A Fine Collection of Medals to the South Wales Borderers

Date of Auction: 17th September 2020

Sold for £1,100

Estimate: £1,200 - £1,600

A Great War ‘Mespotamian theatre’ M.C. group of five awarded to Major W. N. V. Bickford-Smith, 4th (Service) Battalion, South Wales Borderers, who landed with the Battalion at ‘V’ Beach on the Gallipoli Peninsula, 15 July 1915, and was wounded in action during the capture of Damakjelik Bair, 7 August 1915. Having recuperated he returned to serve as Adjutant with the Battalion in Mesopotamia, and was wounded in action during the assault on the Dahra Bend of the Tigris, 15 February 1916

Military Cross, G.V.R.; 1914-15 Star (Lieut. W. N. V. Bickford-Smith. S. Wales Bord.); British War and Victory Medals (Capt. W. N. V. Bickford-Smith); Defence Medal, generally good very fine (5) £1,200-£1,600

Footnote

M.C. London Gazette 7 February 1918.

William Nugent Vonning Bickford-Smith was the son of R. A. H. Bickford-Smith, barrister and author, and grandson of W. Bickford-Smith, Member of Parliament for Truro. Bickford-Smith was educated at Pembroke College, Cambridge and was a member of the Cambridge University O.T.C. He served during the Great War with the 4th (Service) Battalion, South Wales Borderers, and was one of the officers to land with them at ‘V’ Beach on the Gallipoli Peninsula, 15 July 1915. He took part in the capture of Damakjelik Bair, and was wounded in action during the Battalion’s consolidation of positions, 7 August 1915.

Having advanced to Captain, Bickford-Smith rejoined the Battalion, now in Mesopotamia, 3 May 1916. He served as Adjutant and by the end of May was one of only 3 officers of the Battalion not to be on the sick list - most suffering from Cholera and Dysentery. The Battalion took part in the advance on Kut in December 1916, and he was wounded in action during the assault on the Dahra Bend of the Tigris, 15 February 1916:

‘Advancing in four waves, after fifteen minutes’ intensive bombardment, the battalion and the R.W.F. on its right rapidly mastered the front line, capturing many prisoners and promptly extending their gains on both flanks. The Turks made several counter-attacks but without success, and by midday the assaulting battalions - now reinforced by the Cheshire - had secured a foothold in the second line. Profiting by the 40th Brigade’s success the 35th then attacked from the S.E., catching the Turks on the left flank. This attack was equally successful, hundreds of Turks surrendered, and the 35th Brigade, pushing on, joined up with the 40th. This virtually ended organised resistance in the Dahra Bend; a few Turks still held out in the extreme N.W. corner but were mopped up during the night, and daylight (February 16th) found the right bank of the Tigris from the Shumran Bend downwards clear of Turks. They had fought obstinately, the assailants had required to exert both skill and determination to oust them from their position, and the 4th had good reason to be proud of their share. The last attack had cost them Second Lieutenant G. L. Davies, Regimental Sergeant Major Solomon and 31 other ranks killed, and Captain and Adjutant Bickford-Smith, Lieutenant S. H. Griffiths, Second Lieutenants Usher, Herbert, Hind and Barker and 72 men wounded.’ (Regimental History refers)

Bickford-Smith served with the Battalion for the remainder of the war in Mesopotamia, was demobilised in December 1919, and relinquished his commission having been granted the rank of Major. He served as a Lieutenant with the 7th Surrey (Dorking) Battalion, Home Guard during the Second War.

Sold with the following related items and documents: M.C. Royal Mint case of issue; three named card boxes of issue; 3 original maps including: two for Gallipoli - one of the Anarfarta Saghir area, and the other of the Kurija Dere area, both annotated ‘Lt. W. N. V. Bickford Smith, 4th S. Wales Bdrs, 40th Inf. Brig, XIIIth Div’; and another of the Shumran - Dahra area, Mesopotamia, dated 11 February 1917; several photographic images of recipient in uniform, and copied research.