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    DSO group to a South African Police Officer


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    Here we have an excellent group of medals, that belongs to a friend of mine Steve Seargent, also a member on GMIC


    A nice addition to my collection a DSO group to a SA Police Officer of some note.  
    George Bestford was one of six sons born to Thomas Bestford, in Bensham Gateshead, County Durham, on the 1st October 1897. He was educated at the local Higher Grade Secondary School, and at the age of 17 falsified his age to enlist in the 20th (Service) Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers (1st Tyneside Scottish) on 26 October 1914.

    After training he embarked for France on the 9th January 1916 as part of the as part of the 102nd Infantry Brigade. As part of the infamous Battle of the Somme he was seriously wounded on the  first day of the Battle of the Somme for which action he received a G.O.C.’s Divisional Commendation in recognition of his gallantry on 1st July 1916. 

    After recuperation in the UK hin August, he transferred as Acting Company Quartermaster Sergeant to the 29th (Reserve) Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers and was subsequently posted to the 3rd Battalion, which was attached to the 84th Training Reserve Battalion at Hornsea. 

    Major A. E. Ken recommended Bestford for a commission in March 1917:
    "This N.C.O. came very much under my observations, while at Home he attended several Courses of Instruction and on each one did very well indeed, on one occasion he came under the notice of the Brigadier who complimented him through his C.O. on his success... On Service he was even better, as a leader of men he is a success, I never knew him to shirk any danger or fatigues, and his coolness under Shell and Rifle fire is splendid. I regret to say his C.O. [Lieutenant Colonel C. Sillery] was killed as I knew that he had marked Sgt. Bestford out for distinction and no officers being left (All either killed or wounded) there was no one to put the recommendation forward. I think with a little training at a Cadet School he will make a very good Officer."

    After the requisite time with an Officer Cadet Battalion, Bestford was commissioned Second Lieutenant in the Northumberland Fusiliers in October 1917. He returned to the fray in December 1917 with the 25th (Service) Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers (2nd Tyneside Irish). In the interim two of his siblings had been killed in the war, his brother William on the 21st July 1916 and his brother Robert on the 1st of December 1917.

    After the Great War he served as a Signalling Officer to the 2/4th Battalion, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry for service in Syria and Egypt. He was promoted to Lieutenant in May 1919 and resigned his commission in March 1920 to join the SAP as an instructor at the Police Depot in Pretoria.

    He advanced rapidly through the ranks from Constable to Captain, then District Officer and Station Officer by June 1940. 

    He was appointed as a Captain, in the 1st South African Police Battalion, Union Defence Force. Later that month, as part of the Staff Headquarters, 6th SA Infantry (Police) Brigade which as part of the 2nd South African Division, and arrived in Egypt in June 1941. 

    He took part in the the Battles of Sollum and Halfaya, and was promoted Major in February 1942 serving as Brigade Major, 6th South African Infantry Brigade Headquarters, during the retreat from the Gazala Line throughout May and June 1942. 

    When the Garrison at Tobruk became isolated he together the majority of the 2nd South African Division was captured there en masse the 21st June 1942 following General Orders to surrender.

    Unable to escape, Bestford was taken prisoner by the Italians and interned at Campo 75 (Bari). He was subsequently transferred to Germany, and interned in Stalag VII-A, Stalag V-C, and finally at Oflag XII-B at Hadamar. Repatriated in April 1945, he was recommended retrospectively for the D.S.O.

    His citation is appended below was initiated by Brigadier Cooper and was confirmed by Brig H Klopper the then General Officer in command of the 2nd SA Infantry Division

    After his repatriation, he returned to South Africa, and resumed employment in the South African Police where he was appointed the Commanding Officer, Police Training Depot, Pretoria. 

    During the Royal Visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth to South Africa in 1947, he commanded the mounted escort and the Guard of Honour on special occasions throughout the tour. 

    He was presented with his D.S.O. by the King at Voortrekkerhoogte, Pretoria, in May 1947.

    He married Doris Constance Hancorn and had one Daughter Millicent Ann Bestford.

    Maj. Bestford served as District Commandant of Durban prior to his retirement, and died in Durban in October 1968.

    A fuller article on this recipient will appear in the online NONGQAI magazine for those interested and I will post a link once published.

    1. his medal group
    2. The Bestford brothers in 1915 only George (Sgt) and Thomas would survive the war
    3. Bestford Captain SAP 
    4. Bestford as a Major on Retirement.





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    Interesting group.  The write up says 'His citation is appended below" but unfortunately does not appear in this post.  It would make interesting reading I am sure.



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    Hi Gordon,


    Very interesting group and I contact Steve to send me a copy of the citation or to post it himself




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