A Collection of Army Gallantry Awards to the Royal Navy, the Royal Marines, and the Royal Air Force

Date of Auction: 4th March 2020

Sold for £4,200

Estimate: £2,400 - £2,800

A rare Great War 1918 ‘Western Front’ D.C.M. and M.S.M. group of five awarded to Chief Petty Officer W. J. Gallagher, Hood Battalion, 63rd (Royal Naval) Division, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, a survivor of service with the ill-fated Collingwood Battalion on Gallipoli, described by General Hamilton as being “practically destroyed” during the attack of 4 June 1915, and was recipient of one of only two D.C.M./M.S.M. combinations awarded to the Royal Navy

Distinguished Conduct Medal, G.V.R. (CZ-1672 C.P.O.W. J. Gallagher. Hood: Bn: R.N.V.R.); 1914-15 Star (C.Z.-1672. W. J. Gallagher, C.P.O., R.N.V.R.); British War and Victory Medals, with M.I.D. oak leaves (M.Z. 1672W. J. Gallagher. C.P.O. R.N.V.R.) VM officially re-impressed; Meritorious Service Medal, G.V.R., 1st issue (CZ-1672 C.P.O. W. J. Callagher [sic]. Hood. Bn: R.N.V.R.); together with the recipient’s riband bar for the first three awards; a scarce Hood Battalion cap badge; and two original Royal Naval Division Chief Petty Officer badges, light contact marks, generally very fine and better and a rare combination (5) £2,400-£2,800


D.C.M. London Gazette 3 June 1919, citation published 11 March 1920:
‘Since June, 1915, he has shown the greatest devotion to duty, both in and out of the line. He has never failed to personally deliver the rations in the line, through often under heavy shell fire. From 15 October, 1917, to 15 April, 1918, and again during the operations of August, 1918, he was acting as Battalion Quartermaster, and during the March retreat rendered the most invaluable services.’

The published citation for the Distinguished Conduct Medal above is actually extracted from the recommendation for the recipient’s Meritorious Service Medal by Commander H. B. Pollock, R.N.V.R., Commanding Hood Battalion, dated 22 September 1918. The original recommendation for Gallagher’s D.C.M., by Commander W. M. le C. Edgerton, R.N.V.R., Commanding Hood Battalion, dated 27 January 1918, states:
On the night of 19 January 1918 C.P.O. Gallagher, the Hood Battalion Q.M.S. and Acting Quartermaster, accompanied the limbers conveying water and rations to the Battalion in the Front Line on Highland Ridge. The enemy put down a heavy barrage on Beaucamp, and owing to this a traffic block occurred at Charing Cross. C.P.O. Gallagher went ahead to where the block had occurred, found out that a convoy of G.S. Wagons and pontoons conveying trench boards was held up, and at once gave orders for those drivers who had unhooked their horses to rehook them and stand by to move forward. He then went forward through the shelling to see if the road was passable. Finding it was, he returned and went forward with his battalion convoy through the barrage, giving a lead to the R.E. convoy who were about to return. By his initiative, quick action, and courage he enabled much needed stores, rations and water to be got forward to the Front Line, and but for the courageous way in which he reconnoitred the road, which was damaged by the shelling, and the leadership he displayed in taking charge of the traffic, probably no transport would have got forward.’

M.S.M. London Gazette 18 January 1919:
‘In recognition of valuable service rendered with the Armies in France and Flanders.’

The original Recommendation, by Commander H. B. Pollock, R.N.V.R., Commanding Hood Battalion, dated 22 September 1918, states: ‘Since June 1915 he has shown the greatest devotion to duty, both when the Battalion has been in the line and out of the line. He has never failed to personally deliver the rations in the line, though often under heavy shell fire. During the March retreat he was acting as Battalion Quarter Master, and did most invaluable work. He has been recommended for the D.C.M. for bravery and devotion to duty under shell fire, and has acted as Battalion Quarter Master from 15 October 1917 to 15 April 1918, in the most capable and efficient manner. This N.C.O. was recommended for the D.C.M. for services at Welsh Ridge but was not awarded the same.’

William James Gallagher was born in Glasgow on 7 January 1893, and enlisted into the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve at Crystal Palace on 31 October 1914. He was posted to the Collingwood Battalion, which had only recently returned with the rest of the Royal Naval Division from the failed expedition to defend Antwerp.

Promoted Chief Petty Officer on 26 February 1915, Gallagher sailed with the Royal Naval Division for the Mediterranean two days later before going into camp on Lemnos Island in March. The Royal Naval Division took part in a diversionary convoy in the Gulf of Saros on 25 April whilst A.N.Z.A.C. troops were landing at Gaba Tepe and British troops at Helles, with most of the Royal Naval Division coming ashore on 28 April. From that date battalions of the Division saw action at A.N.Z.A.C. attached to 4th Brigade Australian Imperial Force and at Helles alongside 29th Division during the Turkish counter attacks of May 1915. On 4 June the Royal Naval Division took part in an offensive at the Helles sector aimed at capturing the dominating hill of Achi Baba. The French Division on the right of the Royal Naval Division failed to maintain the advance leaving the sailors and marines exposed to Turkish positions on the right flank. The Collingwood Battalion was enfiladed in the open by Turkish machine guns and within 15 minutes had been virtually destroyed.

Casualties in other battalions of the Royal Naval Division during the failed attack were also high but none so heavy as the Collingwood. Most of the officers had been killed including the Commanding Officer, Second in Command and virtually all of the Company and Platoon commanders. Those that had not been killed were either wounded or missing, the senior surviving officer being a junior Sub-Lieutenant. In his Despatch General Hamilton wrote that the battalion had been ‘practically destroyed’. The Collingwood Battalion had ceased to exist as a unit and was disbanded only days later, with the survivors posted to Hood Battalion.

Just a few days after being posted to Hood Battalion, on 12 June while in the rest camp behind ‘Backhouse Post’, Gallagher was wounded by shrapnel in the groin, his Certificate for Wounds and Hurts being signed by Bernard Freyberg, who would be awarded the Victoria Cross for his command of Hood Battalion during the Royal Naval Division’s first major action on the Western Front at the Ancre, 13-14 November 1916, and would finish the war with the V.C., and the Distinguished Service Order with Three Bars.

After the evacuation from Gallipoli the Admiralty relinquished command of the Royal Naval Division to the Army, who gave the division the new designation of 63rd (Royal Naval) Division but allowed to retain its naval ranks, identity and traditions. Chief Petty Officer Gallagher was appointed Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant shortly before the Division’s first action on the Western Front on the Ancre River. He was subsequently present at the Royal Naval Division’s battles at Gavrelle in April 1917, part of the Arras offensive in which the two Royal Marine battalions were virtually wiped out; the Passchendaele offensive in October 1917; Welsh Ridge in December 1917, when the German troops attacked over the snow covered ground dressed in white smocks (for which action he was unsuccessfully recommended for the Distinguished Conduct Medal); the March 1918 retreat and Aveluy and Logeast Wood actions the following month; and the Drocourt-Queant Line and Canal du Nord actions in September and October 1918 shortly before the end of the War.

In existence for just over four years, two years under Admiralty command and two years under Army command, by November 1918 the Royal Naval Division had established itself as ‘elite’ shock troops used to break the most difficult parts of the enemy line and was considered one of the best divisions of the British Army. For his services with the Hood Battalion during 1918 Gallagher was awarded both the Distinguished Conduct Medal and Meritorious Service Medal, one of only two D.C.M./M.S.M. combinations awarded to the Royal Navy.

As a Chief Petty Officer, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, Gallagher was ‘Discharged to Shore on Demobilisation’ on 13 April 1919.

Sold with a privately published book entitled ‘The Collingwood Battalion’, being a short history of the Battalion together with biographical notes of all the officers and lists of the men; the recipient’s Certificate of Wounds and Hurts; the recipient’s Certificates of Service and Employment; D.C.M. League Membership Card; Pay Book; Army Guard Book for Field Service Forms used by Gallagher as company record book and containing a unique record of sailors of 'C' Company, Collingwood Battalion on Gallipoli; a group photographic image of officers and Chief Petty Officers of Hood Battalion taken in January 1919; and original typed recommendations for awards of the D.C.M. and M.S.M.