A Fine Collection of Medals to the South Wales Borderers

Date of Auction: 17th September 2020

Sold for £1,200

Estimate: £1,400 - £1,800

A Second War North-West Europe ‘immediate’ M.M. group of five awarded to Private G. E. Carey, 2nd Battalion, South Wales Borderers, for his repeated gallantry as runner for his platoon during a particularly hard-fought action at Looy, Belgium, 25-26 September 1944. He made several journeys in pursuit of information and ammunition through enemy lines during the night and morning - always under fire, and often illuminated by blazing buildings

Military Medal, G.VI.R. (3909600 Pte. G. E. Carey. S. Wales Bord.); 1939-45 Star; France and Germany Star; Defence and War Medals 1939-45, very fine (5) £1,400-£1,800

Footnote

M.M. London Gazette 21 December 1944.

The original recommendation states: ‘On 26 September, at Looy, in the bridgehead over the Antwerp-Turnhout Canal, Private Carey was a member of 11 Platoon. His Platoon was 500 yards in front of the main Company position, and was surrounded by enemy, being continuously attacked and fired on during the night. In spite of this opposition, Private Carey made it his job to maintain the ammunition supply of his Platoon. On three separate occasions he went through the enemy to Company HQ, taking information to his Company Commander and bringing back ammunition to his Platoon. On each occasion he was fired on from close range. A burning farmhouse lay across his route and illuminated his movements and he was shot at each time he passed. His brave action was invaluable in passing information and replenishing used ammunition and reflects a very high standard of courage and devotion to duty.

The next morning, the Platoon of which Private Carey was a member again moved forward and was attacked once more. The wireless broke down and Private Carey made three more journeys back to Company HQ with information and brought back ammunition. He was fired at again on each journey. His sustained courage and cheerful willingness to face risks throughout two days fighting were of great assistance to his officers in controlling the battle.’

George Edward Carey, a native of Liverpool, attested for the South Wales Borderers in August 1939 and served with the 2nd Battalion during the Second War, as part of the 56th Infantry Brigade, 49th Division, distinguishing himself whilst serving with “B” Company during the action around the Antwerp-Turnhout Canal, Belgium. The Regimental History gives the following details:

‘On 25th September [1944] the 2/24th was given orders to cross over the Antwerp-Turnhout canal. It moved there tactically with a forward body leading. In support was a squadron of the 27th Canadian Armoured Regiment, a platoon of machine gunners and the affiliated battery of 185 Field Regiment. The route lay through the outskirts of Antwerp, but soon the houses with their candles and pictures of King Leopold in the windows were left behind and the Battalion found itself in open, sandy country dotted with copses of fir trees. It was a pleasant change from the Bocage. As dusk fell it was directed to cross a Bailey bridge which had erected over a canal north of Rouwleegd. The Battalion crossed and in the dark in heavy rain took up its positions. There were only three quarters of an hour to make a reconnaissance and it was quite a feat to move the troops up in the dark and get the weapon pits sited. “A” Company was at Parre, “B” Company at Looy and “D” Company on a small bridge to the west of the Bailey bridge. Tactical HQ was across the river and Rear HQ just short of it.

At first no contact was made with the enemy, but as so often happened in the early days in Normandy, the presence of one side drew the other to it. At 2.30 hours a strong force of enemy attacked along the canal bank from the west and struck “D” Company. They were led by a man who shouted in perfect accent, “Stop firing, you bloody fools!” “D” Company had just finished digging, and although they fought back, two platoons were overrun and the other withdrew to the Battalion HQ area, a few hundred yards to the rear.

Meanwhile “B” Company had established two platoons at Looy. Major Collins had orders to attack a group of farmhouses and a pill box some five hundred yards ahead with the third platoon so cutting the Ryckevorsel-Oostmalle road. Before the attack was made Sergeant D. Tough carried out a dangerous personal reconnaissance of the enemy position. He crawled close up to the pill box and farm house, and though under fire, carefully examined the defences. He then went back to the company with very full information, which was of high value in the subsequent action.

Commanded by Lieutenant Crane, the forward platoon, accompanied by Major Collins who went with the leading section, then moved against the enemy. Sergeant Tough with a section himself captured the pill box. All objectives were taken. However, “B” Company’s platoons were now widely separated from each other, and as they had crossed the canal at dusk, they had had no opportunity of examining the country in which they were situated as closely as they would have wished. The enemy was in close contact, and able to infiltrate freely between the dispersed platoons. The enemy pressure against the forward platoon, commanded by Sergeant Tough, was particularly heavy. During the earlier fighting, a barn had caught fire and its flames illuminated the platoon positions, leaving the enemy in the dark. During one assault, Tough ran out into the open and with his sten killed six of the enemy at 25 years range.

At 06.00hrs, before dawn, after several hours sniping, the whole company was attacked, a body of over sixty men coming against one platoon alone. A fierce action was fought in which every one took part. The enemy attacked from all directions even from the rear, Major Collins himself beat off two attacks from this quarter, one from a spandau team who were crawling up a ditch and threatening a section position. However, Major Collins and his Second-in-Command, Capt. E. Thurn, together with the sergeants acting as platoon commanders, inspired “B” Company with their example and it is doubtful whether a better action fought by the 2/24th during the whole campaign. The battle went on until 09.30 hours when some tanks arrived and drove off the enemy. “B” Company took 70 prisoners and killed 50 of the enemy. For their gallantry in this and the next day’s fighting, Major Collins was awarded the Military Cross and Sergeants D. Tough and G. F. Hulland received Military Medals. A Military Medal was also won by Private G. E. Carey who was runner to the platoon on the Ryckevorsel road. He made repeated journeys during the night and morning through country which the enemy were occupying to bring information back to Company Headquarters and ammunition to his platoon. His cheerful willingness to accept risks was typical of the spirit of the Company.’