The exceptional and unique Military Secretary India 1947 Order of the Bath, Fall of France Saint Valery Prisoner of War’s subsequent POW campaign escape and intelligence officer’s Order of the British Empire / Mention in Despatches, and Kurdistan 1922 Military Cross group awarded to Major General H.R. Swinburn, Indian Army. As a Sergeant with the 4th Border Regiment he saw service in Indian and Burma during the Great War, being then commissioned in 1918. It was however as an officer with the 15th Ludhiana Sikhs that he came to the fore, seeing service during the Third Afghanistan War of 1919, in Mesopotamia during the Iraq Rebellion and then in Kurdistan. As a company commander with the 1st/15th Sikhs, he won an exceptional Military Cross, the only award for Kurdistan in the year and one of only 9 earned in that year, won during the retirement on Rania Plain on 1st September 1922. The rear guard platoon of his regiment was hard pressed, he reinforced them with the only other platoon available, and charged the enemy with the bayonet, inflicting heavy casualties, and improving the situation generally. He was wounded shortly after, but continued to encourage his men, commanding his company with marked success, resource and energy under difficult circumstances. After time spent as Chief Instructor at the School of Military Intelligence from 1939 to 1940, Swinburn, though badged to the 178th Dogras, found himself on service with the 51st Highland Division during the fall of France, being taken prisoner of war at Saint Valery on 15th June 1940. His time spent in captivity was hardly quiet. Throughout his imprisonment he took a keen and active interest in all Intelligence, Escaping and Security work, acting as Chief co-ordinating officer for Major General Fortune. Included in this work was the frequent communication of vital information to the War Office by secret means. Praised by intelligence officers with whom he had contact and who had knowledge of the work he had undertake, Swinburn was also appreciated by Major General Fortune, who commended him as one of the most outstanding Intelligence workers in German camps. Whilst in captivity Swinburn was a major part of an organised system allowing coded messages to be sent directly to, and received from, MI9. For this work he was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire and awarded a Mention in Despatches, For his active role in this work in the final months of the war, he also gained a scare POW’s award of the France and Germany Star. Post War Swinburn returned to India and was jumped from Lieutenant Colonel to Major General in one promotion, he having become the Military Secretary GHQ India from 1946 to 1947, service for which he was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath in June 1947.
Group of 10: The Most Honourable Order of the Bath, Companion, C.B., Military Division, neck badge, silver-gilt and enamels, housed in its Garrard fitted presentation case, together with Instructions for Wearing card; The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, Officer, O.B.E., 2nd type, Military Division; Military Cross, GvR cypher; British War Medal 1914-1919; (LIEUT. H.R. SWINBURN.); India General Service Medal 1908-1935, 1 Clasp: Afghanistan N.W.F. 1919; (LT. H.R. SWINBURN, 1-15 SIKHS.); General Service Medal 1918-1962, 2 Clasps: Iraq, Kurdistan; (LIEUT. H.R. SWINBURN.); 1939-1945 Star; France and Germany Star; Defence Medal; War Medal with Mention in Despatches Oakleaf. Last nine mounted court style as worn, and housed in a case.
Condition: Good Very Fine.
Together with the following:
Recipient’s tunic medal ribbon bar for all of his awards.
Army Council Campaign Medal Award Slip confirming entitlement to ‘5’ awards, namely the 1939-1945 Star, France and Germany Star, Defence Medal, War Medal and Mention in Despatches Oakleaf.
A set of Indian Army 11th Sikhs cufflinks, and other related buttons and insignia.
Two large scrap books, mostly filled with various newspaper cutting relating to the war and its varying stages, also a couple of telegrams sent to his wife whilst he was held in German captivity.
Soldiers Sailors and Airmens Families Association 10 Year Membership Badge, reverse engraved: ‘Mrs H. Swinburn Joined 1968’. Presumably worn by the recipient’s wife.
Henry Robinson Swinburn was born on 8th May 1897 in Keswick, Cumberland, the son of Henry and Edith Swinurn, he the was eldest of three children, and his father was a school master working for the local county council as of 1911 in Keswick, when the family were living in The School House, on High Hill. With the outbreak of the Great War, Swinburn then enlisted into the Territorial Force for service with the local unit, the 4th (Cumberland and Westmorland) Battalion, having enlisted into the 1st/4th Battalion, and as such found himself posted out to India on 1st May 1916 as a Sergeant (No.201076) to join his battalion which was already out there on service in Burma.
The 1st/4th Battalion had sailed from Southampton for India back in September 1914 as part of the Middlesex Brigade in the Home Counties Division. The Division was broken up on arrival in India and remained there throughout the war, whilst on arrival the 1st/4th Battalion was attached to the Burma Division and arrived at Rangoon in early December 1914. In February 1918 it transferred to the Jubbulpore Brigade in 5th (Mhow) Division
For his part Swinburn was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant into the Border Regiment on 6th June 1918, and whilst serving as a temporary Lieutenant from 7th June 1918 to 9th April 1920, saw attached service with the 1st Battalion, 15th Sikh Regiment - the Ludhiana Sikhs, and was present on operations on the North West Frontier during the Third Afghanistan War which lasted from 6th May to 30th September 1919. Swinburn was then transferred as a Lieutenant to the Indian Army on 20th December 1919. He was confirmed in the rank of Lieutenant on 10th April 1920.
Swinburn then saw service with the 1st/15th Sikhs in Mesopotamia during the Iraq Rebellion at some stage during the period from 10th December 1919 through to 17th November 1920, when his battalion formed part of the 6th Division.
Swinburn then went on to see further service in Mesopotamia during the operation in Kurdistan at some stage during the second period of operations in the period from19th March to 18th June 1923, however it was for his time spent on minor operations in Kurdistan during 1922 that led to his award of the unique Military Cross to be awarded for Kurdistan in that year, a further 8 awards going to officers for other theatres of operations. 1922 was the same year that the 15th Sikhs were retitled the 2nd Battalion - Ludhiana Sikhs, 11th Sikh Regiment.
Swinburn won his Military Cross when a Company Commander on Rania Plain on 1st September 1922, when the force he was with was retiring back to base. The citation reads as follows: ‘During the retirement at Rania Plain on the 1st September, 1922, when the rear guard platoon of his regiment was hard pressed, he reinforced them with the only other platoon available, and charged the enemy with the bayonet, inflicting heavy casualties, and improving the situation generally. He was wounded shortly after, but continued to encourage his men. Lieutenant Swinburn commanded his company with marked success, resource and energy under difficult circumstances’.
Swinburn’s award of the Military Cross was published in the London Gazette for 19th December 1922, he being still shown as 15th Sikhs at the time of the award.
Swinburn then found himself serving with the 2nd Battalion - Ludhiana Sikhs, 11th Sikh Regiment, and was promoted to Captain on 20th December 1924, and having then attended the Staff College at Quetta from 1929 to 1930. Swinburn was appointed a General Staff Officer 2nd Grade from 17th January 1933, and would remain as such till 20th December 1936 whilst employed with GHQ India. Appointed to Brevet Major on 1st January 1934, and promoted to Major on 20th December 1936, Swinburn was posted home to attend the Staff College at Camberley from 12th January 1937 as a Staff College Instructor, and remained so employed through the outbreak of the Second World War and up to 12th March 1940. In the meantime whilst at Camberley he was employed as a General Staff Officer 2nd Grade, and held the rank of local Lieutenant Colonel up to 31st December 1938.
Appointed a Brevet Lieutenant Colonel on 1st January 1939 when appointed the Chief Instructor at the School of Military Intelligence, after leaving Camberley he was sent out to France as a General Staff Officer 1st Grade with the British Expeditionary Force from 13th March1940 and held this position till 15th June 1940, the say of his capture at Saint Valery when a part of the 51st Highland Division.
As mentioned, with the group are two cuttings books covering 1940-41 relating to the progress of the War including scraps for St Valery: one unidentified news cutting states “Heroic Fighting by the Highland Division….. 7th June, it was learnt that hostile tanks had broken through the French on the British right and were making for Rouen, then our base for supplies. Arrangements were therefore made to procure supplies from Havre, and on 8th June the division fell back to the River Bethune, which enters the sea at Dieppe, this line being occupied soon after daylight on 9th June.That day provided the division with its first respite for a long period. As retreat in the direction of Rouen was now out of the question, it was arranged to evacuate the whole French IX Corps, of which the Highland Division formed part, from Havre. One brigade group was dispatched to hold a covering position round the port. Then came the tragedy which has already been reported. German movement northward from Rouen cut off the division from Havre and made it necessary to attempt an evacuation from Saint-Valery. But during 11th June German assaults on the perimeter established round the little port, supported by dive bombers, though repulsed in the British sector, broke through that of the French. As is now well known, fog prevented the Navy from giving its wonted aid to the cornered troops, and except for a handful who managed to escape to Veules-les-Roses, this portion of the Allied force was captured..” another cutting records “…An hour later there was heavy bombing, and many parts of the town began to blaze fiercely. Then to my surprise I heard heavy machine gun fire, and the British troops began to rush up the streets with fixed bayonets,…”.
These scrap books also include telegrams received by Mrs Swinburn advising that her husband is reported missing, a second reports Lieutenant Colonel H.R. Swinburn last seen fit well and unwounded as Prisoner of War 15th June.. An August 13th telegram states “Very glad received postcard from Henry Swinburn who is well and prisoner number1253 at Oflag VII C/H”; in January 1942 he was sent to Oflag IX A/H Camp.
Throughout his time in captivity, Swinburn was still with the Indian Army and badged as a Lieutenant Colonel with the 17th Dogra Regiment, and it was for his time spent as a prisoner of war that he earned appointment as an Officer of the Military Division of The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, the award being published in the London Gazette for 11th October 1945.
The recommendation reads as follows: ‘Lt Col Swinburn was captured at St Valery in June 1940. Throughout his imprisonment he took a keen and active interest in all Intelligence, Escaping and Security work, acting as Chief co-ordinating officer for Major General Fortune. Included in this work was the frequent communication of vital information to the War Office by secret means. Lt Col Swinburn has been highly praised by three colleagues who had knowledge of the work he had undertaken. Major General Fortune has also commended him as one of the most outstanding Intelligence workers in German camps.’
Whilst in captivity Swinburn was a major part of an organised system allowing coded messages to be sent directly to, and received from, MI9. In addition for his distinguished service in captivity he was awarded a Mention in Despatches in the London Gazette for 14th March 1946.
Swinburn who had held the rank of Acting Lieutenant Colonel from 13th March 1940 through to 19th December 1944, was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on 20th December 1944 whilst still in captivity.
After his release from captivity, Swinburn became Director of Morale, India in 1945, and received rapid promotion, he being promoted Temp Major General in 1946, when he served as Deputy Military Secretary at GHQ India, and becoming Military Secretary GHQ India from 1946 to 1947. Swinburn retired in 1948, he having been appointed a Companion of the Military Division of The Most Honourable Order of the Bath in the London Gazette for 12th June 1947.
Swinburn then became a Counsellor with the UK High Commission in India during 1948 to 1949 and afterwards worked as a Schools Liaison Officer from 1952 to 1960. Swinburn latterly lived in Nunton, near Salisbury, Wiltshire, where he died on 27th January 1981.