A Fine Collection of Medals to the South Wales Borderers

Date of Auction: 17th September 2020

Sold for £1,500

Estimate: £800 - £1,200

A scarce Great War ‘Salonika’ M.M. and Second Award Bar, Medaille Militaire group of five awarded to Sergeant J. D. Cheyne, 8th (Service) Battalion, South Wales Borderers, who distinguished himself on several occasions during the Great War, including as part of a daring night raid on the Bulgarian position of Flat Iron Hill, near Krastali, 12 July 1918

Military Medal, G.V.R., with Second Award Bar (8-17374 L. Cpl J. D. Cheyne. 8/S.W. Bord:); 1914-15 Star (17374 Pte. J. D. Cheyne. S. Wales Bord:); British War and Victory Medals (17374 Sjt. J. D. Cheyne. S. Wales Bord.); France, Third Republic, Medaille Militaire, silver, silver-gilt and enamel, with trophy of arms suspension, blue enamel damage to last, otherwise generally good very fine (5) £800-£1,200


M.M. London Gazette 14 January 1918 (Salonika).

M.M. Second Award Bar London Gazette 21 October 1918 (Salonika).

France, Medaille Militaire London Gazette 21 July 1919.

John Duncan Cheyne was a native of Newport, Wales. He, ‘was member of the Newport Athletic Club Platoon that joined en bloc in 1914’ (Obituary refers), and served during the Great War with the 8th (Service) Battalion, South Wales Borderers in the French theatre of war from 5 September 1915. Cheyne moved with the Battalion to serve in Salonika from October 1915, and distinguished himself on two occasions on that front. The latter being when the Battalion was engaged in a night raid, South-West of Krastali (modern day Korona), 12 July 1918:

‘At the end of June [1918] it [8th Battalion] moved into trenches to the left of the line it had recently been holding, and shortly afterwards it was detailed to raid the Bulgarian outpost on Flat Iron Hill, S.W. of Krastali. Flat Iron Hill was about 1,000 yards distant from the British front line and was protected by two substantial belts of wire. For several days before the raid No Man’s Land between Kimberley Spur and Flat Iron Hill was systematically patrolled: most officers and N.C.O.’s selected for the raid got an opportunity to familiarise themselves with the ground to be crossed and ample information was collected about the Bulgarian defences. The raiders, six officers and 100 ranks under Major Browning, were divided into two wire-cutting parties of eleven each, who carried four Bangalore torpedoes, two assault parties, each of one officer and 16 men, a blocking party (one officer and 15 men), a demolition party (one officer and 20 men) and a reserve. There was no preliminary bombardment and the raiders, leaving Bowls Barrow at 9,35pm, (July 12th) reached the foot of Flat Iron Hill undetected. Then the wire-cutting parties crept forward and had fixed their Bangalores successfully before the enemy, becoming suspicious, sent up Very Lights. This revealed what was a foot and immediately the Bulgarians began blazing freely away and hurling bombs.

The Bangalores were promptly exploded, cutting gaps through which the raiders rushed just as the Bulgarian barrage came down. One minute later the British guns opened, for Colonel Dobbs from his observation post on Bowls Barrow had called for the British barrage directly the Very Lights went up. The second belt of wire proved in bad condition and the raiders rushed the post without being for a moment checked. Lieutenant Benfield’s blocking party quickly made its way to the Northern end of the work, bombing two dug-outs en route, both full of men, and started building a block. The assault parties, working right and left as ordered, met and disposed of several small groups while Second Lieutenant Ptolemy’s demolition party carried out its prescribed tasks, blowing up several dug-outs. After spending 20 minutes in the enemy’s position the party withdrew according to its programme, regaining its own lines with the trifling loss of two killed and one officer (Lieutenant Benfield) and eight men wounded. The Bulgarian casualties were hard to estimate accurately, 30 was a conservative estimate, and as satisfactory identifications were obtained the raid fully deserved the warm congratulations which it elicited from the higher authorities.

The following awards were made on account of this raid: D.S.O., Major Browning; M.C., Lieutenant Benfield; a Bar to the M.M., Sergeant Cheyne; M.M.’s, Sergeant Cox and Private Morgan.’ (The Regimental Histroy refers)

Cheyne returned to Newport after the war, and served with the Royal Observer Corps during the Second War. He died in Newport in January 1945.