A Collection of Medals to the Gloucestershire Regiment

Date of Auction: 15th October 2020

Sold for £6,500

Estimate: £1,200 - £1,600

A fine Second War 1940 British Expeditionary Force ‘withdrawal from Ledringham’ M.M. group of six awarded to Private J. E. Barnfield, 5th Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment

Military Medal, G.VI.R. (5185378 Pte. J. E. Barnfield. Glouc. R.); 1939-45 Star; Burma Star; Defence and War Medals 1939-45; Efficiency Medal, G.VI.R., 1st issue, Territorial (5185378. Cpl. J. E. Barnfield. R.E.M.E.) mounted court style, the first with some obverse surface damage, a couple of edge bruises, otherwise good very fine (6) £1,200-£1,600

Footnote

M.M. London Gazette 20 August 1940. The following citation was published in The Fifth Gloster Gazette of December 1940, an original copy of which accompanies the group:

‘L/Cpl. Barnfield volunteered with another man to take forward to the Battalion the important order to withdrawal. Although the distance was only 3 miles the Battalion was surrounded by enemy mechanised forces and the task of getting through took them nearly five hours. To these men is largely due the successful withdrawal of the Battalion from Ledringhem.’

Jack Ernest Barnfield was born in Cheltenham on 18 May 1920. He enlisted in 'C' Company, 5th Battalion, The Gloucestershire Regiment on 1 May 1939, and received his mobilisation notice, to report to Cheltenham Drill Hall on 1 September 1939.

On 14 January 1940, the Battalion sailed from Southampton for France. In very cold, snowy conditions they helped with preparing anti-tank obstacles at Thumeries. In the spring they moved into the front line, taking over a sector in the Saar front, beyond the Maginot Line. During a patrol in the Grossenwald-Grindorff-Bizing area they had their first engagement with the Germans. At the end of April they were billeted at Auby, and on 13 May they moved to Waterloo.

After an engagement on the River Escault, at Bruyelle, the 5th Glosters were ordered to withdraw on 22 May 1940, to Aix. Next day they moved to Nomain, and then followed a long march to Oost Capelle. On 25 May the Battalion moved to Wormhoudt. Orders were issued in early afternoon of 26 May for the 5th Glosters to move forward and hold outpost positions at Ledringhem and Arneke.

While the companies established defensive positions, Lance-Corporal Barnfield's platoon was sent to defend Brigade H.Q. at Rietveld. Under constant attack, the 5th Glosters held Ledringhem, even making a bayonet charge up a street to drive out German attackers. Eventually, German armour and troops surrounded the town and all contact was lost with the battalion. Lance-Corporals Barnfield and Mayo then volunteered to attempt to get into Ledringhem with the order to break out and withdraw to Dunkirk for evacuation.

They took over 4 hours to pick a way the 3 miles through the German units and into the town. ‘They were both awarded the MM for their brave and timely action, without which the Battalion would have stood fast and would have been eventually overrun. The plan of withdrawal was based on a timed thinning out from all positions, a concentration in the orchard where the MT had been parked, and a stealthy creeping away by the fields and hedges remote from the road.’ (Major Priestley, Adjutant 5th Glosters) [Mayo was taken POW and his MM was not gazetted until February 1944]

As the men prepared to move out, the Germans rushed into the town churchyard and another bayonet charge was needed to prevent a break in the defences. At 0015 hours on 29 May the battalion began to slip out of Ledringhem in single file, helped by the smoke from the burning town. At 0630 the head of the column reached Bambecque, where the 8th Worcesters were waiting.

The Adjutant of the Worcesters wrote: ‘During the early-morning stand-to I saw a wonderful sight. Round the corner as I came out of Battalion HQ appeared the survivors of the 5th Gloucesters. They were dirty and haggard, but unbeaten. Their eyes were sunken and red from lack of sleep, and their feet as they marched seemed to me no more than an inch from the ground. At their head limped a few prisoners. I ran towards Colonel Buxton, who was staggering along, obviously wounded. I took Colonel Buxton indoors, assuring him again and again that his men were all right.’

The Battalion was embussed later that morning and taken to Rexpoede. All the wounded were evacuated, prisoners handed over, and the remaining 13 officers and 130 men were soon on their way to the coast for evacuation. The move to the coast commenced after midnight on 30 May. The beaches were reached close to Bray Dunes at about 0430hrs. During the day the men waded out to small boats for transport to ships.

The Battalion eventually concentrated at Kingstone, Herefordshire, a total of some 400 all ranks. 2 officers and 83 men had been killed, and many more wounded or missing. Barnfield transferred to the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, with whom he served until 1 October 1942, when he transferred to the Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers. He was promoted to Corporal on 1 January 1943 and sent out to Burma. The last unit that he served with was 1st (W.A.) H.A.A. Regiment. He was finally transferred to the Reserve on 26 March 1946.

In April 1947 the 5th Glosters Old Comrades Association presented Barnfield with a certificate of appreciation. His Efficiency Medal was sent to him 14 February 1949.

Sold with original documents including the aforementioned edition of The Fifth Gloster Gazette and Old Comrades certificate of appreciation, Embodiment notice (1 Sept. 1939, to assemble at The Drill Hall, Cheltenham), Certificate of Transfer to the Army Reserve (26 March 1946), Soldier’s Service and Pay Book, two dog tags and additional copied research including copied news cuttings for award of M.M. and of his marriage in March 1942. Together with a France and Germany Star and War Medal believed to have been awarded to his wife for service in the A.T.S.