Medals from the Collection of Peter Duckers

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Date of Auction: 17th July 2019

Sold for £850

Estimate: £800 - £1,200

An inter-War 1929 ‘Cachar Floods’ K.P.M. group of eleven awarded to Superintendent of Police Lieutenant-Colonel G. S. Lightfoot, Middlesex Regiment, 101st Grenadiers, 94th (Russell’s) Infantry, and Indian Police, who played an important role as an inter-war Political Officer on the Tibet Frontier, and later served as a member of ‘V Force’ in Kohima during the Second World War

1914-15 Star (Capt. G. S. Lightfoot, 101/Grendrs.); British War Medal 1914-20 (Lieut. G. S. Lightfoot.); Victory Medal 1914-19 (Capt. G. S. Lightfoot.); India General Service 1908-35, 1 clasp, Waziristan 1919-21 (Capt. G. S. Lightfoot. 2-94 Infy.); 1939-45 Star; Burma Star; Defence and War Medals 1939-45; King’s Police Medal, G.V.R., 1st issue (Gordon Shelley Lightfoot. Indian Police Service); Jubilee 1935, unnamed as issued; Coronation 1937, unnamed as issued, mounted as worn, very fine or better (11) £800-£1,200


K.P.M. London Gazette 1 January 1930.
Recommendation states: ‘Mr. Lightfoot displayed great ability and energy in organising rescue operations during the great flood which devastated Cachar last June. The saving of many lives must be attributed to his foresight and energy and the way he utilised the police force under his command. The officer who took over charge of relief operations reported as follows: “I feel I cannot close this report without bringing prominently to the notice of government the splendid work which has been done by Capt. Lightfoot, the Superintendent of Police. It was largely due to the energy with which Captain Lightfoot supervised the flood rescue operation that many lives were saved. The police arrangements were admirable and it was to a great extent owing to his energy and foresight that the police force was able to cope with an extremely difficult situation and there was no outbreak of lawlessness of any kind”.’

Gordon Shelley Lightfoot was born in 1897 in Surrey and was educated at Cheltenham College. He was commissioned Second Lieutenant into the 2nd Battalion, Duke of Cambridge’s Own (Middlesex) Regiment on 12 May 1915, and served with them during the Great War on the Western Front from 2 June 1915 to 31 October 1915, before seeing further service in Salonika with the 3rd Battalion from November 1915 to October 1917. Promoted Lieutenant on 12 May 1916, he transferred to the 101st Grenadiers, Indian Army in Ahmednagar on 29 November 1917, his 1914-15 Star being named to this unit. Promoted Captain on 12 May 1919 he went on to serve in the Waziristan Campaign of 1919-21 with the 2/94th (Russell’s) Infantry, before retiring from the Army on 18 May 1923.

Lightfoot served with the Assam Police from 1923, being appointed Assistant Superintendent, Assam Police, in 1925 and Superintendent in 1930, going on to serve until at least 1947 (interrupted by war service). He was awarded the King’s Police Medal in 1930 for his work during the terrible Cachar floods of 1929.

Eastern Frontier - Tawang Incident

As a Political Officer on the Eastern Frontier (Balipura and Charduar tracts) 1934-38, Lightfoot played a significant role in the attempt by the British to establish sovereignty over the Tawang region. The Tawang region had historically been part of Tibet; however, the 1914 Simla Accord defined the McMahon Line as the new boundary between British India and Tibet. By this treaty, Tibet relinquished several hundred square miles of its territory, including Tawang, to the British. The Simla Accord was not recognised by China and no attempt was made by the British to administer Tawang until, in 1938, the Governor instructed Captain Lightfoot to go, with a small military column, to Tawang on the Tibet frontier and demonstrate British sovereignty while proposing that the Tibetans be forced to withdraw all their officials in Tawang to the north of the McMahon Line. Lightfoot’s visit elicited a strong diplomatic protest from the Tibetan Government in Lhasa who demanded that he withdraw. In addition, it caused something of an international incident with China, which claimed suzerainty over Tibet.

Ultimately Sir Henry McMahon’s demarcations were respected and following the outbreak of the war between China and Japan in 1941, the government of Assam undertook a number of 'forward policy' measures to tighten their hold on the North East Frontier area, which later became Arunachal Pradesh, although to this day China has not relinquished its claims on most of this region including Tawang.

Second World War – ‘V Force’

Lightfoot served in the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel during the Second World War with ‘V Force’, Indian Army from 1 May 1942 to 28 February 1943 in Kohima and the Naga Hills.

Following the Japanese occupation of Burma and in anticipation of a likely invasion of India, General Sir Archibald Wavell, in April 1942, ordered the creation of a clandestine guerrilla organisation to be known as ‘V Force’. It was to operate along the 800 mile mountainous Eastern Frontier of India from the Himalayas in the north to the Bay of Bengal in the south. Once the expected Japanese invasion had taken place, ‘V Force’ was to remain behind enemy lines to harass their lines of command, patrol enemy occupied territory, carry out post-occupational sabotage and provide post-occupational intelligence.

The frontier was organised into areas corresponding to the civil areas of administration. Each area of ‘V Force’ consisted of a Commander, 2nd in command, Adjutant and Quarter Master, Medical Officer, 1,000 enlisted guerrillas of the race living in the area and four platoons of Assam Rifles (military police battalions maintained by the Assam Government, composed of Gurkhas commanded by British officers from the Indian army). ‘V Force’ officers were recruited locally and by May 1942 the area commanders had been appointed, including Lieutenant-Colonel G. S. Lightfoot for Kohima Area. Once organised, ‘V Force’ sent out patrols into Burma to collect stragglers from the defeated Allied forces and to give help to refugees fleeing to India. As the Japanese did not invade India in 1942, ‘V Force’ officers were able to consolidate their deployments, explore their areas, make defence posts and enlist the local tribes. By 1943, ‘V Force’ had become a very large command with each area covering 3,000-10,000 square miles.

In December 1943 ‘V Force’ was split into two zones - Assam Zone, which contained the Ledo, Kohima, Manipur, Lushai Hills and Cachar Hills areas, and Arakan Zone, consisting of the Arakan and what remained of the Tripura State area. With Fourteenth Army’s advance into Burma, ‘V Force’ then took on the different but prominent role of short-range intelligence gathering similar to the role of ‘Z Force’, with which it was later merged. Officers and men of ‘V Force’ were trained to parachute into Burma to collect and transmit back operational intelligence from enemy occupied territory immediately forward of the leading formations. This also included establishing contacts with local populations, but did not include undertaking sabotage, guerrilla activities or being fighting patrols. ‘V Force’ was active in the area between regular army units and ‘Z Force’, which operated 80-100 miles in front of the main force. The legacy of ‘V Force’ served to impart lasting lessons in that it had established principles in Britain’s handling of guerrilla or irregular operations which were to be important in later conflicts such as the Malaya Emergency. It also led to the acceptance that ‘civilians’ with local expertise were entitled to command regular officers. Above all ‘V Force’ demonstrated the importance of establishing the goodwill and loyalty of the local populations among which an irregular force such as this might operate.

After the war, Lightfoot reverted to civil employ, resuming his position of Police Superintendent, Assam and is known to have served up to Independence in 1947.

The Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford holds items donated by Lightfoot in the 1920s; he is also referred to as having explored routes in Assam in Botanical and Geographical Exploration in the Assam Himalaya, by F. Kingdon Ward, 1940 The Royal Geographical Journal.

Sold with detailed research and copies of official papers regarding service in ‘V Force’.