Artefact of the month
French Imperial Eagle.
Our next artefact of the month from the museum is a French Imperial Eagle.
Three days after his coronation in 1804, Napoleon distributed Imperial Eagles to be placed upon the colours, inspired by the standards carried by Roman Legions. In fact, as the eagles had been touched and distributed by Napoleon himself, the eagles became more valued than the colours themselves. As such, the loss of such an important item would carry great shame for the French Officers and soldiers of that Regiment. It would also bring prestige to those who captured it, such as the Royal Welch Fusiliers in this case.
The WR Crawshay Medal Set.
A set of 14 medals, awards and decorations that belonged to Colonel Sir William Crawshay DSO. ERD. TD
On the evening of the 5th June 1944, a Jedburgh Special Forces team prepared to parachute into enemy occupied France. Their tasks would be to link up with the French Resistance and then coordinate resistance action against the German army, as the Allied invasion forces pushed south from the French Coast.
The Jedburgh concept was developed as a partnership between the British SOE, the American OSS and the French BCRA. Over 300 men were trained for the role, all had to speak French and. Each three-man team consisted of either a British or American team leader, an officer from the country where they were being deployed and finally a radio operator, normally a non-commissioned officer of any nationality.
The first group to deploy was Team Hugh. This team led by Capt WR Crawshay of the Royal Welch Fusiliers. The other members were Frenchmen Capt Louis L'Helgouach(Legrand) and Sub Lt Rene Meyer(Merisol). They were to be parachuted into Central France in the Indre Region, around the area of Chateauroux. For the jump phase an SAS team “Bullbasket” would accompany
William Crawshay and his men squeezed into the heavily loaded American Liberator at RAF Harrington, Northamptonshire, late on the evening of the 5th June. The flight to the drop zone took 2hrs 40 minutes, coming under flak as they crossed the French coastline, fortunately sustaining no damage. At 0140hrs on the 6th June, two members of the SAS team jumped, followed by Crawshay and his team. All landed safely and they quickly linked up with their Resistance guides.
Crawshay sent the following message to Special Forces HQ (SFHQ) in the UK on the morning of the 6th June:
“ All arrived safely with all containers and equipment. One rucksack destroyed. Send another immediately.”
A further message was sent by Crawshay on the 7th June:
“Contact established with head of resistance Indre Area. Already toured 100kms without sight of enemy. Population enthusiastic. Whole area practically controlled by resistance group. Existing Marquis Groups have doubled in 6hrs. Reports show enemy may be leaving Chateauroux. Can ensure personnel cut Toulouse railway by Marquis. Will require Jed teams soon. Send immediately by SAS 3 Jed Set valves.”
Crawshay and his men were up and running, and they would continue at this pace for the duration of their deployment, spending 108 days deep in enemy-held territory, building up the resistance movement, coordinating and mounting raids against the enemy, and ensuring that the enemy’s intentions and movements were fed directly back to the Allied Forces.
Team Hugh was extracted by air on the 23rd September 1944, back to SFHQ for their final debriefs. For his outstanding leadership Capt William Robert Crawshay was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO), he also received the Croix de Guerre (With Palm Leaves)
Crawshay then re-joined the RWF and took part in the latter stages of the North West Europe Campaign, as the 53rd(Welsh) Division fought through Germany, and was Mentioned in Despatches.
Colonel Crawshay died on the 25th January 1997. He donated his medals to the Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum at Caernarfon Castle, where they are on permanent display. Before he died, he also gave a series of recorded interviews to the Imperial War Museum. They can be accessed online here.
The Salonika Inkpot
(Accession Number 3098)
A ceramic inkpot, mounted in a brass stand, with brass top. No inscription.
The inkpot was donated to the RWF Museum in 1982. Attached was an old label that stated…
“This inkwell may have been used at the signing of the Armistice between Bulgaria and the Entente (Allies) at Salonika on the 29th September 1918.”
We have not been able to verify the story, and would appreciate any images of the signing ceremony, that would help us verify the claim. 11th Bn RWF was serving in that theatre, during the signing of the Armistice.
The Stone Cannon Ball from Ypres Cloth Hall
(Accession Number 1765)
A 16th Century stone cannon ball enclosed in an iron frame with a large iron ring attached.
This object was recovered during an enemy shelling, from outside The Cloth Hall at Ypres, by Captain JR Minshull-Ford, in early November 1914 as the First Battle of Ypres was drawing to a close. It may have been previously used at the Cloth Hall as a clock weight.
By the 31st October 1914, 1RWF had been effectively wiped out. From an initial strength of over 1000 men, now just a few dozens of the rankers and only one officer were left. Reinforcements started to arrive. One group on the 9th November included Capt. Minshull-Ford, as well as Major REP Gabbett and ninety-nine Other Ranks.
To the base of the cannon ball, Capt. Minshull-Ford later attached a handwritten label explaining how he came to acquire the object.
Inscribed as follows:
“Towards the close of this great battle, I was in command of the small remnants of 1st RWF, 7th Div, and had halted in the Grand Place, opposite the great and historic Cloth Hall of Ypres. Suddenly a salvo of great shells crashed on it - One brought down the clock and this weight of stone cannon ball of the time of Charles V fell by me.”
Major-General John Randle Minshull-Ford CB, DSO, MC. Born 12 May 1881 at the Pant-yr-Ochain, Flash, Nr Wrexham (Now a popular gastro pub!).
He was the son of Captain Minshull-Ford JP. He was commissioned into the Regiment on the 11th August 1900. At the outbreak of WW1, he was Adjutant of 4 RWF and based at Wrexham. His battalion was deployed to France in early November and almost immediately on arrival at Le Havre on the 6th November he was sent to 1RWF with reinforcements to help rebuild the Battalion.
By Bassano Ltd. Whole-plate glass negative, 13 March 1916. NPG x154644
© National Portrait Gallery, London
With a few months of picking up the stone cannon ball at Ypres, Capt. Minshull Ford was commanding 1RWF; by 1916 he was commanding a fighting Brigade. He survived the war, and eventually retired from the Army in 1938 having attained the rank of a Major General. He was later appointed Lieutenant Governor and General Officer Commanding Guernsey and Alderney District. He arrived at St. Peter Port to begin his tour of duty with his wife and daughter on the 4th June 1940, two weeks later he escaped with his family on the last boat out of Guernsey, just before the German troops arrived. His request to remain with the people of the Channel Islands during their hour of need had been refused by London and he was ordered to evacuate. He was appointed Colonel of the Regiment in 1938 and served in this role until 1942.
He died on the 1st Apr 1948. His medal group is held at the RWF Regimental Museum, Caernarfon Castle along with photo albums and other items from his military service.
The Malta Cigarette Box 1914
This beautiful silver box was commissioned by members of the 2nd Battalion Officers’ Mess to commemorate the meeting of the 1st and 2nd Battalions in Malta in March 1914. On St David’s Day 1914 the 1st Battalion, Royal Welch Fusiliers were stationed in Verdala Barracks, Malta. On 2 March the 2nd Battalion, homeward bound from India in HM Transport “DONGOLA”, arrived in the Grand Harbour at about 8am and disembarked the turnover to the 1st Battalion of 6 Sergeants and 327 rank and file.
It was the first time the two battalions had met since 1880 and by the kindness of His Excellency Sir Leslie Rundle, Governor and Commander-in-Chief, it was arranged that the ship should be detained until midnight so that the officers of both battalions could celebrate St David’s Dinner together.
Of the 39 Officers whose signatures appear on the cigar box, 13 lost their lives during the Great War, 7 of them by Oct 30th 1914.
Of the 23 Officers of the 1st Bn commemorated on the box, 6 had been killed in action or died of wounds and 12 had been wounded by the 30 October 1914.
H O S Cadogan, (Killed in Action 30 Oct 1914)
S Jones, (Killed in Action 16 May 1916)
E P Gabbett (Killed in Action 16 May 1915)
O De P Chance, (Killed in Action 19 Oct 1914)
W G Vyvyan, (Died of Wounds as a Prisoner of War 24 Oct 1914)
W M Kington, (Killed in Action 20 Oct 1914)
T Ackland-Allan, (Killed in Action 21 Oct 1914)
G P Snead-Cox, (Killed in Action 21 Oct 1914)
EN Jones-Vaughan, (Killed in Action 26 Oct 1914)
A Hay, (Killed in Action 8 RWF 3 Feb 1917)
J Childe-Freeman, (Died of heart attack age 25 leading an attack at Loos 25 Sep 1915)
L M Ormrod, (Died of Wounds 25 Aug 1917)
G O Thomas, (Killed in Action 25 Sep 1915)
J Harris-St John, (Wounded 19 Oct 1914)
E O Skaife, (Prisoner of War 20 Oct 1914)
R E Hindson, (Prisoner of War 20 Oct 1914)
B C H Poole, (Prisoner of War 9 Nov 1914)
L l Alston. (Wounded 21 Oct 1914)
H R Hardie
E A Parker (Quarter Master),
W G Holmes,
J C Wynne-Edwards,
F E Soames,
C S Owen,
P C Maltby, (Future Air Vice Martial of the RAF)
P G J Mostyn, (Badly wounded in Mesopotamia with 8 RWF 17 Dec 1916)
O de L Williams, (Wounded 25 Sep 1915)
C G H Peppe, (Prisoner of War 20 Oct 1914)
E Wodehouse, (Wounded - Prisoner of War 23 Oct 1914)
C E Fitzroy,
H Yates (Quarter Master),
H Home Davies,
J M J Evans, (Wounded 21 Oct 1914)
J H Courage, (Wounded - Prisoner of War 23 Oct 1914)
D M Barchard, (Wounded - Prisoner of War 23 Oct 1914)