A Fine Collection of Medals to the South Wales Borderers

Date of Auction: 17th September 2020

Sold for £1,700

Estimate: £1,600 - £2,000

A Great War ‘French theatre’ M.C. and 1917 ‘Battle of Messines’ Second Award Bar group of four awarded to Major E. Simons, 5th (Service) Battalion, South Wales Borderers (Pioneers)

Military Cross, G.V.R., with Second Award Bar; 1914-15 Star (2. Lieut. E. Simons. S. Wales Bord.); British War and Victory Medals (Capt. E. Simons.) generally good very fine or better (4) £1,600-£2,000

Footnote

M.C. London Gazette 13 February 1917:

‘For conspicuous gallantry in action. He displayed great courage and skill in laying out and digging trenches by night under heavy fire. He at all times set a fine example.’

M.C. Second Award Bar London Gazette 17 September 1917:

‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty prior to and during an attack. He showed the utmost coolness and disregard of danger in improving his assembly position under fire, afterwards leading his company in the attack with great courage and initiative, and saving them many casualties.’

Edward Simons was born in 1895, and served during the Great War with the 5th (Service) Battalion, South Wales Borderers (Pioneers) in the French theatre of war from 15 July 1915. Simons advanced to Captain and served with the Battalion as part of the 19th (Western) Division on the Somme, July - October 1916. At the end of October and into November the Battalion worked on Stuff Redoubt, Zollern Redoubt and the tramway near Mouquet Farm. They then took part in operations south of Ancre around Grandcourt, and Simons distinguished himself on 13 November 1916:

‘In the actual assault the 56th Brigade attacked and took the Division’s objectives West of Grandcourt, completely surprising the enemy and taking over 100 prisoners. Two companies of the 5th had been detailed to help consolidate, and C, under Captain Simons, were employed to connect Lucky Way up with the left of the 7th East Lancashire in Desire Trench. This was a fine achievement, the trench being dug to a depth of 6 feet on a length of over 150 yards. Captain Simons, whose skill and fine example contributed greatly to this successful performance, was subsequently awarded the M.C., which was also given to Second Lieutenant Day, who superintended the digging of a new front trench under heavy fire. The various communication trenches leading forward from the captured position had to be blocked and posts established 100 yards to the front in them, so that the companies were kept busy.... the 5th’s casualties for the period November 13th to 15th amounting to 8 men killed and missing with Second Lieutenant E. S. Evans and 32 men wounded.’ (The Regimental History refers)

Simons was awarded a Bar to his M.C. for his gallantry during the first day of the Battle of Messine, 7 June 1917:

‘“Zero” on June 7th was at 3.10am. Before the smoke and dust from the explosion of mines had begun to clear the assaulting infantry were well into No Man’s Land. Opposite the Nineteenth Division enough Germans survived to give the assailants some real fighting as they swept up and over the crest of the ridge. This gave both Company Sergeant Major Hooper of A Company and Sergeant Rees of D a chance of distinguishing themselves. The former took charge of his platoon when its commander was wounded, directed consolidations in the open under heavy fire and persistent sniping, showing complete disregard of danger and much power of command. Sergeant Rees led a party against a strong point which was holding out and captured it by skilful tactics, taking or killing its garrison of 20 men and securing a machine gun. The German resistance did not, however, avail to prevent the Nineteenth reaching the Mauve Line well up to time. Directly the Red Line was taken D began constructing “strong points,” two in the Grand Bois, one N.W. of Catteau Farm, but after getting these properly started the Pioneers handed them over to the infantry to complete and pushed on to the Green Line, which was to serve as a support line. Here also it had three strong points to construct, near Estaminet Cross-roads, in Onraet Wood, and at Evans Farm.

A Company, who had followed the 57th Brigade to the Black Line, worked on that till the infantry advanced again and secured the Oosttaverne Line. Parties then went forward and started work on two strong points East of Oostaverne. Captain Simons showed great gallantry and skill in this attack: his clever leading saved his company many casualties and his resourcefulness and initiative were most marked. B and C meanwhile were busily employed in helping the guns forward, bridging trenches, clearing away obstructions, filling in shell holes and craters and laying down fascines.’ (Ibid)

Simons advanced to Major and transferred to the Royal Army Education Corps in 1920. He retired in 1931.