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An extremely RARE group – 1922 Kurdistan Military Cross, 1940 St Valery Prisoner of War, and worked with MI9 co-ordinating Intelligence, Escaping and Security work whilst a P.O.W.


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An extremely RARE  1922 Kurdistan Military Cross, 1940 St Valery Prisoner of War, and worked with MI9 co-ordinating Intelligence, Escaping and Security work whilst a P.O.W. awarded to Major General Henry Robinson Swinburn, who served from WWI through to WWII and the desperate attempt to evacuate and save the British 51st Highland Division at St Valery en Caux from being captured in the face of Rommel’s 7th Panzer Division.

O.B.E. Military 2nd type, M.C. George V issue, post First World war, ( un-named as issued); British War Medal, Lieut H R Swinburn, India General Service 1908, with clasp Afghanistan N.W.F. 1919, Lieut H.R. Swinburn 1-15 Sikhs; G.S.M. 1918, 2 clasps Iraq, Kurdistan, Lieut H R Swinburn; 1939-45 star;  France and Germany star;  Defence, medal; 1939-45 War Medal with M.I.D. emblem (un-named as issued). Mounted court style as worn.

C.B. – (London Gazette 12th June 1947);

Colonel (Acting Major General) Henry Robinson Swinburn, MC

OBE 2nd type, – (London Gazette 11th October 1945)

Lieutenant Colonel, 17th Dogra Regiment, Indian Army

“in recognition of gallant and distinguished services in the field”,

the recommendation as follows:

Lt Col Swinburn was captured at St Valery in June 1940. Throughout his imprisonment he took a keen and active interest in all Intelligence, Escaping and Security work, acting as Chief co-ordinating officer for Major General Fortune. Included in this work was the frequent communication of vital information to the War Office by secret means. Lt Col Swinburn has been highly praised by three colleagues who had knowledge of the work he had undertaken. Major General Fortune has also commended him as one of the most outstanding Intelligence workers in German camps”.

Whilst in captivity Swinburn was a major part of an organised system allowing coded messages to be sent directly to, and received from, MI9, he was mentioned in despatches (London Gazette March 1946), and awarded the OBE (London Gazette October 1945).

Military Cross –  (London Gazette 19th December 1922

to Lt Henry Robinson Swinburn, 15th Sikhs, I.A.

1 of only 9 MCs awarded in 1922 and the only issued for Kurdistan –

citation reads –

“During the retirement at Rania Plain on the 1st September, 1922, when the rear guard platoon of his regiment was hard pressed, he reinforced them with the only other platoon available, and charged the enemy with the bayonet, inflicting heavy casualties, and improving the situation generally. He was wounded shortly after, but continued to encourage his men. Lieutenant Swinburn commanded his company with marked success, resource and energy under difficult circumstances”.

Henry Robinson Swinburn was born on the 8th May 1897, Swinburn entered the War in 1916 with the 1/4th Border Regiment as Sergeant, before taking a commission,

2nd Lieut June 1918; transferred to Indian Army in 1918 with the Royal Ludhiana Sikhs;

At Staff College Quetta 1929-30;

GSO II, GHQ India, 1932-36;

Bt Major 1934;

posts as Staff College instructors from 1937-1938 until Chief Instructor School of Military Intelligence 1939-40,

Bt Lieutenant Colonel 1939. Served with the British Expeditionary Force France 1940, and was captured at St Valery with the 51st Highland Division in June 1940,

He became Director of Morale, India in 1945;

Promoted Temp Major General in 1946;

Served as Deputy Mil Sec GHQ India 1946 becoming Military Secretary GHQ India 1946-7;

he retired in 1948;

Counselor, UK High Commission in India 1948-49

Schools Liaison Officer 1952-60.

Died 27.1.1981.

 Includes two cuttings books covering 1940-41 relating to the progress of the War including scraps for St Valery : one unidentified news cutting states “Heroic Fighting by the Highland Division….. June 7th, it was learnt that hostile tanks had broken through the French on the British right and were making for Rouen, then our base for supplies. Arrangements were therefore made to procure supplies from Havre, and on June 8th the division fell back to the River Bethune, which enters the sea at Dieppe, this line being occupied soon after daylight on June 9.That day provided the division with its first respite for a long period. As retreat in the direction of Rouen was now out of the question, it was arranged to evacuate the whole French IX Corps, of which the Highland Division formed part, from Havre. One brigade group was dispatched to hold a covering position round the port. Then came the tragedy which has already been reported. German movement northward from Rouen cut off the division from Havre and made it necessary to attempt an evacuation from Saint-Valery. But during June 11th German assaults on the perimeter established round the little port, supported by dive bombers, though repulsed in the British sector, broke through that of the French. As is now well known, fog prevented the Navy from giving its wonted aid to the cornered troops, and except for a handful who managed to escape to Veules-les-Roses, this portion of the Allied force was captured..

” another cutting records “…An hour later there was heavy bombing, and many parts of the town began to blaze fiercely. Then to my surprise I heard heavy machine gun fire, and the British troops began to rush up the streets with fixed bayonets,…”;

These books also include telegrams received by Mrs Swinburn advising that her husband is reported missing, a second reports Lieutenant Colonel H.R. Swinburn last seen fit well and unwounded as Prisoner of War 15th June..

An August 13th telegram states, “Very glad received postcard from Henry Swinburn who is well and prisoner number1253 at Oflag VII C/H”; in January 1942 he was sent to Oflag IX A/

Please note the photographs of these scrap books only show a small selection of what they contain.

Also includes cufflinks bearing the Sikh Regimental device and also of chakram (Indian throwing weapon) design; a 2nd Royal Battalion The Sikh Regiment programme for The Trooping of the Colour in celebration of the Centenary of the Battalion, Bombay 1946 and few other items of ephemera.

Condition – GVF+