A Fine Collection of Medals to the South Wales Borderers

Date of Auction: 17th September 2020

Sold for £1,400

Estimate: £1,400 - £1,800

A Second War 1944 ‘Battle of Normandy - Operation Bluecoat’ M.M. group of five awarded to Sergeant H. Phelps, 2nd Battalion, South Wales Borderers

Military Medal, G.VI.R. (4075593 Sjt. H. Phelps. S. Wales Bord.); 1939-45 Star; France and Germany Star; Defence and War Medals 1939-45, generally very fine (5) £1,400-£1,800

Footnote

M.M. London Gazette 21 December 1944, the original recommendation states:

‘At Torteval on 30 July 44 during the attack on St Germain D’Ectot ridge, ‘B’ Coy was held up by machine gun fire from the front and the left. Sjt Phelps was commanding No 10 Platoon and was ordered by his Coy Commander to work his platoon round to the right. He carried out this manoeuvre with the greatest dash and courage always pressing forward where his presence was most needed.

Twice during his advance, at great personal risk he moved across open ground swept by enemy machine gun fire and indicated targets to a troop of tanks supporting his Coy. On both occasions it was a direct result of his bravery and initiative that the tanks neutralised enemy positions and enabled his platoon to advance.

During this action, Sjt Phelps showed himself to be an extremely brave NCO and a very resourceful leader. That the Bn reached its objective was largely due to the splendid manner in which he commanded his platoon.’

Harold Phelps was a native of Llankilleth, Wales. He served during the Second War with the 2nd Battalion, South Wales Borderers as part of the 56th Infantry Brigade, 50th Division in Normandy. The Battalion had taken part in the D-Day landings, 6 June 1944, being part of the assault troops to land at Gold Beach.

Phelps distinguished himself during the attack on St. Germain D’Ectot as part of Operation Bluecoat. The Regimental History gives the following:

‘The Brigade front was concave and the 2/24th was obliged to attack on a narrow front in a sort of dog-leg, first to La Couarde and then to St. Germain D’Ectot. Under command of the Battalion were a troop and a half of the 13/18 Hussars, one troop of flails and a troop of flame throwers.

The attack began on 31st July [sic] on a one company front. At 05.30 hours “C” Company advanced with La Couarde and the right hand orchard on the St. Germain D’Ectot ridge as its objectives. It had a troop of tanks in support; unfortunately the flame throwers had a mechanical breakdown and could not move. The Company got to La Couarde without much opposition except from mortars and artillery. From La Couarde it advanced towards its objective on the ridge. It was moving across an open field - perhaps not in the most suitable formation - when it was very heavily fired on by a large number of Spandaus, skilfully dug in along the hedges at the top of the field and protected by low wire. “C” Company made every effort to get forward, but it had been caught be surprise at very close range and was virtually pinned down.

“C” Company’s efforts to extricate itself and attack again took up several hours. Finally, “B” Company was ordered to work round the right flank and retrieve the situation. Major Collins, the Company Commander, sensibly took his time over his reconnaissance and it was not until 16.00 hours that the new attack was ready. It went in excellently supported by the tanks. When fired on, the Company executed a right flanking movement, drove the enemy out of his position and seized the objective. It was a first class example of infantry and tank co-operation. The assault was particularly well carried out: one section commander even formed his section five paces between men, bayonets fixed, and rushed the enemy in a fashion reminiscent of earlier wars.

Once “B” Company was established, the flails made a mine-free path to the ridge for the flame throwers, now repaired.’

Sold with copied research.