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Auction 90  23 Nov 2017
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Lot 193

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Estimate: 4000 GBP
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A Superb Chaplain's Great War D.S.O. Group of 6 awarded to Assistant Chaplain-General Ronald Charles Lambert Williams, who reputedly whilst serving on the Somme in June 1916 pursued a group of reluctant soldiers who had 'lost their nerve' and refused to follow their orders in heading toward a forward position. Upon their discovery, and still refusing to comply, by family repute Williams pulled out his revolver and fired it three times into the air, shouting loudly the famous quote from Psalm 68, and bringing the men back to their senses. Returning to his dug-out to rest that evening, he is said to have been awoken by his Colonel – who stated that by carrying a pistol he had broken the Geneva Convention. The charge was dropped soon after, and instead he was awarded the D.S.O., being twice mentioned in despatches. He later joined the Special Constabulary at Bexhill-on-Sea in WW2, comprising: Distinguished Service Order, G.V.R., in silver-gilt and enamels; 1914-15 Star (Rev. R. C. L. Williams. A.C.D.); British War and Victory Medals, the latter with bronze M.i.D. spray of oak leaves (Rev. R. C. L. Williams.); Defence Medal; Special Constabulary Long Service, G.VI.R. (Ronald C. L. Williams); With: An additional D.S.O., G.V.R., in silver-gilt and enamels, with lower suspension bar engraved to reverse (R. C. L. Williams), and matching unnamed miniature; The first group of 6 swing-mounted on bar with reverse brooch pin, second D.S.O. and miniature loose, tiny chip to upper terminal of second D.S.O. to reverse; group lightly polished, otherwise generally good very fine (8). D.S.O.: London Gazette: 01.01.1918 – 'for distinguished service in the field'. Reverend Ronald Charles Lambert Williams was born in London on 26 July 1881, the son of Alfred Charles Williams and Marian Williams, of Handsworth, Birmingham. Educated at St Laurence College and at Westward Ho!, he studied for his B.A. at Peterhouse College, Cambridge between September 1900 and 1904. He was ordained in 1905 and became a deacon that year, becoming a priest the following year. He joined the Army Chaplain's Department on 20 October 1907 as Chaplain to the Forces, 4th Class, serving at Shorncliffe (1907-09), Ricasoli, Malta (1909-10), Aldershot (1910-12) and as Chaplain of the Duke of York's Royal Military School, Dover, between 1912 and 1914. He was then selected for active duty on the Western Front on 20 December 1914 as Chaplain to the 18th Infantry Brigade, 6th Division until 16 May 1915, when he undertook a role as Senior Chaplain at Etaples. He returned to active service as Senior Chaplain to the 17th Division, B.E.F. on 31 July 1915. He served at Ypres, and then by family repute, it was during one particular incident on the Somme that he would earn the Distinguished Service Order. As recalled by a family member: "As far as I can remember his citation for the award of the D.S.O., told, that on the night of June 4th 1916, during the battle of the Somme, he was attached to The Royal West Kents [the 7th Bn are confirmed as being present on that date]...and a detachment of thirty odd men were held up in a copse by German snipers.....he had been with this detachment, and had managed to reach our lines under cover of darkness, but on arriving in his trench to his dismay he found that half a dozen of the men had not followed turned out that their one remaining officer had "lost his nerve" uncle told his commanding officer that he would go back at once and collect "the bugger!" This he did, and as dawn broke he stood up on the trench and told them all it was time to go home and would they please follow him (or words to that effect!)...and off he went, but to his dismay none of them moved. So, he took the revolver out of the officer's holster, and fired it into the air three times, shouting "Let God arise and his enemies be scattered!" And they were! This time, on arriving back in his own trench he lay down and promptly went to sleep, only to be woken by the Colonel to say he had broken the Geneva Law by being a chaplain carrying a fire arm, and he would be charged accordingly! General Haig apparently dropped the charge, and he was awarded with the DSO." It is very hard to prove the background details of this tale, and yet the circumstances, date and consequences seem broadly precise and entirely believable. We do know that he continued to serve during WWI, and that he undertook a number of positions in major areas such as Etaples, Calais and Le Havre, and was appointed temporary Chaplain to the Forces 2nd Class on 25 September 1917, later being awarded the D.S.O. in January 1918 – after some delay, presumably allowing for the charges to have been considered, and then dismissed. He was twice mentioned in despatches, and served with the Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force as Principal Chaplain from 4 January 1919 until 2 July 1919. Returning to civilian life, he took up the following positions as Vicar of Melville with Brixton, Johannesburg, South Africa, 1921-4; at St Mary Abbot's, Kensington, 1926-8; as Chaplain (Mission to Seamen) at Newport, Monmouthshire, 1928; Organising Secretary (West Central district), 1928-37; for South-East district, 1940; Gibraltar, 1937-8; and Chichester, Canterbury and Rochester, 1939-46. In WW2 he was sworn in as Special Constable in Bexhill on Sea in 1939, and later was Reverend of Alberbury with Cardiston, Salop, 1946-8.
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