawn slightly, along the spur. Artillery fire, from the Section of Mountain Guns in support, was then put down on the enemy’s position, but without any effective result. Consequently, C Company was ordered to stay where it was, and contain the enemy.

B Company, which had been guarding the mules and Rear Headquarters, was now brought up, and ordered to make a wider left flanking move, and come in on C Company’s left. The village was now being constantly shelled by our guns and mortars. B Company, in moving round, found the going very difficult, and was observed by a Jap Observation Post. As a result, the Company Commander, Captain D. A. Mackay, decided to get right round behind the village, and attack from the rear. This he did, and by 2.30pm had got as far as the Christian Village, without opposition, when heavy fire was opened on them from Lammu village, and they also were pinned down.

At 3pm the Commanding Officer asked for an Air Strike and B, C and D Companies were ordered to withdraw 500 yards from the village. At 4.15pm the Air Strike went in, followed by further shelling by the Mountain Guns, and C Company attacked once more, under covering fire from D Company. The affair this time was successful, but after getting into the village, C Company was held up by burning houses and had to work its way round to the East face of the hill on which the village stood, where it again came under heavy automatic fire. Here, it consolidated, and B Company, which had also moved into the village, took up a position at the South end of the village. D Company now moved into the village, followed by Tactical Headquarters and A Company.... This operation, which continued until 2nd May and took three weeks in all, achieved much in disrupting the Japanese attacks down the Ukhrul Road, causing them to abandon their plan to reach Imphal from this direction.’

The 1st Battalion was rested until the end of the second week of May, when Lightfoot and company went on to distinguish themselves further in operations on Khongnjol and Malta positions. Lightfoot’s B Company had one final attack left in them before the Battalion was withdrawn from the front line - the attack on Nippon Hill, 24 July 1944:

‘At 4.30am B Company was almost at the top of Nippon and Sections were deploying, preparatory to putting in an attack, when the 3/10th Gurkhas, opened their attack on Scraggy. This caused a Jap Sentry, from the reverse of the slope of Nippon, to come up and see what had happened. He then spotted B Company, but was immediately shot. However, the alarm had been given, and immediately a shower of grenades came over the hill, causing a number of casualties . B Company then put in a bayonet charge, and captured the position. The Engineer Assault Detachment blew up the Jap Bunkers with Wade and Pole Charges. Patrols were then sent forward and by 6.30am B Company had captured and consolidated the whole of Nippon Hill, and was credited with having killed the entire Jap Force, which had held that position.’ (Ibid)

Lightfoot was one of only six recipients of a D.C.M., M.M. combination of awards for operations in Burma, and his is the only D.C.M., M.M. combination to the Seaforth Highlanders for the entirety of the Second War.

Sold with file of copied research, and photographic image of recipient.