“Presented by the King in the Field” – a 1914 DCM with 1914 Star group and Belgian Croix-de-Guerre.
A 1914 DCM to the Royal Field Artillery personally presented by King George V on his first visit to his forces “in the field” on 5th Dec. 1914 – the first time that a monarch had been with his army on campaign since George II at Dettingen in 1743.
The details are engraved, as found on the very first awards of the DCM under these circumstances and this DCM is the one referred to in “British Gallantry Awards” by Abbot and Tamplin as an example of such issues. [p.91 in the first edition]
Distinguished Conduct Medal, Geo. V – engraved in block caps: 45661 Sergt. A. H. Sutton. R.F.A. Richebourg 1914 [LG 17th Dec. 1914]
1914 Star – 45661 Cpl. A. H. Sutton. R.F.A.
British War and Victory Medals – 45661 Sjt. A. H. Sutton R.F.A.
Belgian Croix-de-Guerre – unnamed. [LG 15th April 1918] [The MIC seems to note the initial award of the 1915 Star, which is obviously wrong since it records his landing on 19th Aug. 1914, so this was corrected and the 1914 Star issued. He is on the Medal Roll for the 1914 Star. It may be this confusion which led to the 1914 Clasp not being issued – since he is clearly entitled to it – or perhaps Sutton did not claim it.]
A very well-recorded career in official and local docs.
Arthur Harry Sutton was born in York on 30th November 1892, educated at the city’s Manor School and was a choirboy at York Minster. It is understood that he enlisted as a regular soldier at York on 24th January 1907. He was deployed to France as early as 19th August 1914, two weeks after the declaration of war, with the 42nd Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery and already a corporal. Only part of his Army record survives, but it is clear that he was an excellent soldier.
He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal in September, the citation reading : ‘For gallantry and good work throughout the campaign. On two occasions he repaired the telephone under heavy shell and rifle fire’. [a typically bland early DCM citation, but it is interesting to note – see newspaper account below – that he claimed to have received the award for rescuing three Gurkhas under fire.]
In August 1917 Sutton was again commended, with a Certificate of Bravery by the General Officer Commanding 38th (Welsh) Division [General Blackader] for :
“Conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He has been in sole charge of the Battery Wagon Lines during the recent operations. The supply of ammunition to the Battery was maintained most expeditiously in [the] face of great difficulties under heavy fire. This was mainly due to his untiring energy, courage and power of command. On 1 August 1917 when the advanced Battery wagon lines near the Yser Canal were heavily shelled causing several casualties, B.S.M. Sutton showed the same conspicuous qualities in quickly organising a move to a position of safety. B.S.M. Sutton is in possession of Distinguished Conduct Medal.”[This commendation, which was probably the reason for the award of the Belgian Croix-de-Guerre, may refer to the Battle of Pilckem Ridge (31 July-2 August), the opening attack of the main part of the Third Battle of Ypres.]
On 23rd February 1918 the Gloucester Journal [wife then staying in Gloucs.] reported that, already in receipt of one of the very first Distinguished Conduct Medals of the war, he had also been awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre and had earlier been recommended for the Military Medal.
Sutton was transferred to the Army Reserve on 8th August 1919, and later received the 1914 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal.
After the war the family seems to have settled in the London area. In 1934 they lived in Kilburn and by 1939 were in Willesden (118, Holland Road), with Arthur a ganger (fore-man) on the London Transport Railways maintenance staff.
Arthur Harry Sutton is believed to have died in July 1957 in Willesden.
His wife died Dec 1975 in Brent, London.
The King and a York Hero. [Yorks. Evening Press, Dec. 1914]
“To adopt a military career at the age of 14 has been a tradition in the family of the late [i.e. former] QMS [John] Sutton and Mrs. Sutton who now reside in Fishergate. Five of their sons at this early age joined the service of the Crown and to one, Corpl. A. H. Sutton of the 42nd Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, a much prized and coveted honour has fallen. The first intimation of it came in a letter from the commanding officer of the 3rd Division of the Expeditionary Force:
“Your commanding officer and brigade commander have informed me that you have distinguished yourself by conspicuous bravery in the field. I have read their report with much pleasure, and have forwarded it to a higher authority for investigation. (A. Haldane)”
The “higher authority” did recognise the act of braverey, which brought forth ….the medal for distinguished conduct in the field.
It was on Wednesday Decmber 2nd that Corpl. Sutton was summoned from the trenches to receive the medal at Locre, a tiny village in the fighting zone of the western theatre of war. His Majesty King George was there, as was the Prince of Wales, King Albert of Belgium, President Poincare and General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien. Field Marshal Sir John French was directing important operations at the front and was, therefore, unable to be present at the ceremony.
HIS MAJESTY’S PLEASURE : The King, pinning the medal upon the Corporal’s breast, said that he was very pleased to present to him a medal of such high distinction and hoped that Sutton would be successful to the end of the war. The King and his suite then shook hands with Sutton and those of his fellows who had been similarly decorated, and the function was at an end. Later, the winner of the DCM was informed that he had been promoted to Sergeant.
Sergt. Sutton, who has a wife and baby in York, was visited in the trenches on Saturday morning by an officer who asked him if he would like a week’s holiday. “No!”, laughingly repled the newly-made Sergeant; “Where’s my overcoat”, and so he came home for a few days’ rest, arriving in the ancient city of his birth on Sunday evening.
HIS DUTY : Interviewed by one of our representatives yesterday, Sergt. Sutton was reluctant to strike the personal note. Actions similar to his own had been done again and again, he said, by scores of men. His had been rewarded; theirs had passed unmarked. He had simply done what it was up to every Britisher under similar circumstances to do – his duty, his best. He was in the front trenches with a party reconnoitring in order to direct artillery fire to cover the retirement of the Gurkhas. The gallant Indians were retreating under heavy shell fire and many fell. Fearing neither shot not shell, Sutton went out of the trenches, took his life in his hands, and rescuing three wounded Gurkhas, conveyed them to a place of safety. This, a fit theme for a lengthy epic, was the act told in plain unvarnished words for which Sergt Sutton has earned the personal recognition of the King and the esteem, respect and gratitue of the citizens of York for the honour reflected on the old city.
Sergt. Sutton, who returns to the battlefield tomorrow, was glad to leave the personal side, upon which he had been loath to enter, in favour of a chat on general war topics. The advent of the King in the area of conflict was, he remarked, unaccompanied by anything of a spectacular character but his kindly interest thrilled and delighted the troops…”
The Times on 7th Dec. 1914 records: “While in France the King conferred the Victoria Cross, Distinguished Service Orders and Distinguished Conduct Medals upon a number of Officers, Non Commissioned Officers and Men” [this is the occasion of Sutton’s presentation]
War Diary 42nd Brigade RFA [TNA – WO.95-1401 records:
27th November 1914. Between Westoutre and Berthen... DCM medals presented by the GOC IIIrd Divn. to …. Cpl. Sutton…. [6 names] and then :
3rd Dec. 1914 near Mount Kemmel – HIS MAJESTY THE KING presented the D. C. M. to men at Locre at 12.30. Seven men of the Brigade received them.”[This looks as if Sutton was presented with his DCM twice! He presumably handed it back so that the King himself could present it – unless just the ribbon was given by the GOC.]
A note in the LG at the end of the award list has: Any recipient of the DCM whose name appears in the foregoing list should forward the decoration by registered post to the Deputy Director of Ordnance Stores, Woolwich Dockyard, for the engraving to be made thereon if the No., Rank, Name and Corps have not already been inscribed.”
In 1918, a Gloucs. newspaper recorded the award of the Croix-de-Guerre to him in 1918 and comments that he has “received the Belgian Croix-de-Guerre. Sergt. Major Sutton was practically the first recipient of the D. C. M. of the war, having received this coveted decoration in September 1914, while last year he was recomm-ended for the Military Medal“.
1. A superb 38th Welsh Division gallantry parchment with the famous Welsh Dragon divisional motif. This details his actions on the Yser Canal in August 1917 and was no doubt the reason for the award of the Belgian Croix-de-Guerre. [Citation given above]
2. A letter from the Mayor of York, J. B. Morrell, congratulating him on the award of his “D.S.O.” !! […”York has been honoured…”]
3. A rather condescending letter of congratulation from a Staff Officer at GHQ, C. C. Lucas. (possibly known to Sutton) – “you are a credit to the best class of rough riders…”.
4. Original Certificate on Demobilsation – rather creased and dirty but legible.
5. Top part of Discharge Certificate [lower half missing], creased and dirty but fully legible.
The original docs. rather dirty and folded but all perfectly legible.
With newspaper accounts, portraits of him and brothers (all serving), copies of gazettes and other docs.
Bar mounted as worn; very nice condition with hardly any contacting.
A rare and historically important award.
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