A MILITARY Cross awarded to Charles Havell of the Suffolk Regiment during World War I willgo under the hammer tomorrow (Saturday) by Rowley’s Fine Art Aucitoneers in Ely.
The Suffolk Regiment lost more than 7,000 soldiers during the Great War with memorials to those who fell found in almost every village and town across East Anglia. With so many losses, Charles Havell was, like many juinor lieutenants, promoted to positions of great responsibility without extensive battlefield experience with sometimes tragic consequences.
In Havell’s case however his promotion to Captain came shortly before his heroics on the battlefield in 1915 when he was attached to the Trench Mortar Battery. In his citation in the London Gazette in April 1816 Havell was commended ‘for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty ... It was mainly due to him the guns remained in action and were so effective in carrying out their task.’
William Axon, Rowley’s Senior Valuer says: “Sadly we don’t know as much we would like to know about Charles Havell’s personal experience during the war. In later life he seemed to have led a fairly quiet, responsible existence working for the Westminster Bank in London and then as a Director with the Imperial Tobacco Company – a life that was undoubtedly something of a contrast to his experiences as a soldier on the front line with the Suffolk Regiment. Havell must have been an exceptionally brave young man. He was mentioned in dispatches twice and won the military cross in 1915, an award instituted in 1914 specifically for junior officers who had shown gallantry in the field.”
While Rowley’s have not been able to track down any personal accounts of Captain Havell they did look at extracts from letters from another young officer, Alec, who was also attached to one of the Suffolk Regiment’s Trench Mortar Batteries during the same period.
Alec described the living conditions on the front line for the Suffolk Regiment to his mother: “The other dug-out is swarming with mice and rats, who scratch earth into you all the time, and come and expire on you at night. One fell down and died on the table while we were having tea.”
In another letter Alec talks of a Suffolk Regiment attack on the Germans- “We put over about 4,000lbs of shells from the two mortar batteries in 10 minutes ...... There is no trench there now—just a mass of earth ..... Of course, directly we started the Germans got going with all their artillery at us .... I have never heard such a noise ..... I enjoyed it; It was topping to see the Bosche parapet crumpling away ..... They must have lost a lot of men; we lost only about three killed and a dozen or so wounded, none in my battery I am glad to say.”
Sadly, unlike Charles Havell, Alec did not survive the War and was killed in action when he returned for the second time to France in 1916 but this fellow junior officer brings to life experiences that Charles would have gone through himself on the front line with the Suffolk Regiment.
The medal is expected to make between £200-300 at tomorrow’s auction. William Axon continues: “We would love to hear from anyone who knows more about Charles Havell and the Suffolk Regiment so we could pass his story on to the person who buys the medal.”
For more information on the auction or to pass on any knowledge about Charles Havell contact: William Axon or Roddy Lloyd either by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or call 01353-653020.