What was the Albert Medal?
A Royal Warrant of 8 March 1866 announced the institution of a decoration to award “daring and heroic actions performed by mariners and others in danger of perishing, by reason of wrecks and other perils of the sea”. This decoration was to be known as the Albert medal. However after only one award had actually been made, a second Warrant (12 April 1867) introduced a Second Class of the medal. The First Class was made of gold and bronze; the new award of bronze only, was for “acts not of a character sufficiently daring and heroic to bring them under Our Warrant cited”, but both were to be “highly prized and eagerly sought after”. A further Warrant (30 April 1877) extended awards to acts “performed on land…in preventing accidents in mines, on railways, and at fires, and from other perils on the shore”. There were now four medals in all: Sea First and Second Class, and Land First and Second Class. The award was of course not restricted to the military. On 28 August 1917, the term Second Class was withdrawn and the titles changed to The Albert Medal in Gold and the Albert Medal, replacing the old First and Second Class. Throughout its life until eventually fully extinguished in 1971, only 45 Albert Medals of the higher class and 290 of the lower class were awarded.
Awards of the Albert medal were announced in the London Gazette. All awards listed were for the second class medal unless otherwise mentioned.
It is sobering to note how many of the incidents were due to accidental grenade explosions.
Great War incidents that led to more than one award
26 October 1915: Private Edward Gimble, 1st Middlesex Regiment and Lieutenant Commander Arthur Warden, RN. Bassin Loubert, Boulogne. They extinguished a fire aboard the ammunition ship SS “Maine”, whose officers and crew had abandoned her.
2 January 1916: Driver Richard Foley MM, CLI Brigade, Royal Field Artillery and Corporal James Webb, RAMC. Cambrin. Left shelter to bring two wounded French civilians through shellfire to safety.
2 May 1916: Mech. S. Sgt Alexander Anderson, Mech. S. Sgt Thomas Walton, Private Joseph Lawrence, Lieutenant Sidney Rowlandson, GHQ Troops Supply Colum Workshops, ASC. Hesdin, France. They dragged out a burning German 21cm mortar shell from the Central Laboratory and extinguished it.
6 May 1916: Corporal Arthur Feldwick, 1/8th London Regiment and Lieutenant William Rathbone, 1/15th London Regiment. Cabaret Rouge, near Souchez. When a deranged soldier fired upon a friendly working party and a grenade incident ensued while he was trying to disarm the man, Feldwick suffered severe wounds.
22 October 1916: In a Serbian Army camp at Ostrevo, Serbia. A French lorry loaded with 3000 pounds of aircraft bombs caught fire. Major Lewis Bearne DSO, (Serbian (British) Motor Transport Company, ASC) led a party to extinguish the fire. He and Private Albert Usher, 707 MT Company ASC, were both awarded the Albert Medal in Bronze.
5 February 1917: Private Arthur Allan, 3rd Malta Convoy, RAMC. Also Acting Quartermaster Sergeant James Brown, 30 Company RAMC, and Private James Cuthbertson, 3rd Malta Convoy RAMC and Sergeant William Seymour, 2nd Northumberland Fusiliers. Rescued three seamen from the fire which followed a serious explosion aboard the French troopship “St Laurent” in harbour at Malta.
30 April 1918: The second truck of an ammunition train, parked at a refilling yard at Krombeke near Poperinge, burst into flames. The engine has just been detached, but the driver, Lance Corporal John Bigland was ordered by Sgt-Major Alfred Furlonger to couple up again and draw the first two wagons away from the rest of the train. Sapper Joseph Farren helped Furlonger to couple the engine and Sapper Thomas Woodman freed the burning wagon from the rest of the train. The engine began to move the two trucks away, but the burning wagon exploded, destroying the two trucks and throwing the engine some 50 yards. Bigland was seriously wounded; Woodman was uninjured; the rest, plus train crew member Sapper George Johnson, died in the explosion. The men are buried in Haringhe (Bandaghem) Military Cemetery. Furlonger and Woodman belonged to 29th Light Railway Operating Company of the Royal Engineers; Bigland and Farren the 12th Light Railway Operating Company and Johnson the 21st Light Railway Operating Company. All were awarded the Albert Medal in Bronze.
1 July 1918: Sergeant Victor Brooks, Canadian RAMC attached Canadian Cavalry Field Ambulance. Driver Alfred Horn, 3rd Cavalry Divisional Auxiliary HT Company, ASC. Private Arthur Johnson, ASC attached 364 Forestry Company RE. While digging for an enemy bomb, an RAF Corporal and two others were overcome by fumes. Brooks went to their rescue and was himself overcome. Horn and Johnson died as a result of their attempts and are buried in Crouy British Cemetery. Tragic incident at Crouy, 1 July 1918
1 October 1918: A fire at No. 36 Casualty Clearing Station based at Roesbrugge near Poperinge quickly reached the operating theatre where an abdominal operation was in progress. Miss Alice Batt, a VAD of No 9 British Red Cross Society unit attached to the CCS, continued to assist with the operation. Sister Miss Gertrude Carlin, Staff Nurse Miss Harriett Fraser, Territorial Force Nursing Service, and Sister Miss Gladys White, British Red Cross Society, were also awarded the Albert Medal in Bronze for their parts in this incident.
17 January 1919: Sergeant Alexander Gibson, Royal Engineers. Corporal James Smith, Military Mounted Police. Acting Major Walter Smith, A Battery, CVII Brigade, Royal Field Artillery. Wizernes, France. Entered a fiercely burning building, formerly a brewery, and fought through for 45 minutes before ascertaining that a French man entombed in the engine room was already dead.
14 October 1915: Lance Corporal George Alderson, 10th Durham Light Infantry. At B Camp, St Jans ter Biezen near Poperinge. Alderson, with two other non-commissioned officers, was moving some bombs into a room in a farmhouse where they were to be stored. While the bombs were being stacked, one of them fell to the floor and the percussion cap was fired. Alderson, knowing that the bomb would explode in four seconds, and that to throw it out of the window would endanger the men who were outside, picked it up and tried to reach the door. Before he could get out of the door the bomb exploded, blowing off his hand and inflicting other serious wounds, from which he shortly died. By his prompt action in picking up and carrying the bomb he probably saved the lives of the three men who were in the room with him, and by his presence of mind in not throwing it out of the window he certainly saved the lives of those standing outside. This act was the more meritorious as Alderson was fully aware of the deadly nature of the bomb and the danger to himself that his act involved. He died of his wounds and is buried in Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery. Albert Medal First Class.
15 October 1915: Second Lieutenant Thomas Hankey, 12th King’s Royal Rifle Corps. Laventie, France. A grenade incident. See entry also for 4 and 6 December 1915.
4 December 1915: Second Lieutenant Thomas Hankey, 12th King’s Royal Rifle Corps. Fleurbaix, France. A grenade incident. See entry also for 15 October 1915 and 6 December 1915.
6 December 1915: Second Lieutenant Thomas Hankey, 12th King’s Royal Rifle Corps. Fleurbaix, France. A grenade incident. See entry also for 15 October 1915 and 4 December 1915.
11 December 1915: Private Alfred Tehan, 12th Lancers. St Omer, France. Saved four men in a grenade incident.
19 December 1915: Lance Corporal Percy Warwick, 1st Grenadier Guards, attached 3rd Guards Brigade Grenade Company. France. A grenade incident at a bombing school.
23 December 1915: Corporal Percy Annis, 20th Canadian Infantry. La Clytte (De Klijte). A lighted catapult grenade incident. “On the 23rd December, 1915, Annis was
instructing a class in the use of the trench catapult, when a lighted bomb fell from the catapult into the trench. Annis at once picked up the bomb and threw it away”. See entry also for 11 February 1916.
10 February 1916: Lance Corporal George Broadhurst, 10th South Wales Borderers. La Croix Barbee. He stepped on a primed live grenade that was dropped on the floor of a billet. In the explosion both his feet wre injured. Albert Medal First Class.
11 February 1916: Corporal Percy Annis, 20th Canadian Infantry. La Clytte (De Klijte). A second lighted catapult grenade incident. Second Class award in recognition of both incidents. “On the 11th February, 1916, on a similar occasion, the catapult failed to act properly, with the result that the bomb was thrown only a short distance, and fell close to another party under instruction. Annis at once ran out to pick up the bomb. The bomb exploded just as he reached it and wounded him.” See entry also for 23 December 1915.
14 February 1916: Second Lieutenant William Morgan, 14th Royal Welsh Fusiliers. Locon, France. A grenade incident.
17 February 1916: Lieutenant Henry Higgs, Royal Engineers. Engineer Training Centre, Newark, Nottinghamshire. A grenade incident. Albert Medal 1st Class.
22 February 1916: Lieutenant Charles Bartlett MC, South Staffordshire Regiment. St Peter’s Barracks, Jersey. A grenade incident.
30 March 1916: Sergeant Albert Ford, 17th Royal Welsh Fusiliers. Gorre, France. Dealt with a grenade incident, saving man.
8 April 1916: Acting Company Sergeant Major William Shooter, 15th Cheshire Regiment. Laventie, France. Saved a man in a grenade incident.
17 April 1916: Lieutenant Douglas Wood, 19th Lancashire Fusiliers. Warloy, France. Severely wounded in a grenade incident.
1 May 1916: Captain William Cheshire, 17th Lancashire Fusiliers. Neuve Chapelle, France. Dealt with a grenade incident.
4 May 1916: Lieutenant Walter Lyell, 3rd Gordon Highlanders. Aberdeen, Scotland. Dealt with a grenade incident.
27 May 1916: Lieutenant Neil MacKinnon, 14th Highland Light Infantry. Blackdown near Aldershot, Hampshire. A grenade incident.
10 July 1916: Captain the Hon. Thomas Fitzherbert, Lancashire Hussars Yeomanry. Brigade Bombing Officer of 14th Cyclist Brigade. Cupar, Fife, Scotland. Saved a man’s life in a grenade incident. Albert Medal in Bronze.
1 September 1916: Lieutenant Grey Leach, 1st Scots Guards. Morlancourt. He died of wounds received two days after saving his comrades in a grenade incident. Buried in Corbie Communal Cemetery Extension. Albert Medal in Gold.
4 September 1916: Lieutenant Albert Nevitt MC, 62nd Reserve Battalion, the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. Bodelwyddan Park near Rhyl, Denbighshire, Wales. Grenade incident. See also 24 September 1916 and 4 October 1916.
24 September 1916: Lieutenant Albert Nevitt MC, 62nd Reserve Battalion, the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. Bodelwyddan Park near Rhyl, Denbighshire, Wales. Grenade incident. See also 4 September 1916 and 4 October 1916.
4 October 1916: Lieutenant Albert Nevitt MC, 62nd Reserve Battalion, the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. Bodelwyddan Park near Rhyl, Denbighshire, Wales. Stayed to assist an injured sergeant after an explosion in a bomb store. See also 4 September 1916 and 24 September 1916.
24 November 1916: Captain Charles Hoskyn, 29th Casualty Clearing Station, RAMC. Gezaincourt. In a railway accident, a trapped man’s foot was being burned off in the debris. Hoskyn had started to amputate the other foot but managed to loosen the man’s body so that he was freed.
28 November 1916: Lance Serjeant Charles Anderson, 1/14th London Regiment. Picantin, France. Anderson was in a hut in France with eleven other men when, accidentally, the safety pin was withdrawn from a bomb. In the semi-darkness he shouted a warning to the men, rushed to the door, and endeavoured to open it so as to throw the bomb into a field. Failing to do this, when he judged that the five seconds during which the fuse was timed to burn had elapsed, he held the bomb as close to his body as possible with both hands in order to screen the other men in the hut. Anderson himself and one other man were mortally wounded by the explosion, and five men were injured. The remaining five escaped unhurt. Anderson sacrificed his life to save his comrades. He is buried in St Venant Communal Cemetery.
5 December 1916: Lieutenant Eric Shacklady, 3rd Manchester Regiment. Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire, England. Seriously injured in a grenade incident.
24 February 1917: T/Captain William Neilson, 7th Scottish Rifles, attached 10th King’s Royal Rifle Corps. Grenade School on Carnoy-Montauban road, Somme, France. A grenade incident.
1 March 1917: Sergeant Michael Healy DCM MM and Bar, 2nd Royal Munster Fusiliers. Chuignolles. A War Office letter records the following:-“On 1st March, 1917, this non-commissioned officer, with a total disregard for his own personal safety and solely prompted by the desire to save his comrades, rushed to pick up a live bomb which had been thrown by a Private and which struck the parapet and rolled back into the trench near Lieutenant Roe and the Private. Sergeant Healy, fearing the party could not escape in time, made a most gallant attempt to seize and hurl the bomb from the trench. It exploded, however, and mortally wounded him. This was the last of Sergeant Healy’s many acts of gallantry and devotion to duty”. Buried in Bray Military Cemetery.
9 March 1917: Lieutenant John Pitts, 112 Battery, XXIV Brigade, Royal Field Artillery. Le Rutoire, near Loos. Dragged a wounded pilot from a crashed aeroplane, and managed to avoid bursting machine gun bullets spitting from the wreck.
19 March 1917: Lieutenant Ian Badenoch, 20th Royal Fusiliers. At Camp 12, A Lines, Chipilly, France. Mortally wounded in a grenade incident. Buried in La Neuville Communal Cemetery near Corbie. Second Class.
27 March 1917: Second Lieutenent Richard Brown, 1st King’s Own. Marquay, France. Seriously injured in a grenade incident. Second Class.
2 April 1917: Sergeant Albert Hutchinson, 2/6th Highland Light Infantry. The Curragh Camp, Ireland. A grenade incident.
6 April 1917: Second Lieutenant Guy Vaisey, 3rd attached 10th Gloucestershire Regiment. Frechencourt, France. Saved a man’s life in a grenade incident.
8 April 1917: Lieutenant Douglas Wright, 22nd Royal Fusiliers. St Pol, France. Severely wounded in a grenade incident.
10 April 1917: Private Samuel Bodsworth, RAMC attached HM Hospital Ship “Salta”. During the rescue of survivors from the hospital ship, sunk by mine in the Havre Roads, he remained in a swamped boat to support an unconscious nursing sister, enabling her to be hauled aboard the destroyer HMS “Druid”. 52 lives were lost in this incident.
4 May 1917: Trooper James Magnusson, Auckland Mounted Rifles, New Zealand Expeditionary Force. The ship “Transylvania” was torpedoed off the coast of Italy, and he dived into the very rough seato save a man. Returning to the ship he was killed in a second torpedo explosion. Of Swedish parentage, he had served in Gallipoli and Egypt. Commemorated on the Auckland Provincial Memorial..
6 June 1917: Lieutenant Herbert Sewell, Royal Engineers. Usine Lorner, Calais. He broke through the roof of an engine house and removed safety valve weights to prevent a boiler explosion.
16 June 1917: Lieutenant Charles Wade, Durham Light Infantry attached 88th Company Labour Corps. Becquincourt, France. He saved a man trapped when an ammunition train caught fire, in spite of explosions, and then led a party putting out fires.
July 1917: Lieutenant Fred Kelly, 6th Reserve Battalion, Duke of Wellington’s. Clipstone Camp, Nottinghamshire. A grenade incident. See also 30 January 1918.
26 July 1917: Lieutenant Andrew McCreath, 7th Northumberland Fusiliers attached 1/5th King’s Owns Scottish Borderers. Wadi Simeon, Egypt. Wounded in a grenade incident.
27 July 1917: Lieutenant Frederick Houghton, 3rd Royal Warwickshire Regiment. Mory. A grenade incident.
31 July 1917: Lieutenant Arthur Halstead MC, 10th Duke of Wellington’s. Inglinghem, France. During instruction in the throwing of live bombs, a bomb was accidentally dropped. Lieutenant Halstead placed himself between the bomb and the soldier who had dropped it, in order to screen him, and tried to kick the bomb away, but it exploded, fatally wounding him. The soldier was slightly wounded, and there can be little doubt that Lieutenant Halstead’s gallant action saved the soldier’s life.” He is buried in Longuenesse Souvenir Cemetery, St Omer. Albert Medal in Gold.
19 August 1917: Trooper Walter Gunner, 1st Dragoon Guards attached Army Pay Corps. Dover, Kent. In trying to stop a runaway tram car full of passengers, he lost both feet.
7 September 1917: Lieutenant Clifford Foy, 10th Manchester Regiment. Humanby, Yorkshire. Saved a man who had fainted in a grenade incident, and dealt with two more grenades.
18 September 1917: Lieutenant William Geake, Australian Imperial Force. Experimental station, Claremont Park, Esher, Surrey. Entering the building three times, he brought out two injured men after an explosion in the pressing room, which at the time contained over 300 pounds of explosives. was seriously injured next day.
11 November 1917: Private James Collins, 14th Field Ambulance, RAMC. La Bergere, near Monchy le Preux. Severely wounded by a primed grenade dropped by a runaway lunatic soldier at an advanced dressing station, while attempting to bring the man to safety. Albert Medal in Gold.
22 November 1917: Lieutenant Arthur Waddams, 44th Merwara Infantry, IARO. Qurna, Tigris Defences, Mesopotamia. He was instructing a class in firing rifle grenades. While a private of the 85th Burmans was under instruction, the rifle missed fire and the detonator of the grenade started working without the grenade leaving the rifle. Lt. Waddams, realising the danger, rushed forward, and, pushing back the soldier, seized his rifle with one hand and the grenade with the other, and tried to throw it over the wall before it exploded. Unfortunately, the grenade exploded in his hand and he received fatal injuries. The soldier whose life Lt. Waddams saved was only slightly injured. Buried in Basra War Cemetery.
14 December 1917: Temporary Captain Charles Fiske, 7th Buffs. Margate, kent, England. Wounded when protecting a man in a grenade incident.
30 December 1917: Second Lieutenant Harry Thorner, 90th Company Machine Gun Corps. Thorner was examining some Mills hand grenades in a small concrete dug-out near Ypres prior to taking them up to his machine-gun position during an expected enemy raid. One of the grenades began to fizz when taken out of the box. There were twelve men in the dug-out at the moment and there was no possible means of disposing of the bomb. Realizing what had happened Lt. Thorner shouted to his men to clear out whilst he himself held the bomb in his hand close to his body until it exploded and killed him. By this magnificent act of courage Lt. Thorner deliberately sacrificed his own life for others. Of the twelve men who were in the dug-out all but two escaped without injury – they were slightly wounded. Buried in the Huts Cemetery, Dickebusch. Albert Medal in Gold.
4 January 1918: Lance Corporal Sidney Williams, 1/6th London Regiment. Sucrerie Risemont, France. After a soldier dropped a lighted match in scattered gunpowder in a dugout, Williams entered and saved him despite the flames.
24 January 1918: Corporal James McCarthy, 1st Royal Irish Regiment. Ain Kanish, Palestine. Corporal McCarthy was cleaning grenades in his quarters when the fuse of one became ignited. He carried it out to throw it into a safe place, but, finding a number of men standing around, he realised that he could not throw it anywhere without injuring his comrades. He clasped the grenade in both hands and held it close to his side. The grenade exploded, killing Corporal McCarthy, who by his devoted courage saved his comrades from serious injury. Buried in Jerusalem war Cemetery, he was awarded the Albert medal in Gold.
30 January 1918: Lieutenant Fred Kelly, 6th Reserve Battalion, Duke of Wellington’s. Rugeley Camp, Staffordshire. A grenade incident. See also July 1917.
15 May 1918: Sergeant David Coyne, 31st Australian Infantry Battalion, AIF. Vaire sur Corbie. Killed when he threw himself on top of an ignited grenade to save others during night training. Buried in Vignacourt British Cemetery. Albert Medal in Gold.
19 April 1918: Lieutenant Randolph Ridling, New Zealand Rifle Brigade. Brocton Camp near Rugeley, Staffordshire, England. Severely wounded in a grenade incident.
31 May 1918: Lieutenant Richard Buswell, Cheshire Yeomanry attached RAF. At Yatesbury, Wiltshire. Dragged a pilot from a crashed and burning aircraft, unfortunately too late to save his life.
12 June 1918: Private James Dunn, 2nd Coldstream Guards. Saulty. Rescued men wounded by an explosion when several light railway trucks carrying ammunition caught fire at a railhead, despite a second explosion and fire.
19 July 1918: Second Lieutenant Stanley Reekie MM, Royal Fusiliers, Brigade Bombing Officer. Newmarket, Suffolk, England. Severely wounded in a grenade incident.
19 July 1918: Second Lieutenant John Tunn, 9th Australian Infantry Battalion, AIF. Meteren, France. Severely wounded in a grenade incident during an attack.
20 July 1918: Lieutenant Frank Calverley, No 1 Special Company, RE. Bois l’Abbe near Amiens. Unloading 4-inch gas shells, he recovered an activated shell which burst, wounding him in several places.
2 August 1918: Private James McLaughlin, 1/5th Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, attached 157 Trench Mortar Battery. Bailleul. He had been examining the fuze of a trench mortar round when it ignited. In an attempt to save nine men in the same emplacement, he lost his hand.
16 August 1918: Lance Corporal Walter Beard, 1st Reserve Battalion, the Royal Engineers. At Fort Darland, Gillingham, Kent. Dealt with a grenade incident.
21 August 1918: Lieutenant Bernard Ellis, 1/5th Buffs. Shakraban, Khurasar, Mesopotamia. Seriously injured when dealing with a grenade incident.
11 September 1918: Private George Bennett, 12th Lancers. At Brie railway station, Somme, France. He lost both legs in saving the life of a woman crossing in front of a troop train.
27 September 1918: Lieutenant James Maddox MM, 24th (Home Service) Battalion, the Cheshire Regiment. Mundesley, Norfolk, England. A grenade incident.
27 October 1918: Second Lieutenant Geoffrey Rackham, ASC attached 454 Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery. Le Cateau, France. He drove a lorry loaded with ammunition, part of which had been ignited by the petrol tank, to a place of safety and helped extinguish the flames.
1 November 1918: Lieutenant Edward Simmons, 14th, attached 5th Middlesex Regiment. Wouldham, Kent, England. Severely wounded in a grenade incident.
5 November 1918: Lance Corporal William Meredith, 4th Grenadier Guards. Hohenzollern redoubt, Hulluch, France. Severely injured in a grenade incident.
5 January 1919: Lance Corporal William Whitehead, 9th Manchester Regiment. On guard duty in the dark, he jumped fully equipped into the River Meuse and saved a drowning soldier.
6 January 1919: Private Edward McCarthy MM, 2nd Leinster Regiment. At Brigade Ordnance Depot at Wermels-Kirchen near Remscheid, Germany. Killed while attempting to stop two horses running away with a limber. Buried in Cologne Southern Cemetery.
4 February 1919: Corporal George Rowlands, 4th Reserve Battalion, Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry. Clonmany, County Donegal, Ireland. Saved a man’s life in a grenade incident.
15 March 1919: Trooper Mangal Sain, 2nd Indian Lancers (Gardner’s Horse). Beirut, Lebanon. Whilst guarding a party of Turkish POWs who were being allowed to swim, he saved a prisoner and a British soldier from drowning.