A Fine Collection of Medals to the South Wales Borderers

Date of Auction: 17th September 2020

Sold for £3,600

Estimate: £3,000 - £4,000

A scarce Great War ‘Western Front’ 1918 D.C.M., and ‘Battle of the Lys’ Second Award Bar group of four awarded to Sergeant J. Dare, 1st Battalion, South Wales Borderers, a veteran of 1914 who fought all the way through to the conclusion of the war - having distinguished himself on numerous occasions including during the Defence of Loisne Chateau, 18 - 20 April 1918

Distinguished Conduct Medal, G.V.R., with Second Award Bar (1-14727 Sjt: J. Dare. 1/S.W. Bord:); 1914 Star, with clasp (14727 Pte J. Dare. S. Wales Bord.); British War and Victory Medals (14727 Sjt. J. Dare. S. Wales Bord.) mounted for display on card, generally very fine (4) £3,000-£4,000


D.C.M. London Gazette 17 April 1918:

‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty since the commencement of the campaign. He particularly distinguished himself by his coolness and daring in reconnaissance patrols, and by the great value and accuracy of the information which he obtained.’

D.C.M. Second Award Bar London Gazette 3 September 1918:

‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. This non-commissioned officer was in command of a platoon at a strong point when the intense barrage resulted in the burial of several men and both machine guns. He at once set to work to dig them out, then cleared the guns, mounted them, and reopened fire. Later in the day, he established, a Lewis gun post on a threatened flank at a critical moment, inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy.’

James Dare was a native of Llanhilleth, Wales. He served during the Great War with the 1st Battalion, South Wales Borderers in the French theatre of war from 9 November 1914. Dare was eventually recognised for his consistent gallantry at the beginning of 1918, as the Regimental History records, ‘The New Year Honours brought Sergeant Dare a D.C.M. for excellent work on patrols, he was always going out and bringing back useful information.’

The Battalion had wintered on the Ypres Salient, and on 15 April 1918 they found themselves responsible for the line to the left of Festubert and East of Loisne - with headquarters in Loisne Chateau. Dare went on to distinguish himself during the Defence of Loisne Chateau, as part of the Battle of the Lys:

‘The line which the 1st took over was extremely weak. The so-called “Tuning Fork Line” which ran in rear of Festubert and in front of Loisne Chateau, was a mere bank of mud breastworks about five feet high with no parados or dug-outs. It was held by two and half companies, C on the right and in rear of Festubert, which the Gloucestershire were holding, half B in the centre S.E. of the chateau, D on the left nearly 400 yards from B. In front of this gap was an advanced post known as Route A Keep, trenches disposed in a square round a concrete pill-box, which served as Headquarters for the two platoons of B which formed its garrison. A was in reserve in a “Switch Line,” some distance in rear of B. There had been some savage fighting already for Route A Keep; it had been taken by the Germans and retaken by the Liverpool Scottish, many of whom were lying dead about it. For two days the 1st S.W.B. did what they could to improve a far from satisfactory position. Except for snipers and occasional shelling and machine gun fire things were fairly quiet.

About 4am on the 18th, however, there developed an intense bombardment not only of the front area but of the back line also, in which gas shell was freely used... This lasted till after 8.30am, and then under cover of a thick mist the Germans attacked in force. Route A Keep had already had a tremendous shelling and the garrison had been reduced to little over 20 men before the attack broke over the,. They put up a fine fight: when the Keep was recovered most of the two platoons were lying dead among its ruins with many Germans heaped around them, but the enemy were in overwhelming force and soon overpowered the survivors. The Keep once taken the Germans began to push on towards the Tuning Fork Line. On the left about 300 men advanced against C Company, but the rifle and machine gun fire which they encountered soon quenched their ardour. A few, however, got down into an old trench and pushed along it till within a short distance of our line, only to be shot down. Captain Fowkes did splendid work in directing the defence: though wounded he carried on, and his example was a great encouragement to his men. Second Lieutenant Dilloway was also prominent in his efforts to encourage the men to endure bombardment. Sergeant Dare, when his Lewis guns and their crews were buried, not only dug out the men and guns but remounted the guns and maintained a steady fire and later on pushed out to the front, establishing a Lewis gun post in a shell hole so as to enfilade the line and inflicting many casualties....’ (Ibid)

Dare’s Battalion had repulsed the attack completely by 11am, and a successful counter attack to retake the Keep was subsequently carried out. The Battalion suffered 150 casualties across all ranks, with the Battalion’s bravery being recognised with the award of a number gallantry medals - including a Bar to Dare’s D.C.M.

1 of 9 D.C.M. and Second Award Bars to the Regiment for the Great War.