A Fine Collection of Medals to the South Wales Borderers

Date of Auction: 17th September 2020

Sold for £2,400

Estimate: £2,000 - £2,400

A fine Great War 1918 ‘Wassigny operations’ D.C.M., early 1916 ‘French theatre’ M.M. group of eleven awarded to Company Sergeant Major B. Pratten, 1st Battalion, South Wales Borderers

Distinguished Conduct Medal, G.V.R. (6458 C.S. Mjr. B. Pratten. M.M. 3/S. Wales Bord:); Military Medal, G.V.R. (2-6456 [sic] Sjt: B. Pratten. 1/S. Wales Bord:); Queen’s South Africa 1899-1902, 3 clasps, Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Transvaal (6458 Cpl B. Pratten. S. Wales Bord:); King’s South Africa 1901-02, 2 clasps, South Africa 1901, South Africa 1902 (6458 Corpl: B. Pratten. S. Wales Bord:); 1914 Star, with clasp (6458 Sjt. B. Pratten. S. Wales Bord.); British War and Victory Medals (6458 Sjt. B. Pratten. S. Wales Bord.); Defence Medal; France, Third Republic, Croix de Guerre, bronze, reverse dated 1914-1918; Belgium, Kingdom, Croix de Guerre, A.I.R., bronze,; National Fire Brigades Association L.S. Medal, 1 clasp, Ten Years, bronze (10299 Benjamin Pratten.) contact marks overall, generally nearly very fine (11) £2,000-£2,400

Footnote

D.C.M. London Gazette 2 December 1919:

‘During operations near Wassigny on 18th October 1918, he displayed marked courage and initiative in leading the attack after the officer commanding the attacking troops had become a casualty. When the line was temporarily held up by heavy machine gun fire, he urged on the men, and led them to the objective. It was largely due to his personal example and exemplary conduct that the attack was carried out with complete success.’

M.M. London Gazette 3 June 1916.

Belgium, Croix de Guerre London Gazette 12 July 1918.

Benjamin Pratten was a native of Marlborough, Wiltshire. He served with the South Wales Borderers during the Second Boer War, and with the 1st Battalion during the Great War in the French theatre of war from 13 August 1914.

Having fought through 1914 and advanced to Sergeant, Pratten distinguished himself with the Battalion whilst on the Loos Salient in May 1916:

‘Things were specially active about this time. Very sharp fighting was in progress on the Vimy Ridge, not far South of the 1st’s sector, and the disturbed area tended to spread to both flanks. The battalion’s patrols were very energetic and had several brushes with the enemy, notably on one occasion when Privates Quinn and Macaulay were out near the German wire and the enemy suddenly opened fire on a patrol from another regiment which was quite near. One man was hit and the Germans came out to capture him, whereupon Quinn and Macaulay turned the tables by promptly opening fire with good effect, and not only drove the Germans off, but were able to help the wounded man in. Lieutenant Ward Jones, Company Sergeant Major Miller, and Sergeants Freeman and Pratten were all among those brought to notice for good work at this period and received honours in the June list, while Private Quinn got an immediate D.C.M. and Macaulay, who had previously won a D.C.M. at Loos, received a bar.’ (Regimental History refers)

Pratten’s M.M. was amongst the first batch of the newly created award to be gazetted. He then served with the Battalion as part of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Division on the Somme, July - November 1916. The Battalion moved to Bazentin-le-Petit on 20 August, and Pratten’s good conduct is mentioned again in the Regiment History during an attack on the Intermediate Trench North-East of Bazentin-le-Petit five days later. An unsuccessful attempt to capture the trench had been made by the Royal Munster Fusiliers on 24 August:

‘Next afternoon (August 25th), however, A Company, now under Captain Inglis, renewed their attack, this time successfully. A heavy barrage had been put down at intervals with the object of driving the enemy back from the barricade and so clearing the Eastern half of the trench, and at 6.30pm A Company pushed past the barrier and advanced nearly 300 yards, bombing the Germans back. Serious opposition was offered at a strong point, containing a machine gun which had been largely responsible for the non-success of the earlier attacks. It was captured, however, several prisoners being taken... The attackers then pushed on, Privates Fitzpatrick [See lot 91] and Murphy leading the way with the bayonet. Coming to a block of wire mixed up with bayonets which formed a chevaux de frise they climbed up on to the parapet and removed the obstacle, thus enabling the attack to get forward. C Company had simultaneously attempted to advance across the open against the Western portion of the trench, but this effort failed. A Company, however, captured another 80 yards and consolidated their gains, a trench being dug back from the Westernmost point reached to the old front line. In this fighting the example and leadership of Captain Inglis were conspicuous, and he was ably seconded by Private E. Williams who helped him to capture several Germans, while Sergeant Sheehan engaged successfully in a sniping duel with a German officer who had already shot two sergeants but was now picked off. Sergeant Geary too did fine work in charge of a party bringing up ammunition and rifle grenades, making several journeys from the support line to A Company’s trenches when A was being hard pressed, and organised his men with great gallantry and skill, exposing himself freely and remaining at his post though wounded. Specially good work was also done by the battalion signallers who were constantly out repairing the repeatedly severed telephone wires between Headquarters and companies. Despite heavy shelling and machine gun fire they stuck to their work and succeeded in maintaining communications, Sergeants Pratten and Sanders and Corporal Melham being specially conspicuous.’

Pratten advanced to Company Quartermaster Sergeant and distinguished himself at Wassigny, 18 October 1918, where the 1st Battalion ‘had in all one officer (Lieutenant H. S. Bennett) and 29 men killed or died of wounds, and three officers and 60 men wounded, so that its captures alone, one officer and 76 men, nearly equalled its casualties, while its trophies included five field guns and eleven machine guns.’ (Ibid).

Pratten subsequently transferred to the 3rd Battalion, South Wales Borderers and served as a Fireman after the war.

Sold with group photograph including recipient in uniform, and copied research.