Major Jim Cowley OBE DCM
Jim Cowley enlisted into the Coldstream Guards in 1937 and after training, saw service with the 2 Bn. He then joined the Guards Depot at Caterham, then the Glider Pilot Regiment before joining 5 Bn Coldstream Guards for the Normandy landings in June 1944. He was CSM of No 3 Company and served with the Company as it entered Brussels on 3 September 1944. He was promoted to Drill Sergeant and served with the Battalion HQ for the crossing of the Rhine in March 1945 and VE Day on 8 May 1945. Jim was commissioned from the ranks in 1953 and retired as a Major in 1968. The Queen appointed him a Military Knight of Windsor in 1981. Jim was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the 1996 New Year Honours for services to the Distinguished Conduct Medal League. Jim Cowley died shortly before Christmas in 2009 and his funeral service was held at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle.
Citation for the award of the Distinguished Conduct Medal:
On 9 September 1944, the Company of which this Warrant Officer was Company Sergeant Major was ordered to take part with another Company and a Squadron of tanks in an attack on the village of Heppen. The attack was successful, but by the time the Company had cleared its half of the village none of the Officers were left, the Company Commander having been killed in the street fighting. Coming after the loss of all Platoon Commanders in the last few days fighting, the loss of the Company Commander came as a great blow to the Company and there was a moment of hesitation. At once this Warrant Officer realised it was his duty to carry on and he at once rallied the men and consolidated the Company well forward of the objective. He then reported the situation to the Tank Squadron Leader who was the senior Officer present, and continued by his personal example to encourage the men despite the fact that a good deal of shooting was still in progress. When this had been overcome and it was possible to take stock of the position it was discovered that this Company’s morale was entirely restored, that the position was very satisfactorily organised and that everything that should have been done had been done. Credit for all of this and in very tiring circumstances must be given to this Company Sergeant Major.
Lieutenant Colonel John Williams MBE DCM
John Williams joined the Army as a young bandsman in 1949 and later transferred to the Infantry in 1954. He served with the Parachute Regiment in the Suez Canal Zone, Cyprus, Jordan, Aden. In Borneo, he was involved in operations as Company Sergeant Major with ‘B’ Company, 2nd Bn Parachute Regiment where he was severely injured with the loss of the sight in one eye and was subsequently decorated with the Distinguished Conduct Medal. After promotion to WO1 (RSM), John was commissioned in 1971(2). His last posting in the Army was as the Lieutenant Colonel Staff Quartermaster of the Army Staff College, Camberley in 1983 and in the same year he was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire for services whilst Quartermaster of the 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment over three years. He retired from the Army in October 1989 and served as a Retired Officer in HQ Wales & Western District, where amongst his duties he was responsible for the MoD Guard Service.
Citation for the award of the Distinguished Conduct Medal:
In the early morning of the 27 April 1965, Company Sergeant Major Williams was in his Company base defended only by the Company Headquarters, a Mortar Section and one weak Platoon of young soldiers, when they came under heavy attack by a force of Indonesian infantry more than 150 strong who were powerfully supported by rocket launchers, mortars, rifle grenades and machine-guns from the surrounding hills. The position was vulnerable and overlooked, the enemy fire intense and accurate, and there were several casualties. Company Sergeant Major `Williams immediately took charge of the defence, controlled the defensive fire and steadied the young soldiers who were defending the base. He then moved round the position with complete disregard for his own safety, attending to the wounded, re-organising Sections to meet each attack and, at one stage, took over a two inch mortar from a wounded mortarman and fired the illuminating bombs to light up the battlefield. The enemy assault was rapid and determined, penetrated the inner wire and carried a mortar pit. A quickly organised Section counter-attack had several casualties and was pinned down by enemy fire. Company Sergeant Major Williams then ran across the open ground under heavy fire to man a machine-gun position from which he could fire into the mortar pi-and it was under cover of his fire that the enemy were ejected. A second attack then developed directly against Company Sergeant Major Williams’ position and he found himself under heavy fire from automatic weapons and rocket launchers at point blank range. He, himself, was hit by splinters and blinded in one eye, the radio set by his side was hit and the weapon he was using received direct hits on two occasions. He nevertheless continued to engage the enemy and was instrumental in breaking up the attack that had been pressed with fanatical determination. He killed one enemy soldier, who had a rocket launcher, within a few feet of his post. He then organised the position, reported to his Company commander and immediately took out a patrol to attack two more enemy parties which had again approached the perimeter. On his return, he was ordered to lie down and receive medical attention for his eye. Throughout the whole action, Company Sergeant Major Williams showed outstanding bravery and devotion to duty, continually moving from on post to another under heavy fire – reorganising the defence, directing fire, carrying ammunition, attending the wounded, inspiring the men and setting a magnificent example to all ranks. The successful defence of the position against great odds was largely due to his courage, his example and leadership and to his own direct intervention in the battle at every crisis and at every point of maximum danger.
Lieutenant Colonel John Gaff GM
John Gaff joined the Army in 1944 and was commissioned into the Queen’s Royal Regiment, serving with the regiment in Palestine. Whilst there he transferred to the Parachute Regiment and joined the 9th Parachute Battalion. After Palestine he returned to the UK and assisted with parachute trials with new aircraft and served as a parachute-training officer. On receiving a regular commission in the RAOC, he qualified as an Inspecting Ordnance Officer in 1953. He served at the base ammunition depot in Singapore during the Malayan Emergency before being posted to Donnington as a Guided Weapons Liaison Officer in 1957. With promotion to Major in 1961, John next served in West Berlin and then commanded the forward ammunition depot at Wulfen in West Germany. John was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 1974 and was selected for the prestigious appointment of Chief Ammunition Technical Officer in Northern Ireland where he became the Explosives Ordnance Disposal adviser to the GOC Northern Ireland. He had overall command of all bomb disposal sections in Northern Ireland. John retired from the Army in May 1975 and set up a bomb disposal consultancy business until 1998 when he sold the business and retired.
Citation for the award of the George Medal:
Lieutenant Colonel Gaff has been the Chief Ammunition Technical Officer, Northern Ireland from 13 February 1974 to 1 November 1974. During this period he has not only displayed outstanding qualities of leadership but has also, on innumerable occasions, exhibited great personal courage by himself neutralising terrorist bombs in conditions of extreme danger. One incident which deserves particular mention, took place on 21 March 1974. Lieutenant Colonel Gaff was summoned to the Railway Signal House at Dunloy Halt where three armed men had placed a bomb in the building and a second bomb on the railway track. Lieutenant Colonel Gaff assumed command of the operation and himself quickly defused the bomb on the railway track. However, the bomb in the Railway House proved to be more difficult to neutralise as its exact position was not known and it was suspected that it was booby trapped because the terrorists had spent such a considerable amount of time in the building. For nearly eight hours Lieutenant Colonel Gaff investigated every inch of the Signal box despite the extreme danger involved in this activity. Finally he noticed a small bump at the bottom of the stairwell under a piece of linoleum and this turned out to be the pressure switch of a booby trap. It was clearly a sensitive device and Lieutenant Colonel Gaff had to place the disruption equipment alongside the pressure switch, knowing that the slightest pressure in the wrong place would trigger the device resulting in him being killed or badly injured. His action proved successful and the booby trap circuit was disrupted. He then searched for the main explosive charge which he eventually founds under the stairs. It consisted of 670-lbs of explosives. This whole operation took nearly fifteen hours during which time Lieutenant Colonel Gaff was under extreme personal danger. This successful neutralisation avoided any damage being caused to the Signal box and its equipment and enabled an important railway line to be kept open. Throughout the long potentially dangerous time that Lieutenant Colonel Gaff was neutralising the bomb, he displayed outstanding personal courage and technical skill which were an example to the men of his unit and also to the general public as a whole, as this operation attracted attention of the media. By his calm professional behaviour he averted what could have been a most successful terrorist attack which could have caused the death or injury to members of the public or to members of the Security Forces who were operating in the area. This particular action typified the outstanding personal courage and devotion to duty which Lieutenant Colonel Gaff demonstrated throughout his tour of duty in Northern Ireland in an extremely technical field of operations.
Lieutenant Colonel John Balding MBE GM
John Balding enlisted into the Army as an Apprentice Tradesman in August 1974 at the age of 16. After completing his initial military training and technical trade training at Chepstow, he undertook a variety of ammunition technical posts in UK, Germany and Hong Kong. He also undertook high threat bomb disposal operations in Northern Ireland, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Greece and was awarded the George Medal following his third tour of duty in Northern Ireland in 1992. Commissioned from the rank of WO1 in November 1992, his postings included service at Hereford, Belize and Germany and he completed repeat operational tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Major Balding served as the Regimental 2IC of 11 EOD Regiment RLC for three years from August 2006 and was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 2009 for his unstinting support over three years to National Contingency Operations as well as for his considerable fundraising efforts for the Ammunition Technician trust funds. As a Lieutenant Colonel, he served as the Chief of Staff of the HQ ISAF Counter-IED Section in Kabul, Afghanistan during 2011. He retired in August 2013 after a 39-year career, having promoted through every rank from boy soldier to Lieutenant Colonel. He was appointed President of the League in April 2008 and has guided the League through some difficult and challenging times, whilst also encouraging a greater participation by members at League events .
Citation for the award of the George Medal: Classified, not yet released by the Ministry of Defence.