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Well researched DELVILLE WOOD Gallantry group

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Here is my work on my Delville Wood Military Medal group to

L/Cpl. F.L. Garland,


Lance Corporal No. 3241 Frederick Lonsdale GARLAND, M.M.
ex 3rd Natal Mounted Rifles, and 2nd S.A. Infantry (‘B’ Company)
Group of four medals: MILITARY MEDAL, 1914-15 Star,
British War Medal 1914-1920 and the Allied Victory Medal 1914-1919 (S.A.)
(In the Bennett Collection of Military Medals)
Written and researched by David Bennett, March 2013 ©

Born in 1893, Frederick Lonsdale Garland, a farmer and unmarried man, from the well-known Garland family who farmed sugar in the Verulam and Umtinzini districts in Zululand, lived with his father, Frederick Stranack Garland (1861-1918) and his mother, Edith Robinson Garland (neé Spring). Frederick Garland originally joined the Natal Mounted Rifles (the ‘3rd’ Rifles) on 10 August 1914. He was given the regimental number 10 with the N.M.R. On his attestation form, Garland stated that he was 5ft 11in in height, weighed 153lb, and had a ‘fair’ complexion with light brown eyes and light brown hair. Garland left the N.M.R. on 23 July 1915, having attained the rank of Corporal. He was then sent to Potchefstroom in the Transvaal, where, on 28 August, he signed up for the South African Oversea Expeditionary Force, now with the rank of private, and given the number 3241.

In training with the 2nd South African Infantry, Garland was shipped off to the north on 4 October 1915. He arrived in England on 20 October 1915. Whilst in England, presumably receiving further training, Garland was appointed a ‘Sniper’ on 18 December 1915. On 29 December 1915 he was posted to Egypt, North Africa, where he remained until 15 April 1916. Whilst in Egypt, the Regiment saw action, principally on 23 January 1916 against the Senussi, at Halazin (Mersa Matruh), and again at Agagia on 26 February 1916, where the ports of Barrani and Sollum had been occupied by the Senussi forces. The attack by elements of the S.A.Infantry and others soon defeated the Senussi, their leaders were captured, and their forces dispersed into the desert. The Senussi, a Muslim tribe from Libya, had, in the Great War, sided with Germany and with the Ottoman Turks, against the Italians in Libya and the British in Egypt. In the Second World War they sided with the British, against the Italians and Germany.

By 21 April 1916, Garland had been shipped off to the Western Front, landing at Marseilles in France. Here, and in the north-west, the Allied Forces were assembling their great army for the ‘big attack’ against Germany, planned to begin on 1 July 1916 – the now famous Battle of the Somme. On 6 May 1916, Garland had, in the meanwhile, received promotion to the rank of Lance Corporal.
(Even though he had been a full Corporal, when with the Natal Mounted Rifles).

We now move onto the Battle of the Somme, which began on 1 July 1916, and of which much has been written. As we have seen, L/Cpl Garland was in ‘B’ Company (under Lt. Walter Hill) part of the 2nd South African Infantry Battalion (commanded by Lt Col. W.E.C. Tanner), which was part of the 1st South African Brigade (Brig-Gen. H.T. Lukin), in turn part of the 9th (Scottish) Division (commanded by Maj-Gen. William Furse), under the XIII Corps (Lt-Gen. Walter Congreve) and which was part of the great Fourth Army, headed by General Sir Henry Rawlinson.

……….. / pg 2

L/Cpl F.L. Garland, MM – Delville Wood, July 1916 Page 2

During the early part of July 1916 the British Forces had pushed north of the Somme River, and the village of Longueval – about 11km east of the town of Albert and about 13km north of the town of Peronne, had been partially captured. The strategic Delville Wood, to the north-eastern edge of Longueval still remained, and heavily defended, in the hands of the German Army. On 14 July the South Africans were ordered to take Delville Wood.

The 1st South African Brigade was comprised of four infantry battalions, with 121 officers and 3032 other ranks. The attack was set for the next day, 15 July 1916, at dawn (06h15). Initially the South African offensive, with Garland’s 2nd Battalion taking the lead, went well, and within a few hours, almost the entire wood, save for the defending Germans in the far north-western part of the wood, had fallen. But the South Africans, having advanced so quickly, now found stern German resistance, and soon found themselves surrounded by German Forces on three sides. The German defence was fierce, to say the least. With infantry rifle fire, grenades, machine-gun fire, flame throwers, gas and artillery, the Germans countered the initial attack. Over the next six days, heavy fighting followed, night and day. At one point, German artillery was firing as many as 400 rounds a minute into the wood. It must be appreciated that Delville Wood measured only about 1000m from north to south, and about 1,500m from east to west. And so, such high rates of shelling in such a small area is deadly. Rain and mud made matters even more difficult. Before the fighting began, the wood was described as being “densely populated by trees and thickets”. By the fourth day of the battle, the wood had so been reduced, mainly by artillery that “one could see right through the wood, from end to end.

On Saturday, 15 July the battle was already well advanced, with many casualties on both sides. By this time, the second Battalion had only two officers left. One of which was Lt Walter Hill, who was leading his platoon (of B Company) towards the northern part of the wood, directly towards the main German lines. During a short respite, Lt Hill decided to form a small raiding party. He decided on, apart from himself, Sgt F.B. Turner, Cpl E. Brickhill, L/Cpl F.L. Garland, L/Cpl J. Servant, L/Cpl D. Davey, Pte P. Richards and Pte H. Bruce. They set off, and, finding a deep shell-hole, about 30 meters from the edge of the wood, the party of eight decided to stop there for the night. Private Bruce was ordered to leave the shell-hole to ‘go and reconnoitre’. Private Bruce soon returned to the shell-hole, after discovering Germans all around them. Unknown to the party, their main forces had fallen further back, taking up new positions in the wood, only to be replaced by Germans, who now completely surrounded Hill and his men. A short fight followed, in which Sgt Turner was badly wounded, and Privates Richards and Bruce were wounded. Lt Hill, in order to save his men, decided not to fight on, as they were up against at least 150 Germans at that point. The party, now joined by the others of the platoon, who had also been captured, and being 20 South Africans in all, were taken prisoner by the Germans and placed into various shell-holes, under armed German guards.

Into one of the shell-holes, were placed, apart from Lt Hill, L/Cpl Garland, the already wounded Sgt Turner, Pte H.H. Pauls and one other man, watched over by a German guard with a rifle and fixed bayonet. Soon Lt Hill decided to attempt an escape. After whispering instructions, Hill jumped up, attacked and disarmed their sentry, and with the sentry’s rifle in hand he headed south towards the South African lines, shouting instructions for the others to follow, which they did.

………… / pg 3

L/Cpl F.L. Garland, MM – Delville Wood, July 1916 Page 3

They were surrounded by German infantry, as close as from 20 to 50 meters away, on three sides, in a sort of ‘horseshoe’ formation. The Germans immediately began to fire upon the five men. What happened next is unclear, save to say that it must have been chaos. Later, Pte Henry Pauls reported: “They fired on us as we ran for our lines. Lt Hill and I being untouched, the other three killed or wounded”. This seems to be true. Records show that Lt Hill did get through, as we will hear more of him later. Pte Pauls got through, as he is recorded as being wounded later, in the wood, on 18 July.
Of course, Pte Pauls could not have known the fate of the other three, as they did not reach their lines. Therefore his statement that they were “killed or wounded” was correct at that time. Records show that Sgt Turner was wounded and taken prisoner on 15 July, at this engagement, as was L/Cpl Garland, who during the escape was shot twice – in the right shoulder, and in the right foot. It is safe to say that having been twice shot, and especially in the foot, that he could not continue. The man killed therefore must have been the fifth, and un-named, man who was put into the shell-hole with Lt Hill and the other three.

L/Cpl Garland’s military records confirm that he was shot twice, and that on 15 July 1916, he is recorded as being “missing’, and then on 1st September 1916, reported as being a “Prisoner of War”.
The records further confirm that apart from the two gunshot wounds which Garland suffered during the escape, that he had also contracted bilharzia “whilst on active service in Delville Wood”. This seems to confirm that only Lt Hill and Pte Pauls actually reached safety, for the time being, that day.

For his gallantry on the night of 15/16 July 1916, L/Cpl Frederick Lonsdale Garland was recommended for the Distinguished Conduct Medal, at DELVILLE WOOD, in the action involving Lt. W.J. Hill’s raiding party, and for which Lt Hill was recommended for the Victoria Cross. Sadly, Lt Hill was killed two days later. In the original action, L/Cpl Garland was shot, twice, but still managed to assist in the escape of two other men. Eventually he was awarded the Military Medal, with the following citation:
“Shewed great gallantry in Delville Wood, when with Lt Hill, in the enemy’s hands, in assisting,
though unarmed to overpower a strong armed enemy guard and effect the escape of the party.”

Awarded the Military Medal by L.G. 29827; pg. 11146; 16 November 1916. Also awarded:
1914-15 Star; British War Medal (1914-1920) and the Allied Victory Medal (b) (1914-1919).
The next day, Sunday, 16 July 1916, Lt. Hill led a bombing party into the Wood. Colonel Tanner had ordered Lt Hill to take a party to the northern edge of the wood. Private Henry Pauls describes the events as follows: “No matter how often the Germans attacked, Lt Hill led us to meet them and with bombs and bayonet we killed many more Germans than our own number. This was largely all due to Lt. Hill’s bravery and I remember him asking Major Burges if he should lead us out the other side of the wood and capture a German trench. Major Burges would not allow this”. During these engagements Lt Hill was mortally wounded. He was shot, and subsequently died of his wounds on 17 July 1916. (Another source gives his death on 20 July 1916 – although this may simply be the reported date). It was said that Lt Hill had received eight wounds!
Subsequently, Lt. Walter James Hill 2nd S.A.I. B Coy., was awarded a Mention in Despatches as follows: (With the note) - Recommended for the Victoria Cross by Lt.Col W.E.C. Tanner, but was awarded Mentioned in Despatches – at the time, besides the V.C., a M.I.D. was the only posthumous award allowed. The M.I. D. was as follows:

............ / pg 4

L/Cpl F.L. Garland, MM – Delville Wood, July 1916 Page 4

"In the fighting in the thick wood in the northern part of Delville Wood on 15th July 1916, Lieutenant WJ Hill, 2nd SAI, and a small party of men were surrounded by a stray party of the enemy and after a stubborn resistance (during which numbers of the party were killed or wounded) were rushed and made prisoners and despatched to the enemy end of the wood and there placed by twos and threes in different shell holes under armed guards. Lieutenant Hill, watching his opportunity suddenly attacked and overpowered the guard over his shell- hole at the greatest risk to himself, for had he not succeeded in killing or rendering unconscious the guard, numbers of the enemy within easy hailing distance would have undoubtedly instantly appeared. Lieutenant Hill then led his few men, under heavy fire, back to our lines. The following day Lieutenant Hill led a party of men to reinforce the line in Strand Street where he continued to display the greatest gallantry but was unfortunately killed (while leading a bombing party). Lieutenant Hill showed most conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty throughout Delville Wood and by his actions there I consider earned the highest posthumous award."

At this time only a Victoria Cross or a Mentioned in Despatches could be earned posthumously. We can only surmise that the authorities decided that although Lt Hill had displayed extreme valour and bravery over the two or three days that he was in Delville Wood, it was perhaps not at quite the required level for a VC. And, as he could not win a Military Cross in death, he was M.I.D. This seems most unfair, but those were the regulations at that time. This is also a possible contributing factor as to why L/Cpl Garland’s heroic actions were, shall we say, ‘downgraded’ from a Distinguished Conduct Medal to a Military Medal. But the Military Medal is still described as “For Bravery in the Field” – for actions by NCO’s and men for acts of bravery not of sufficient heroism as to merit the award of a Distinguished Conduct Medal.
However, we must return to L/Cpl Garland’s story. His military papers state that on 12 December 1916 he was removed (we must presume from some temporary holding facility – possibly near, and behind, the front lines) to a Prisoner of War camp in Gottingen, in Germany. And here he remained until finally, on 5 May 1918 he was released by the Germans and repatriated to England. Upon his arrival in England, Garland was immediately admitted on 6 May 1918 to King George’s Hospital (a large Red Cross Hospital in Stamford Street, Waterloo, London, established in 1914/15 as a military hospital). Here he was treated for the wounds he had suffered in July, 1916. Later, on 31 May 1918, Garland was transferred to the South African Military Hospital in Richmond. Garland was released from hospital, finally, on 22 June 1918, and was given leave (‘furlough’) from 26 June 1918 until 10 September 1918 when he was eventually repatriated to South Africa, arriving in Cape Town on 10 October 1918. Garland came out to South Africa aboard a captured (in 1916) German passenger steamer, now operated by the P & O Lines, and called the “Field Marshal”. At the Wynberg Military Camp, Garland was declared, on 25 December 1918 as being ‘Permanently Unfit for General War Service’ and was finally officially discharged from the Army on 8th January 1919, when he returned to his home, the family farm in Verulam. Upon discharge, his Military Character was recorded as being ‘Very Good’. Garland’s war service had been three years and 122 days.
Whilst in King George’s Hospital, L/Cpl Garland was interviewed by the news organisation Reuters. Although Garland was obviously a South African, he did mention Australian soldiers during his interview, and so the interview was reported in two Australian newspapers. These were The Northwestern Advocate and the Emu Times, Tasmania, Friday, 24 May 1918, on page one, and also in The Bendigo Advertiser, Victoria, on Monday, 20 May 1918, on page 5. Here is an exact transcription of Garland’s interview, as reported in the Bendigo Advertiser:

…………… / pg 5

L/Cpl F.L. Garland, MM – Delville Wood, July 1916 Page 5


"Private F.L. Garland, South African Infantry, who was taken prisoner at Delville Wood, and is now repatriated, says: “When I was made prisoner I was forced to walk six miles although I was suffering great pain from severe wounds.

After having been buffeted about from place to place, I was operated on without anaesthetics, and then sent to Gottingen Military Hospital, where also were some Australians. The building was a mere compound, without medical staff, nurses, or orderlies. One doctor paid a daily flying visit. He was assisted by a couple of students, who paid large sums for an opportunity to practise surgically on prisoners.

The wounded in the hospital where I was were forced to perform all kinds of work. They assisted at operations, and made up bandages from old bagging, with which all wounds were dressed. One student unsuccessfully attempted, without an anaesthetic, to extract shrapnel from my shoulder, resulting in severe suppuration. Others were in a similar plight.

The buildings were not heated, and many men were frost-bitten. The food was not fit for pigs, and deaths were frequent. The bedding and clothing were not changed for six months, and were in a disgusting state. The lives of most British men were saved by parcels from home, but it is a miracle that any of them lived. The consumptives were supposed to be separated from, but they mixed freely with, the others.”

And so reported Reuters, to the world, of L/Cpl Garland’s experiences in Gottingen Military Hospital between December 1916 and May 1918.

Much has been written about the wholesale slaughter and disaster that was Delville Wood. It was one of the bloodiest battles of the Great War. At times, the battle was reduced to hand-to-hand combat, where the adversaries resorted to bayoneting each other to death. Indeed, when it was over, the ‘wood’ was merely an area of broken, shattered and splintered trees, muddy bomb craters and trenches and strewn with the bodies of the dead, as far as the eye could see. The military historian and author, Ian Uys, has written two excellent books in great detail on the subject of Delville Wood, and some of his references have been used in this short article. Delville Wood (also called “Devil’s Wood”) was aptly described by Sir Basil Liddel Hart as “…. the bloodiest battle hell of 1916”. The slaughter, suffering and sacrifice which the South African Infantry endured, day and night, for the week of 14 to 20 July, in the Battle of the Somme, at Delville Wood, cannot be comprehended by us who read these words so many years later. Words like heroism and bravery cannot even begin to express the commitment that the men in Delville Wood showed, in their actions to attempt to take Delville Wood as they were ordered to, a week earlier.

On 20 July, the battle continued, and although the wood had been ‘taken’ to, and fro, by both sides during the course of the previous week, neither side was able to properly control the wood. And so, on 20 July, 1916, the few remaining South Africans were eventually relieved.

…………………. / pg 6

L/Cpl F.L. Garland, MM – Delville Wood, July 1916 Page 6

It was to be another six weeks before the Germans were finally driven back, and Delville Wood was taken on 9 September 1916. When the South Africans were relieved on 20 July 1916, of the 121 officers and 3032 NCOs and other ranks who had first attempted to take the wood on 14 July, only the following survived and were able to walk out of the wood:

Three wounded officers, led by Lt Col Thackeray, and 140 other ranks were relieved. Of the 140 other ranks, less than half were amongst the 3032 who had originally entered the wood, as during the week, a further 199 “reinforcements” had been found, and sent into the wood. During the battle, obviously some of the killed and wounded had been removed from the wood. Others had been taken prisoner by the Germans, like L/Cpl Garland. Because of the chaotic conditions which existed, some men were simply not accounted for, at all, and therefore presumed dead. At the parade of the survivors, on 21 July, General Lukin, Brigade Commander, taking the salute, did so with tears trickling down his cheeks as he viewed the shattered remains of his men.

The cost of the Battle of Delville Wood had been extremely high. Naturally, different sources give varying casualty figures. In the finally analysis, it seems that about 760 officers and men were killed. Roughly another 1, 500 were wounded, and about 500 or so were taken prisoner of war. All four battalions of the Brigade suffered similar levels of loss. And so we find a total loss of around 2,800 men. This when combined with the few who made it out of the wood, the few reinforcements sent in late in the week, and those at Brigade Headquarters, together with various support units and some simply unaccounted for, then make up the total number, originally of over 3,000 men.

Delville Wood was, as we have seen, just one of many battles which made up the overall Battle of the Somme – which started on 1 July 1916 (there were 60,000 casualties on that first day alone) and ended on 18 November 1916. Total casualty figures over the four and a half months of the battle were staggering. About 310,000 men died (165,000 German; 50,000 French and 95,000 British) and roughly 995,000 men (515,000 German; 155,000 French and 325,000 British) were wounded. This gave a total casualty figure of about 1,305,000 men on both sides – averaging 2,200 men killed EVERY day, and about 7,100 men wounded every day, for a total of about 9,300 casualties a day, over 141 days.

One may argue that L/Cpl Garland, despite being shot twice, suffering from bilharzia and taken prisoner of war, was decidedly fortunate to survive the war. In other battles in the war following Delville Wood, another 25% of the South African survivors were to die. Despite the fact that only 4.5% of the 1st South African Infantry Brigade who entered the wood on 14 July 1916 were able to leave the wood a week later, the number of gallantry awards to the 3,000 + men was very low:

Type Recommended Awarded
Victoria Cross 5 1
Distinguished Service Order 10 5
Military Cross 14 13
Distinguished Conduct Medal 36 10
Military Medal 42 32
TOTAL MEDALS 107 Only 61 awarded

The award of 61 medals to the South Africans for Delville Wood is just 2% of all those present.

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