Tag Archives: medals

Portsmouth’s WW2 Dead – the Royal Air Force (part 4)

27 decorations were won by 24 Portsmouth airmen who died during the Second World War. 5.7% of Portsmouth airmen were decorated in some way:

Distinguished Service Order
Wing Commander John Buchanan (227 Squadron, Beaufighters)

Distinguished Flying Cross
Flight Lieutenant Gerald Bird (97 Squadron, Manchesters)
Wing Commander John Buchanan (227 Squadron, Beaufighters)
Flying Officer John Coghlan (56 Squadron, Hurricanes)
Flying Officer Thomas Morris (unknown)
Flight Lieutenant Patrick McCarthy (7 Squadron, Lancasters)
Flight Lieutenant Benjamin McLaughlin (unknown)
Wing Commander Frank Dixon-Wright (115 Squadron, Wellingtons)
Flight Lieutenant Donald Courtenay (511 Squadron, Yorks)
Flying Officer John Donohue (635 Squadron, Lancasters)
Flight Lieutenant Dennis Woodruff (15 Squadron, Lancasters)

Distinguished Flying Medal
Flight Sergeant Arthur Smith (38 Squadron, Wellingtons)
Flight Sergeant James Bundle (97 Squadron, Lancasters)
Flight Lieutenant James Potter (233 Squadron, Hudsons)
Sergeant Francis Compton (35 Squadron, Halifaxes)
Flying Officer Frederick Brown (142 Squadron, Wellingtons)
Flight Sergeant Raymond Hayles (15 Squadron, Lancasters)

Mentioned in Despatches
Group Captain Ernest McDonald CBE (144 Maintenance Unit) – twice MiD
Sergeant Arthur Knight (unknown)
Flight Sergeant Herbert Clarke (617 Squadron, Lancasters)

Commander of the British Empire
Group Captain Ernest Mcdonald (144 Maintenance Unit)

Member of the British Empire
Warrant Officer Edgar Juffs (unknown)

British Empire Medal
Flight Lieutenant John Holder (55 Squadron, Baltimores)
Pilot Officer John Philp (149 Squadron, Stirlings)
Flying Officer William Grant (166 Squadron, Lancaster)

Royal Humane Society Bronze Medal
Aircraftman 1st Class Jack Heap (151 Maintenance Unit, captured in Singapore)

Two men won more than one medal – Group Captain Mcdonald CBE MiD (twice) and Wing Commander John Buchanan DSO DFC.

There seems to have been a fairly even split between officers and men winning awards – due to the specific nature of the air war, all men in the air were at the sharp end and had almost equal opportunities for showing bravery. Of course senior officers – pilots and commanders,for example – had more chance of winning leadership awards such as the DSO. Medals could also be awarded for prolonged good service or bravery rather than just one incident – something that was important given how Bomber crews in particular went up into the air night after night.

The vast majority of awards were given for men serving in bombers. Flight Lieutenant James Potter’s DFM was given for service with Hudson’s in Coastal Command. Flying Officer John Coghlan’s DFC was awarded for flying Hurricanes in Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain.

Another interesting point to note are two commissioned officers who were awarded Distinguished Flying Medals – an award normally given to NCO’s and men. These medals were obviously won while the recipients were NCO’s and before they were commissioned as officers.

Aircraftman 1st Class Jack Heap’s Royal Humane Society Bronze Medal was awarded posthumously for life saving deeds on 8 November 1944 whilst he was a prisoner of the Japanese after being captured at Singapore.



Filed under portsmouth heroes, Royal Air Force, Uncategorized, World War Two

Portsmouth’s WW2 Dead – The Army (part 5)


20 soldiers from Portsmouth who died during the Second World War were awarded a total of 23 decorations for bravery during the Second World War:

1 Distinguished Service Order
1 Distinguished Conduct Medal
4 Military Crosses
5 Military Medals
9 Mentions in Despatches

Three men received more than one decoration. 10 of the men who were decorated were officers, and the other 10 were NCO’s. Although there were obviously many more men than officers in the Army, being in position of responsibility clearly afforded many more opportunities for excelling in battle. Cynics might also suggest that officers and NCO’s were more likely to have their deeds noticed and reported favourably. Its noticeable that no medals were awarded to Privates who died during the war, only one Trooper in a Tank unit was mentioned in despatches.

2.97% of Portsmouth soldiers who died during the war won decorations. The split was equal between officers and men. This compares to 7.9% of Portsmouth sailors. Why the difference? Possibly because a higher proportion of sailors were Leading Rates and Petty Officers, who had more potential for leadership and decision-making in battle, whereas junior sailors were more often than not working as part of a finely-tuned machine. By comparison, the decorations awarded to soldiers were split 50/50. This is probably because the rank-and-file found themselves in at the sharp end, and often having to show initiative and bravery that would earn medals.

It could also be argued that in the Second World War – particularly towards 1944 and 1945 when manpower reserves were perilously low – the British Army sought to fight its battles in a way that did not cause excessive losses. It is possible that fighting in this manner gave less opportunities to win decorations.

Distinguished Service Order
Major Robert Easton MBE (Royal Armoured Corps, Italy)

Distinguished Conduct Medal
Sergeant Sidney Cornell (Parachute Regiment, Normandy)

Military Cross
Major Maurice Budd (Royal Sussex Regiment, Far East)
Major Frank Baxter (Royal Engineers, Tunisia)
Captain Bernard Brown (Royal Army Medical Corps, Egypt)
Lieutenant Colonel George Paxton (Essex Regiment, also MiD)

Military Medal
Captain Tom Bett (Pioneer Corps, promoted from ranks in 1941 after winning MM)
Lance Bombardier Edward Wait (Royal Artillery, Italy)
Lance Corporal Leslie Webb (Hampshire Regiment, D-Day)
Lance Bombardier Ernest Colbourne (Royal Artillery, MM possibly WW1)
Battery Quartermaster Sergeant Stanley Thayer (Royal Artillery, Dunkirk – also MiD)

Mentioned in Despatches
Sergeant Bertram Frampton (Royal Armoured Corps, NW Europe)
Corporal Norman Wescott (Military Police, Italy)
Trooper Edward Fidler (Royal Armoured Corps, Normandy)
Captain Sidney Fenn (REME)
Sergeant Frederick Harvey (Royal Artillery, Singapore)
Corporal Kerry Ryan (RAOC, Hong Kong)
Sergeant Ernest Oldrieve (Royal Tank Regiment, Greece)

Officer of the British Empire
Major Ernest Norris (RAOC)

Member of the British Empire
Major John Allen (RASC)


Filed under Army, portsmouth heroes, Uncategorized, World War Two

Portsmouth’s WW2 Dead: the Royal Navy part 2


93 Royal Navy officers and ratings from Portsmouth were either decorated during the Second World War, or had won medals previously – 7.2% of all Portsmouth sailors who were killed. Its noticeable immediately that most of the men who were decorated were older servicemen, and were either leading rates, Petty Officers or Officers. This is not surprising, as their leadership role gave more potential for performing bravely. And, arguably, older more experienced men were likely to be calmer in action.

Two Portsmouth sailors were awarded Britain’s highest award for bravery not in the face of the enemy – the George Cross. Chief Petty Officer Reginald Ellingworth was killed while defusing a bomb in 1940, and Able Seaman Henry Miller was lost in the sinking of a Submarine in 1940.

The most highly decorated naval officer from Portsmouth to die during the Second World War was Lieutenant-Commander William Hussey. Hussey was awarded a Distinguished Service Order, a Distinguished Service Cross, and was twice mentioned in despatches. 4 officers were awarded the Distingished Service Cross, and one officer – Lieutenant Charles Lambert – was awarded a bar to his DSC.

39 Sailors were awarded the Distinguished Service Medal. Three of these men were also awarded a mention in despatches, and one man – Able Seaman William Laing – was mentioned in despatches twice along with his DSM. Two men – Petty Officer Frank Collison and Electrical Artificer 1st Class Arthur Biggleston – were awarded a Bar to their DSM.

Five men were awarded the British Empire Medal, One man was awarded a CBE, and two men OBE’s. One man was awarded a BEM and a mention in despatches. 33 Sailors were mentioned in despatches. One man was awarded a Reserve Decoration for long service with the Royal Naval Reserve, and another the Royal Vctorian Medal for long service on the Royal Yacht pre-war. Another sailor had been awarded the Royal Humane Society’s Bronze Medal during the First World War. Another man had been awarded a George Medal earlier in his career.

Areas of Portsmouth

Portsmouth sailors who were killed in the Second World War came from the following areas:

282 – Southsea (21.84%)
145 – Copnor (11.23%)
133 – North End (10.3%)
110 – Cosham (8.52%)
56 – Milton (4.34%)
50 – Fratton (3.87%)
43 – Stamshaw (3.33%)
33 – Buckland (2.56%)
26 – Eastney (2.01%)
26 – Mile End (2.01%)
23 – Hilsea (1.78%)
20 – Landport (1.55%)
14 – Drayton (1.08%)
13 – Farlington (1%)
13 – Portsea (1%)
11 – Kingston (0.85%)
7 – East Cosham (0.54%)
7 – Tipner (0.54%)
6 – Paulsgrove (0.46%)
2 – East Southsea (0.15%)
2 – Wymering (0.15%)

171 men – 13.25% – are listed as from ‘Portsmouth’.

What can we say about these figures? Southsea was at the time the largest and most populous part of Portsmouth, and although Southsea is best known as a seaside resort, ‘Southsea’ also describes the area as far north as Goldsmith Avenue, and what is now known as Somers Town. Hence it was the home not only to wealthy officers, but also many ordinary sailors, and working class men called up during the war. It seems that sailors came overwhelmingly from the southern Part of Portsea Island, near the Dockyard, and the laterr 19th Century suburbs such as Copnor and North End. Outlying, less populated areas such as Paulsgrove, Drayton and Wymering provided few sailors.

It will be interesting to compare these statistics with those for the other Armed Services, and also to take a closer look at each area itself to see if we can learn anything about their social composition.

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Filed under Family History, Local History, Navy, portsmouth heroes, social history, Uncategorized, World War Two

Is it illegal to wear un-earned medals?

The recent case of Roger Day, the bogus war hero who turned up at a Remembrance Day parade wearing an unlikely 17 medals, has brought the protocol for wearing medals and other awards into question.

The Army Act (1955) makes it illegal to impersonate a member of the armed forces. The act makes wearing any military decoration, badge or other insignia without authority a criminal offence. The idea is, that by wearing them, you are deceiving people into thinking you are someone that you are not. This has been done by people trying to collect for bogus charities, or to get sympathy.

The Army act also makes it illegal for servicemen to sell their medals whilst they are still serving. They are still Government property all the time their bearer is serving, only upon their discharge or death do they become theirs or their kins property. There is a thriving trade in military memorabilia, but it is one thing to buy medals to mount in a display case, but quite another to wear them as if you earnt them. Day’s medals were purchased for him by his younger wife, after he claimed that his original medals had been lost in action or sold.

But it is more than a legal issue, respect comes into it too. Surely anyone with any sense will feel that to wear something that you haven’t earned is disrespectful to the people who have earnt it. The same goes for things such as Parachute Wings and Commando Daggers – if you didn’t earn them, don’t wear them. If you feel the need to lie to people and pretend to be something that you’re not, then maybe it might be an idea to go and have a chat with your doctor and see if they can refer you for professional help.

I must admit I feel pretty disheartened when I see celebrities wearing military style costumes: Michael Jackson had a knack for doing that, at one court appearance he turned up wearing a Royal Corps of Transport badge on his jacket. Illegal: no, disrespectful: probably not intentionally, but disappointing: sadly, yes. I cannot help but feel that it trivialises the men and women who serve and die wearing those badges.

It is difficult to know where to draw the line, however. I have in the past wondered whether it is acceptable to wear a maroon ‘Arnhem 60th anniversary’ t-shirt when visiting Arnhem. I know that some Airborne guys can be very protective of anything maroon. But the way I think is, my Grandad was a para: hes no longer around to wear it, so I wear it on his behalf. Its not a Paras t-shirt per se, its clearly about the 60th Anniversary, that I went to. I’m obviously not a Para or trying to impersonate one. If anyone were to mention that they think it is inappropriate, I would take it off without hesitation.


Filed under Army, debate, News