A fine Canadian Great War Battle of the Somme Failed Attack at Courcelette 15th September 1916 single Distinguished Conduct Medal awarded to Lance Corporal later Sergeant W. Bircham, 20th Canadian Infantry Battalion, who saw service out on the Western Front from September 1915, and when in action in his battalion’s attack at Courcelette on 15th September 1916, showed conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty, when he displayed great courage and determination in taking supplies forward to advance troops under very heavy fire.’ In this action, h

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A fine Canadian Great War Battle of the Somme Failed Attack at Courcelette 15th September 1916 single Distinguished Conduct Medal awarded to Lance Corporal later Sergeant W. Bircham, 20th Canadian Infantry Battalion, who saw service out on the Western Front from September 1915, and when in action in his battalion’s attack at Courcelette on 15th September 1916, showed conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty, when he displayed great courage and determination in taking supplies forward to advance troops under very heavy fire.’ In this action, his battalion which was ineffectively supported by tanks, left the trenches ‘with bayonets gleaming at 6.24 am, ‘the roar was deafening, the whirring shells whizzed over our heads and shrapnel spouted from the enemy’s trenches. Machine guns spat forth their deadly bullets. From the German lines flares - the S.O.S alarm call for help - was shot frantically into the air.’

Distinguished Conduct Medal, GVR bust; (57067 L.CPL W. BIRCHAM. 20/CAN:INF:)

Condition: Good Very Fine.

William Bircham was born on 9th March 1882 in West Hartlepool, County Durham, and having then emigrated to Canada, settled in Ottawa, Ontario, where he worked as a carpenter and saw service with the Canadian Militia with the 24th Regiment. With the outbreak of the Great War, he attested for service with the Canadian Expeditionary Force at Toronto on 13th November 1914, joining as a Private (No.57067) the 20th Canadian Infantry Battalion.

Arriving in England on 24th May 1915, he then embarked for the Western Front on 14th September 1915, and was appointed to Lance Corporal on 1st December 1915, and was then present during the Battle of the Somme. It was for his gallantry on the Somme that Bircham was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal in the London Gazette for 13th February 1917, this being for his role in the attack on Courcelette on 15th September 1916.

The citation reads as follows: ‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He displayed great courage and determination in taking supplies forward to advance troops under very heavy fire.’

The 20th Battalion attack Courcelette on 15th September 1916 and left the trenches ‘with bayonets gleaming at 6.24 am, ‘the roar was deafening, the whirring shells whizzed over our heads and shrapnel spouted from the enemy’s trenches. Machine guns spat forth their deadly bullets. From the German lines flares - the S.O.S alarm call for help - was shot frantically into the air.’ The attack however failed, and the supporting tanks proved ineffective. The battalion lost 3 officers and 75 other ranks killed and 7 officers and 204 other ranks wounded. Bircham however is included in the list of men recommended for decorations for this action.

Bircham was promoted to Sergeant on 26th April 1917, but then reverted to Private at his own request on 15th January 1919, he having been severely reprimanded for conduct prejudice to good order and discipline. Immediately promoted to Sergeant again on that same day, he then arrived in England on 5th April 1919 and returned to Canada on 13th May 1919, being discharged on 25th May 1919.