Another in the series of soldier profiles based on a sword in my possession.
This sword came to me a few years ago and has been part of my collection but had largely remained unresearched until recently.
This sword is a Solid Patent Hilt Wilkinson Sword which was chromed post service but originally made presumably for a young Lieutenant expecting to see service in India.
The purchaser of this Wilkinson sword was Lt. Colonel Lawrence Francis Garratt and is likely the most decorated soldiers sword I have ever possessed. There is an alternative initial on the blade which I believe may be a designation to a RGA unit or potentially it was sold to a young Lieutenant after Garrat's retirement since there doesn't seem to be any corresponding initial on the army list.
Born in 1893 and starting his career in 1913 as a 2nd Lieutenant with the Royal Regiment of Artillery, Garratt, after his promotion to Lieutenant was given a command in France in 1915 and was shortly moved to the Royal Garrison Artillery with the 105th Siege Battery.
First seeing action on the 10th using French 120mm guns of June 1916, bombarding the German-held trenches of Vimy Ridge, Garratt earned his first MiD just five days after on the 15th. There had been heavy fighting and before the month was out Garratt's commander had been shipped home with injuries.
Moving forward Lieutenant Garratt next saw action at the Battle of the Somme, supporting the main Allied lines of XIII Corps, at this time they took heavy casualties from counter bombardment and gas attacks consistently throughout the offensive, only to be relieved on the 18th of September when they finally received British Howitzers. Shortly after the Somme Garratt received his second and third accolade, the Military Cross, the third-highest military award of the British forces, the specific action is still being researched as well as the Belgian Order of the Crown.
After making Captain during the battle of Arras Garratt found himself in temporary command after heavy shelling made him the senior officer surviving. The unit remained under strength as a 4 gun battery due to casualties from April until their reinforcement in September of 1917 up to full strength of a 6 gun battery. However, it was not long until Ypres took its toll with more casualties from counter shelling and the exploding of their No. 2 Howitzer killing or injuring everyone in the trench and making the 105th a 4 gun battery once again by the 9th of November.
Rather than getting the home leave they were expecting, the 105th was assigned to the Italian Front and took part in the last few months of the First World War, Garratt was given a temporary promotion to Acting Major and in this time the artillery was instrumental in the final surrender of the Central Powers, whilst there is not much information we do know that Acting Major Garratt earned his DSO for actions in Italy. Apparently not being a man for rest Garratt was sent straight to India in 1919 where he served until 1922 earning the Indian Service Medal with a clasp for the North Western Frontier having participated in the Third Anglo-Afghan War as a British officer of a Bengal or Punjabi Artillery unit, this is still unclear but he is likely to have served under Colonel Dyer from the date of his second MiD.
Serving in India for the majority of the rest of his career and aged 46 at the outset of the Second World War the then Lt. Colonel Garratt was part of the ill-fated 51st Highland Division. Commanding the British batteries of artillery supporting the British and French forces on the retreat to La Havre. Shortly before the rendevous the French Artillerymen lost their guns leaving the gunners of the 51st supporting the whole retreat. In Garratts own words:
"The Regt. withdrew under command of 153 Inf. Bde. This was the most difficult march of the many difficult night marches we had carried out. All ranks were dead tired, the night was pitch dark"
Eventually destroying all vehicles, food, supplies and guns they couldn't carry Garratts artillerymen completed the retreat with nothing bigger than their Lee Enfields and Bren Guns.
To end this article I will add in two typed excerpts of Lt. Colonel Garratts War Diaries.
Waiting at St Valery for the evacuation with many men hungry, tired and even unarmed they were seeking shelter in the bombed-out structures of the town.
Finally in under harassment, bombardment and constant superior attacks Major General Fortune decided further resistance would only cause greater loss of life and in the last words of Garratts War Diary:
Garratts trail goes cold there with very few records of his later life. What I do know is that he was given one final Mention in Despatches "For gallant and distinguished services in the field" in 1945 presumably after his liberation. It appears after liberation he spent his last years in Maidstone, Kent, with his wife before passing away on June 5th 1967.
This article will be updated as more information is found.