An article in today’s Telegraph reveals that:
The records of 5.5 million troops awarded medals between 1914 and 1922 – the most comprehensive Great War collection in existence – are being released by the website, Ancestry.co.uk.
My wife is a member of Ancestry.co.uk (She has discovered a great deal about forbears eking out a grim existence in rural Cornwall, and spreading the gospel of Temperance around Portsmouth Docks.) so I must look up some novelists and poets to see what medals they earned.
The Telegraph gives details of the courage that won Harold Macmillan his M.C., and reveals the little-known fact that Noel Coward was awarded a medal for his war service:
The actor who played a stiff upper-lipped captain in the 1942 propaganda film In Which We Serve fought a rather less illustrious war in real life. Called up to the Artists’ Rifles in March 1918 at the age of 18, he lasted only 158 days.
Doctors described him as “suffering from headaches and general nervous disability” as a result of a childhood bicycle accident.
After his discharge he was awarded the Silver War Badge, despite getting no nearer the front line than a military hospital in Colchester.
The article’s comments on Anthony Eden are interesting, too:
After being rejected for Sandhurst on the grounds of poor eyesight, he subsequently bought a commission in the King’s Royal Rifles when the Army reduced its entry standards at the outbreak of war.
Don’t count John among your dreams.
Don’t wangle a commission for him,
don’t wangle a death for him.
He is barely eighteen.
Eden obviously did his own wangling, and came through the experience without being killed. Wilfrid Ewart was another soldier who managed well despite being short-sighted. I’d be interested to hear of other examples.