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Auction: 18002 - Orders, Decorations and Medals
Lot: 488

A landmark 'Retreat from Mons' D.C.M. group of six awarded to Captain W. Harrison, South Lancashire Regiment, the Regiment's first D.C.M. of the War and the only such award for 1914

Distinguished Conduct Medal, G.V.R. (7656 Sjt: W. Harrison. 2/S. Lanc: Regt.); 1914 Star, with slide-on clasp (7656 Sjt: W. Harrison. 2/S. Lanc: Regt.); British War and Victory Medals, M.I.D. oak leaf (7656 Sjt. W. Harrison. S. Lan. Regt.); Defence Medal 1939-45 (Captain W. Harrison. D.C.M.), impressed 'Boots-style' naming; Army L.S. & G.C., G.V.R. 1st issue (3644312 W.O.II. W. Harrison. P. W. Vols.), mounted as worn, heavy contact marks, nearly very fine (6)

D.C.M. London Gazette 17 December 1914:

'At Mons, on 24th August, finding he could not work his machine-gun under cover, he placed it exposed on the parapet, and worked it single handed under heavy fire.'

William Harrison served with the 2nd Battalion, South Lancashire Regiment during the Great War. Having been mobilised at Tidworth, the Battalion formed part of the 7th Brigade, 3rd Division and moved to Southampton on 13 August. Arriving at Le Havre on the S.S. Lapwing on 14 August 1914, they moved through the lines and billeted at a railway station on 22 August. Moved forward to Ciply on 23 August, they took up defensive positions on a low ridge between Ciply and Frameries, being assisted by Belgian civilians to dig in for what would be their first engagement of the war. Little did they know, they were facing an advance from an entire German Division the next morning. Captain von Brandis, 24th (Brandenburg) Division takes up the story in Military Operations - France and Belgium 1914:

'Our artillery is to prepare the assault. A continuous stream of gun and howitzer shell thunders out, hurtling and howling over our heads, and bursting in dust and smoke on the edge of the village [Frameries]. No human beings could possibly live there. At 7am six companies of the regiment advance to the attack. We remain impatiently in reserve.

If we thought that the English had been shelled enough to be storm-ripe, we were fairly mistaken. They met us with well-aimed fire.'

It was exactly that resolve displayed by Harrison, who gamely took to the open to beat off the advance. Whilst British troops fell back all around under the immense weight of an attack by an entire German division, the South Lancashires gave fight. Military Operations - France & Belgium 1914 further states:

'The 7th Brigade held on...the South Lancashire were enfiladed by machine-guns from the slag-heaps about Frameries and lost between two and three hundred men before this Brigade was also withdrawn towards Genly.'

Bivouacking 3 miles west of St. Waast, they came under attack again at Caudry on 25 August, holding their line for as long as possible, '...suffering severely' before withdrawing to Vermand. The Battalion suffered 5 officers and 149 other ranks killed, with 7 officers and 301 other ranks wounded or missing. Besides his D.C.M., Harrison duly added a 'mention' (London Gazette 19 October 1914, refers).

The Battalion remained on the Western Front for the remainder of the war, with Private W. Ratcliffe earning the Victoria Cross at the Battle of Messines. Harrison was advanced to Warrant Officer and appears to have been given a commission for home duties during the Second World War; sold with copied MIC and research.

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