A Collection of Great War Military Medals to the Lincolnshire Regiment
Date of Auction: 25th September 2019
Sold for £550
Estimate: £280 - £320
Military Medal G.V.R. (670 L. Cpl. G. Speight. 10/Linc: R.); British War and Victory Medals (670 Pte. G. Speight. Linc. R.) small edge nicks to M.M., very fine (3) £280-£320
FootnoteM.M. London Gazette 2 November 1917
George Speight enlisted in the 10th (Service) Battalion (Grimsby), Lincolnshire Regiment in October 1914. He was part of a contingent from Wakefield who, together with small groups from other nearby towns, brought the newly formed ‘Grimsby Chums’ battalion up to full strength. Sir Charles McGrath, Clerk to the West Riding County Council, had led Wakefield’s own attempt to raise a Pals Battalion, resulting initially in only 150 men stepping forward. This and the cost incumbent upon McGrath to clothe and equip the men caused McGrath to wash his hands of the affair but in the meantime the Grimsby Chums decided to invite the men from Wakefield to join them and thus augment the Grimsby Chums.
Peter Chapman, in his book Grimsby’s Own – The Story of the Chums states that Speight’s M.M. was awarded in respect of his gallantry at Hargicourt where he received severe wounds from which he never fully recovered, dying in May 1933 aged 36 years:
‘George Speight, for instance, was one of the Wakefield 150, a first class and popular man who, as a Lance Corporal stretcher bearer, had been awarded the M.M. for his gallantry on that memorable day at Hargicourt. He had been terribly wounded and was not discharged from hospital until long after the war had ended. Nonetheless he threw himself into work for his onetime comrades becoming a secretary of the Wakefield Chums association, the president of which, incidentally was that Charlie Chaplin of the battlefield, Jack Proctor. Speight wore himself out. But knowing of his eventful plights, the Chums rallied and Jack Peart had him to stay for as long as he liked, in the clean atmosphere of his seaside home at Humberstone. Peart and another Chum, “Bluey” Little, devoted themselves to Speight, nursing him on fresh eggs, fish and the best they could afford. It was to no avail, Speight lasted three weeks, before he died. But he died among Chums.’
An interesting letter was written by Speight to the Grimsby Telegraph on 22 July 1919 in which he laments the lack of any invitation being extended to surviving ‘Out of Town’ Chums for the occasion of the handing over of the battalion’s colours to the mayor and then for safe keeping by the vicar of the parish church:
‘To the Editor of the Grimsby Telegraph: Sir, In your valuable paper, referring to the return of the remnant of the “Grimsby Battalion” 10th Lincolnshire Regiment, better known as the “Chums”.’
Through no fault of your worthy Mayor, the return was shorn of the welcome that would have been otherwise been given to them. Later however the colours were handed over to the safe keeping of the Vicar of the Parish Church, and as I read, some of the old Battalion were privileged to be present on that occasion.
The battalion left for France about 1000 strong. Many have laid down their lives on the battlefields of the Somme, Arras, Ypres and Armentieres others have been so severely wounded that for the rest of their lives they will be physical wrecks. Very few of the Battalion were fortunate to come through unscathed, but those who were able to travel would have dearly liked to have follow those colours which had meant so much to them.
Would it not have been possible to have communicated with the ex NCO's and men, who came to Grimsby in 1914, and thus have given them the opportunity of meeting old comrades and the privilege of seeing the colours which they helped to win. I take it that some record of the names and addresses of those men who came from other parts of the country will have been kept but if that is not the case an advertisement in the papers would have produced the necessary information.
I along with 23 other men joined the Battalion in October 1914. We came at the request of Major (Then Captain) Stream. The treatment we received from the people of Grimsby and the happy times we had with the Battalion are two bright memories to look back upon.
Now that we have returned home we have been forgotten.
If any further gathering of the “Chums” takes place we should like to be informed of the fact if that were possible.’
Speight’s letter had the desired effect since in September 1919 all of the surviving Chums, however depleted in number, were given a welcome home parade in Grimsby and an association was formed which went on to organise annual reunion dinners and memorial parades, many of which were held in Wakefield.