A Fine Collection of Medals to the South Wales Borderers

Date of Auction: 17th September 2020

Sold for £2,000

Estimate: £1,800 - £2,200

A fine Great War 1917 ‘Bourlon Wood - Battle of Cambrai’ D.C.M., ‘French theatre’ M.M. group of five awarded to Sergeant H. A. Hampton, 12th (Service) Battalion, South Wales Borderers (3rd Gwent), for his gallantry in saving his company when surrounded - by going out through enemy lines and guiding a tank back to the position, 23 November 1917. He was subsequently awarded the M.M. for his service with the 2nd Battalion

Distinguished Conduct Medal, G.V.R. (24115 L. Sjt: H. A. Hampton. 12/S.W. Bord:); Military Medal, G.V.R. (24115 Sjt. H. A. Hampton. D.C.M. 2/S. Wales Bord.); British War and Victory Medals, with M.I.D. oak leaves (24115 Sjt. H. Hampton. S. Wales Bord.); Defence Medal, generally very fine or better (5) £1,800-£2,200

Footnote

D.C.M. London Gazette 28 March 1918:

‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty, going out on numerous occasions and bringing in wounded men who were lying out in front. When his company was surrounded he made his way through the enemy and guided a Tank to the position, thereby enabling the company to withdraw in safety. He also gave great help in repelling counter-attacks.’

M.M. London Gazette 14 May 1919.

M.I.D. London Gazette 22 May 1917.

Henry Adolphus Hampton was a native of Dunmow. He initially served during the Great War with the 12th (Service) Battalion, South Wales Borderers (3rd Gwent) on the Western Front. Hampton distinguished himself at Bourlon Wood as part of the Battle of Cambrai, 23 November 1917. The Regimental History gives the following for the actions of the 12th Battalion:

‘However, with the middle of November came orders for a move, and on November 16th the battalion marched from Humbercourt to Gouy, thence to Gommecourt (17th), Barastre (19th) and Doignies (21st). Here warning was received from the Fourth Corps, to which the Fortieth Division had been posted, that the Division would be shortly required for an attack on Bourlon Wood. This was a dominating feature on the Northern portion of the Cambrai battlefield, lying just North of the Bapaume-Cambrai road, and its capture was essential to secure a good flanking position prior to exploiting the advantages gained by breaking through the Hindenburg Line.’

After a stalled attack by the 62nd Division, the 40th Division (including the 12th Battalion) moved to relieve them on the Southern outskirts of Bourlon Wood, ‘and on the evening of November 22nd the 12th S.W.B. found themselves moving up through Graincourt to do so. The relief was effected before midnight, and the battalion settled down to get what rest it could before the attack which was to start at 10.30am (November 23rd).....

The 12th S.W.B. were on the left of their brigade, having the 19th R.W.F. on their right, and had as objective the Eastern end of Bourlon village and the Northern edge of the wood East of the village. Tanks were to precede the left company, but that on the right had no such assistance.

At the start the attack went very well. The first line of German trenches was crossed within a quarter of an hour of “Zero,” almost without any opposition. Then, as the troops plunged forward into the wood, resistance stiffened. The right company was the first to meet the enemy in strength, but went for the Germans with bayonet and drove them back. About midway though the wood the advance crossed a sunken road, where it had sharp fighting, taking several machine guns and some prisoners. After this the German defence grew more stubborn and progress became more difficult, especially on the left where heavy machine gun fire delayed the advance....

By noon the Northern edge of the wood had been reached on the right, but casualties had been heavy and the attackers were much disorganised... away to the right the Fifty-First Division was meeting very stubborn opposition, and the right of the battalion, which had reached the outskirts of the village, found itself out of touch on both flanks, and could get no further.

It was now about 1pm, and Major Brown, hearing that there had been heavy casualties especially among the officers, went forward to reorganise. Shortly after his arrival at the front line a heavy counter-attack developed which before long pushed the right of the battalion back to the sunken road. Here a stand was successfully made, and a tank, which appeared most opportunely, managed to extricate and bring back Captain Symes’ party which had held on to the village with both its flanks in the air and was in danger of being cut off. The arrival of this tank was largely due to Sergeant Hampton who had made his way back through the enemy and guided it to the spot.’ (Ibid)

The 12th Battalion continued to be involved in heavy fighting until relieved on the evening of the 25th November, having suffered casualties of 10 officers and 123 men killed or missing, and 12 officers and 243 men wounded. The Battalion was awarded 2 D.S.O.’s, 6 M.C.’s, 6 D.C.M.’s and 11 M.M.’s for the action.

Hampton subsequently transferred to the 2nd Battalion and it was whilst serving with them that he was awarded the M.M.