Auction: 19003 - Orders, Decorations and Medals
An outstanding Immediate 'Battle of Monte Cassino 1944' M.M. group of six awarded to Private C. Gridgeman, Royal West Kent Regiment, late Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment, decorated for his part in single-handedly rushing, clearing and capturing an enemy machine-gun post, returning with 7 prisoners for the bag
The epic action for Monastery Hill came at a heavy cost for the 1st Battalion, who suffered 50 killed in action and a further 171 wounded - Gridgeman himself was wounded before War's end
Military Medal, G.VI.R. (6101351 Pte. C. Gridgeman. R. W. Kent R.); 1939-45 Star; Africa Star, clasp, 1st Army; Italy Star; Defence and War Medals 1939-45, good very fine (6)
M.M. London Gazette 26 October 1944. The original recommendation for an Immediate award - at one point upgraded to a D.C.M. - states:
'At 1400hrs on 13 May 1944 a Battalion attack took place and all Companys reached their objectives. "B" Company of which Private Gridgeman was a member secured Caso. Petraccone 851173 on the left.
The Company Commander sent Private Gridgeman forward to examine a suspected MG post in front of the objective. As he approached the post, Private Gridgeman was fired on. Despite this he continued to advance covered by his own fire. As he was within about 40 yards of his objective and still being fired upon, Private Gridgeman rushed the post single-handed and overran it. He returned to the Company with 7 prisoners having wiped out a strong MG post.
Private Gridgeman's coolness and courage in the face of the enemy was an inspiration to all and his action undoubtedly saved many casualties in the Company.'
Cecil Gridgeman was born on 10 November 1912 at Liverpool and was a groom upon his enlistment in the Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment on 24 July 1940. Serving at home with the 13th (Home Defence) Battalion, Gridgeman was transferred to the 1st Battalion Royal West Kent Regiment in November 1942. Soon after they served during the campaign in North Africa, for the final stages of the Tunisian campaign. Their assaults upon Peter's Corner and Cactus Farm gained them notoriety but accounted for some 300 of their number as casualties.
Back to strength by the spring of 1944, the combined force of the 1st, 5th and 6th Battalion found themselves in the thick of the fierce battle for Monastery Hill, which stands at some 1,700 feet. The point overlooks the whole of the Liri valley and gives a fine position in the defence of Rome. It made a perfect natural position for enemy troops to make their final stand. From the start of the year positions had been taken by the West Kents, namely Cassino Castle Hill by the 6th Battalion and Cassino Station by the 5th Battalion.
Gridgeman, serving in Major H. W. Hansen-Raae's 'B' Company would have come into the town of Cassino on 23 April, before their main action which took place on 13 May. Moving under cover of darkness from Monte Trocchio, they crossed the Gari River by an 'Amazon' Bailey bridge under heavy shell fire. From here they hitched a ride on the tanks of the Lothian and Border Horse before making Point 33 and their objectives. With 'A' Company under Captain Jeffery on their right, they took mortar and machine-gun fire on the advance through the corn fields up to Casa Petraccone, which was effectively taken. It was for his smart and fearless actions in the consolidation that Gridgeman won his M.M. (The Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment 1920-1950, Lieutenant-Colonel Chaplin, refers).
The fight was far from over however, for the next day they were back into action. Waking in a thick fog that reduced visibility to less than 10 yards, the 1st Battalion required several hours to reach Point 76. At times the Germans in Monte Vertechi were yards away, and the fighting took place in the maze of houses, ditches and hedges which covered the countryside. By midnight, with the excellent support of the 2/4th Hampshire Regiment, the positions had been stormed and captured. It came at a heavy cost however, for Major Hansen-Raae had been killed, along with Captain Jeffrey, the CO of 'A' Company. By the time the 1st Battalion were afforded a well-earned rest on 20 May they had lost no less than 4 officers and 46 other ranks killed, with a further 9 officers and 162 other ranks wounded. The Battles for Monte Cassino must surely rank amongst the fiercest and close-fought actions to have taken place during the Second World War. James Holland suggested it should be remembered as the 'Italian Stalingrad'.
Rome fell on 4 June, but the action was far from over for Gridgeman and his comrades. He was wounded in action on 3 July (Army Form B200d refers), likely during the attempts to breach the Trasimene Line. The 1st Battalion continued to fight up through Italy and fought to break the Gothic Line, before being transferred to Greece where it was present during the Civil War.
Gridgeman was discharged on 7 April 1946 and died on 25 January 1980 at Rainhill Hospital, St. Helens, where he was a food process worker; sold together with copied Service Record and research.
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