An outstanding and superbly documented DSO and bar multiple gallantry group to Lieutenant Colonel K.D.H. Gwynn Devonshire Regiment, later Royal Fusiliers. He had pre-war service as an officer in the South Wales Borderers and lived and worked in Ceylon after the war.
With two stunning fighting citations for each DSO, both for identified actions. Twice mentioned in despatches and awarded the French Croix de Guerre. Once severely wounded and once gassed.
DSO – awarded for Hulluch on 25 September 1915 during the first day of the Battle of Loos. The battalion had been almost wiped out in the attack. Only himself and another officer remained with less than 100 men. He took command of what was left of the battalion and captured the position, being severely wounded.
Bar to the DSO – awarded for the battle for the Battle of St Quentin Canal, during the attack on the Hindenburg Line on 29 September 1918. He commanded his battalion, leading from the front, and was severely gassed.
Mentioned in Despatches:
1 January 1916 – Sir John French’s Despatch dated 15 October 1915. K D H Gwynn, T/Capt DSO, Devonshire Regiment ‘For gallant and distinguished service in the field.’
27 December 1918 – Sir Douglas Haig’s Despatch dated 8/11/1918 – T/Maj (A/Lt Col), 11th Battalion Royal Fusiliers. ‘Names deserving of special mention.’
Note: the Croix de Guerre does not appear in the London Gazette, as is often the case when awarded in the field (e.g. by visiting French Generals); the award is, however, noted in his service papers.
DSO and bar, 1914-15 Star (Capt. K.D.H. Gwynn Devon. R.), British War Medal (Lt. Col. K.D.H. Gwynn) and Victory Medal with MID oakleaf (Lt. Col. K.D.H. Gwynn) and French Croix de Guerre with star.
Mounted as originally worn on original ribbons, now somewhat frayed. With uniform ribbon bar. Medals are GVF
Kingsmill Douglas Hoseason Gwynn was born Born on 8 March 1888 at 17 York Crescent Road, Bristol. He was the son of Kingsmill Thurston Gwynn, a banker, and Adeline Mary (nee Hoseason), the widow of Major General B. J. C. Prior.
The 1891 Census shows Gwynn aged 3, living at 17 York Crescent Road, Clifton, Bristol with his parents, a brother, two step brothers, a step sister a governess, a nurse and a cook.
By 1901 Gwynn was aged 13 and was living at Cornhill, Westgate, St Mary Le Tower, Ipswich, with his parents, 3 brothers, a step brother, a widowed aunt (aged 37), a cook and 2 domestic servants.
The young Gwynn was educated privately at Ipswich School and later at Haileybury (1903-06).
The South Wales Borderers 1908-11
On 30 January 1907, aged 18, he was admitted to the Royal Military College, Sandhurst as a Gentleman Cadet.
At Sandhurst he studied Military Administration, Law, History, Geography, Tactics, Engineering, Topography, Hindustani, Riding, Musketry, Gymnastics and Drill. He did well at Sandhurst. His reports indicate that his conduct in his Probationary Term was ‘Excellent’ and in his Final Term it was ‘Very Good’. His marks were strong and he passed out in the top third.
Gwynn was commissioned from Sandhurst into the The South Wales Borderers as a Second Lieutenant on 22 February 1908. He joined the 2nd Battalion of his regiment at Aldershot. He appears in a group photograph of the officers taken there on 14 May 1908.
Later in 1908 he was posted to the 1st Battalion in India. It was stationed at Karachi. In 1909 the Battalion moved to Quetta. At the end of 1910 the Battalion was posted home to England. On 28 November 1910 it entrained for Karachi. On 2 December it sailed from Karachi on the troopship ‘Rewa’, arriving at Southampton on 21 December. On 23 December 1910 the 1st Battalion took up station at Chatham.
Gwynn had been promoted Lieutenant on 15 December 1910. But he did not remain much longer in the Army. He resigned his commission on 18 March 1911.
Very shortly after, there was a petition against him for bankruptcy in the High Court at Bath. This was initiated by his creditors on 20 May 2011. The date of the first meeting was 28 June 1911 at the Official Receiver’s Office, 26 Baldwin Street, Bristol. The date of the Public Examination was 3 July 1911 at the County Court Offices, Abbey Street, Bath. A Receiving Order was made. Gwynn’s address was given as 34 Pulteney Street, Bath.
Clearly Gwynn owed money, perhaps from gambling debts or from living beyond his means in India. In those days an army officer could face dismissal for debts. It may be that he left the army quickly once it was known that he was likely to face bankruptcy. It is, however, rather surprising that Gwynn was made bankrupt at such an early age, particularly given that he was from a wealthy family and his father was a banker!
The 1911 Census shows Gwynn aged 23, single, and a retired Army officer. He was living at home at 34 Pulteney Street, Bath with his parents, 2 brothers, a cook, a parlour maid and a domestic house maid. This was a very large house with 14 rooms.
World War One
In 1914, with the outbreak of war, Gwynn immediately applied to re-join the Army. He was commissioned into the Devonshire Regiment as a Lieutenant on 23 November 1914. He was posted to the 8th (Service) Battalion. This was one of Kitchener’s New Army battalions, having been formed at Exeter on 19 August 1914. Gwynn was promoted Temporary Captain on 10 December 1914, probably on account if his previous Army experience.
After completing training the 8th Devonshires embarked for France, landing landed at Le Havre on 25 July 1915. Gwynn’s Medal Index Card confirms he landed in France that day. Just 8 weeks later the 8thDevonshires were in action at the Battle of Loos. On 25 September 1915 the battalion was almost wiped out in a single day. Less than 100 men remained at the end of that day; all the officers had been killed or wounded.
Distinguished Service Order
25 September 1915
‘As soon as our guns started the intensive bombardment the German guns replied with heavy and light artillery […] During the advance to BRESLAU TRENCH every officer – save for 3 – was either killed or wounded.
As soon as the attack reached the trench the Germans put up their hands and surrendered. The attack then moved to the SE and crossed the HULLUCH ROAD. No opposition was reached at GUN TRENCH. The Germans put their hands up and surrendered. The battalion captured 4 field guns. These guns by their overheated state bore witness to the intensity of the German artillery fire. ‘8th Devons’ was chalked on the guns.
At 8 am the advance proceeded to the crossroads at HULLUCH. The battalion here was only 100 strong, in charge of Capt GWYNN and 2LT TROTT.
No advance from the crossroads was possible, as no troops came up to reinforce. All day long this position was held.
At 9.15 pm a retirement was made to GUN TRENCH, in the course of which many losses were sustained owing to rifle fire and bombing by the enemy. Here Capt GWYNN and 2LT TROTT, who had led so gallantly during the day were wounded.’
For his actions, Captain Gwynn was awarded the DSO. The citation reads:
‘For conspicuous gallantry near HULLUCH on 25 September 1915. At 7.15 a.m., when all the other officers of his Battalion except one Second Lieutenant had been killed or wounded, he took command, led the men on, and captured four German guns. He was in command all day, and with great coolness and energy held on to the positions captured in the morning. He was wounded by a bomb about 7.30 p.m.’
London Gazette 4 November 1915 – Temporary Captain Kingsmill Douglas Hoseason Gwynn, 8thBattalion, The Devonshire Regiment.
Gwynn was evacuated to England due to his wounds. He was paralysed for some time.
An article in The Bath Chronicle & Weekly Gazette 20 November 1915 gives the citation for Gwynn’s DSO and notes that he was in Bath on leave. The article states: ‘He was paralysed from the waist downwards by a bomb explosion but has now recovered the partial use of one leg and can walk on crutches.’
He was in Queen Alexandra’s Military Hospital at Millbank, London between 13 January and 26 February 1916.
He served as an instructor at the Australian School at Tidworth for a year between 1916-17. But by the beginning of 1918 he was fit for overseas service.
On 7 January 1918 Gwynn was promoted Temporary Major, on being attached to the Royal Fusiliers from the Devonshire Regiment.
On 13 February 2018 he joined the 11th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers in France. The Battalion was in the trenches in BEHERICOURT. Major Gwynn was appointed second in command of the battalion. He remained in that role until 7 July 1918, when he was promoted to acting Lieutenant Colonel and was appointed to command the battalion. As Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Gwynn led the 11th Royal Fusiliers in the very fierce fighting in the lead up to the end of the war.
The battalion war diary gives further detail but some examples are: on 22 August 1918 the battalion was East of the River ANCRE and it attacked and captured the German positions around BELLEVUE FARM. Four days later, on 26 August, the battalion attacked BOTTOM WOOD. On 30 August the battalion attacked PRIEZ FARM – the position was heavily defended and the battalion suffered heavy casualties. In the week of fighting between 22 and 30 August 1918 the battalion suffered 13 officers killed or wounded and 261 other ranks killed or wounded. On 18 September the battalion took part in the Battle of EPEHY – at 5.20 am it attacked RONSSOY, supported by tanks. The battalion met stubborn resistance and again suffered a number of casualties.
Bar to Distinguished Service Order
On 28 September the battalion was close to the HINDENBURG LINE. It was ordered to move to GUYENCOURT and then onwards to LEMPIRE in the vicinity of the St Quentin Canal. This sector of the Hindenburg line was heavily defended by a series of fortified German redoubts, numerous machine gun positions and fields of thick barbed wire.
On 29 September the 11th Royal Fusiliers were ordered to attack. By 3am they were in forming-up positions. Zero hour was 5.50 am. The attack was preceded by an artillery bombardment of 1,044 field guns and howitzers. The plan was for the troops in the vicinity of the St Quentin Canal to reach the canal bank and to cross the canal, using rafts, life-lines and wooden bridges.
The attack was a success but the enemy counter-attacked, inflicting heavy casualties. They also used gas – ‘There was considerable enemy fire in our immediate supports and the TOMBOIS VALLEY was constantly subjected to gas shelling.’
Lt Col Gwynn was severely gassed at this point. After the battle he was evacuated as a casualty. For his leadership of his battalion he was awarded a bar to his DSO. The citation reads:
For conspicuous gallantry and able leadership. He commanded his battalion in the difficult operation of crossing a river in face of determined opposition from the enemy, who were holding the opposite bank in strength. All bridges were broken, and the enemy had inundated a great portion of the valley by damming the stream. He himself was suffering from severe gassing, but he overcame all difficulties and, inspiring his men with his own determination and fine example of courage, he effected the crossing and established the battalion on the opposite bank. He rendered most valuable service.’
London Gazette 11 January 1919 – T/Maj. (A/Lt.-Col.) Kingsmill Douglas Hoseason Gwynn DSO, 11thBn., R. Fus.
The battle for the St Quentin Canal had been decisive. The Hindenburg Line had been broken. The war would be over in 6 weeks. Gwynn relinquished command of the 11th Royal Fusiliers at the end of 1918.
He relinquished his commission on completion of service on 12 January 1921, retaining the rank of Major. He received a Wound Gratuity. The address on Medal Index Card is given as Ashley Heath Estate, Ringwood, Hampshire.
Immediately after leaving the army in 1908, Gwynn went out to Ceylon to take up a career as a rubber planter. His brother, Eric, was a planter there. Ceylon was known as a big producer of rubber for export and there was a large community of British rubber and tea planters.
In 1908 Gwynn joined the Ceylon Mounted Rifles (No.1027). This was a unit primarily made up of British ex-patriate gentlemen, most of them officers who had served in the war and many of them now planters. Gwynn eventually became the RSM of the Ceylon Mounted Rifles.
In 1925 Gwynn was appointed a Justice of the Peace in Ceylon.
In 1924 Gwynn travelled back to England. He stayed in Broadstairs with friends, Mr and Mrs Dudley Durham. Durham and Gwynn were both officers in the Ceylon Mounted Rifles. This friendship led to the Durhams divorcing and Mrs Durham marrying Gwynn. In 1927 Gwynn was named as the co-respondent in the divorce case. He left the Ceylon Mounted Rifles in 1927, perhaps as a result of this episode.
On 15 August 1928 the following report appeared in Reynolds Newspaper:
A False Friend and neighbour in Ceylon was cited as co-respondent to his suit by Mr Dudley Durham, a merchant in Ceylon. He accused his wife, Marjorie, of forming a liaison with Mr Kingsmill Gwynn.
After a wartime wedding in 1917, Mr and Mrs Durham went to Gladstone Road, Broadstairs, to live.
There was trouble later over another man (not the co-respondent) about which the husband, according to his case, consulted Mr Gwynn.
They were in Ceylon at the time. In 1926 Mrs Durham, it was stated, was driven up-country by Mr Gwynn, and some time afterwards the wife wrote her husband saying that she was not returning to him. The co-respondent also wrote admitting his association with her. The husband was granted a decree nisi, with costs, against the co-respondent.’
At some time between 1928 and 1930 Gwynn and Marjorie were married. They remained together, happily, thereafter.
Gwynn was very successful as a planter. He and he and his wife remained in Ceylon for many years. In 1937 Gwynn was at the Baddegama Estate Company Ltd, where he was a director of the company. In 1939 he was as the Nagatenne Estate, Elpitiya.
The Gwynns returned to England on leave several times by sea. Their numerous arrivals and departures are well documented on Ancestry and Findmypast. The last one was in 1948, when Gwynn was 60 years old. It is likely that he died in Ceylon.
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