We are open & delivering as usual. Visits to our London shop are not possible. More info here.

The truly exceptional and extremely well documented South African Overseas Expeditionary Force Great War Battle of the Somme Butte de Warlencourt 16th to 19th October 1916 Military Medal, Battle of Delville Wood 17th July 1916 first bayonet charge ‘shot b

£1,875.00
Availability: IN STOCK
Description:

The truly exceptional and extremely well documented South African Overseas Expeditionary Force Great War Battle of the Somme Butte de Warlencourt 16th to 19th October 1916 Military Medal, Battle of Delville Wood 17th July 1916 first bayonet charge ‘shot by sniper’ casualty group awarded to Corporal H.J. Sherman, 1st South African Infantry - the Cape Regiment, a Walmer boy from Port Elizabeth, who went on to maintain a well published series of letters, sent to his father, and which appeared in local newspapers. They details in a most graphic manner, his experiences during the campaign against the Senussi tribesman in Egypt in the western desert in January to March 1916, and then during the Battle of the Somme, and his later service. Amongst the first of the South African’s to enter Delville Wood on 15th July, he was involved in the repelling of the night attack on the recently dug in South African positions on 15th to 16th July, and was then wounded during the first disastrous bayonet charge on 16th July, being hit in the shoulder by a sniper firing from a concealed tree. The story of this sniper is now given as a famous example of German treachery, he having most probably been the same who was spotted and killed and found to be wearing a Red Cross armband on his arm. Sherman makes mention of his specific sniper in his letters home. Back at the front in October, he was involved in the second stage of the Battle of the Somme, and was employed as a guide being Scottish troops in on a working party on 16th October 1916, being buried by a shell, he was pulled out shaken but alive, and then went to work delivering men to various points and carrying messages, all under a terrific shell fire. Having narrowly avoided doing-in a captured German officer, he collapsed from exhaustion on 19th October, having been at it non-stop since being buried alive on 16th October, service for which he won a Military Medal, this being presented to him by King George V in a ceremony held in Hyde Park at the beginning of July 1917. Of the investiture he wrote:

"Rather a long way down in the list, but at last my culminating point of nervousness was to be tested. Generals prepare us just before we walk up individually, directing us how near to step to the King. Well here goes; now or never. Plenty of wind up with this chicken. I commenced to walk up the gang-way, but no one knows how I did it, for my feet felt like surf boats and glued at that. The crowd make it so much worse for a chap, but there I was, standing face to face with the King of England after a difficult left turn and more difficult salute. ‘I have to award you the M.M for you gallant services in the field.’ ‘I thank you, sir’ - suddenly remembered ‘you Majesty.’ ‘Which part do you come from?’ Gave the proud answer, to which he replied ‘I did not call there during my tour when Prince of Wales.’ A good shake and having controlled myself. I gripped it too, for my pals had all put me up to it. Another salute, right turn and down the other side. I walked with a ruddy face back to my seat…"

Back at the front from late July 1917, he was however sent back to England owing to his previous injuries / experiences in September 1917, and spent the remainder of the war with the South African Records Office in London, service for which he gained a ‘Mention in the War Office Communique’ of 28th August 1919. He was selected to attend the unveiling of the Delville Wood Memorial in 1926, and later saw service during the Second World War as a volunteer Guardsman with the South African Civilian Protectorate Services from August 1941, and as such was employed as a Police Special Constable at Walmer in Port Elizabeth. He was a recognised veteran, well published in newspapers, and a guest at a number of events.

Group of 4: Military Medal, GVR bust; (423 PTE. H.J. SHERMAN. 1/S.A.INF:BN:); British War Medal and South African issue bi-lingual Victory Medal; (L/CPL. H.J. SHERMAN. 1ST. S.A.I.); South Africa War Service Medal 1939-1945.

Condition: Good Very Fine.

Together with the following:

Recipient’s Great War period aluminium identity bracelet, this stamped: ‘H J SHERMAN C E 423 1 SAIR’.

Recipient’s original Republic of South Africa Department of Defence Certificate of Service, stamped 21st July 1971.

50th Anniversary Re-Union of the 1st South African Infantry Brigade (France 1915-1918) Souvenir Programme, complete list of members attending the event held on 4th-6th September 1965, additional notations in pencil and ink referring to awards to recipients. Sherman was one of those listed as having attended.

1st South African Infantry Overseas Brigade Association - Eastern Province Branch - 9th (Scottish) Division 1914-1918 Annual Reunion Dinner Menu, with additional notes to reverse listing those who did and did not attended.

Great War period South African Overseas Expeditionary Force cap badge.

A miniature British War Medal and Victory Medal.

Also three copied images of the recipient, one wearing his MM after the investiture, one in civil dress, and one with a group of old comrades,

Henry James Sherman was born in Port Elizabeth, Cape Province, South Africa, and having worked as a salesman, and seen 7 years service in the Marist Bros Cadet, presumably a local school’s cadet force, then with the Great War, attested when aged 19 for service with the South African Overseas Expeditionary Force at Potchefstroom on 16th August 1915, and joining as a Private (No.423) the 1st South African Infantry - the Cape Regiment, being posted to ‘B’ Company. Arriving in England on 20th September 1915, he then moved to Egypt on 29th December 1915, arriving at Alexandria on 12th January 1916, before embarking for Mersa Matruh on 29th January 1916. Between January and March 1916 the 1st South African Infantry Brigade fought in Egypt against the Turkish backed Senussi tribesmen on operations in the western desert of Egypt. Sherman was present with it during the two major actions of the small campaign, both fought to the east of Sidi Barrani, the Action of Halazin on 22nd to 24th January, and the Action of Agagiya on 26th February 1916.

A newspaper article published in the Port Elizabeth Advertiser of 12th April 1916 details a letter containing Sherman’s experiences whilst on service in Egypt, when he was involved in his first action, and written to his father. On 2nd March 1916 he wrote: “I am still in the land of the living after passing through a day when many a man’s life was brought to a sudden end. My last letter to you was about a week ago, during which time we have been on the march and has the pleasure of being in two engagements with the enemy. On last Friday night, about six o’clock, we were shelled by the enemy in a small bay on the coast, where we intended to camp that night. Our position was betrayed by one or two of our camel-leaders, who were in gauge with the enemy whose dress is so much alike. In fact, a couple of their snipers came down into our camel-transport lines, mixed up with the leaders and drivers and found out all about our doings. They knew exactly where our Headquarters Staff was, so most of the shells dropped in that direction.

My section, including myself, was on ammunition guard at Headquarters and I can assure you we got the best part of 40-50 shells which came from the surrounding hills - a very good position….. It is by no means enjoyable to have shells falling twenty yards away, exploding, and you cannot reply with your rifles. Anyhow our artillery was letting fly within five minutes of their first shell, and in three-quarters of an hour the bombardment was over, without a single rifle or other gun being fired.

Most of the companies moved out towards them in artillery formation, and, whilst passing is on guard some of the more excited men threw their rations away at us, so was had a jolly good feed that night…. Luckily there were very few casualties all told in the column. In our company ———, who used to manage ———’s grocer store in Cape Road, P.E., was unfortunate enough to receive a full dose in the leg just above the knee. His rifle was twisted in all shapes…. Knowing that a big fight was expected that day I collected several stray blankets, etc., and had a jolly good sleep.

Next morning our time was not up yet, so we had to load the ammunition on camels and set out with the column still as guards. Very soon the cavalry got into action, followed by the Transvaal boys, in long extended lines, one line after the other. Then were our chaps in the same formation after advancing a couple of miles in artillery formation. Very soon the whole front was in action pumping lead as fast as could be done. Maxims on motors and mules and carts were clashing up to the front and in no time bullets were as thick as rain. Then our big guns got going, and within an hour we had them out of their first position.

The next advance cost us a lot, for they were in excellent cover. Our nine camels drew the shell fire, but we enjoyed the fun all the same. About two o’clock we had them on the run and then the ——— (Cape) Regiment found themselves in front of the crowd instead of being in the rear. We had a little halt and all formed up in column formation, leaving the cavalry to charge the third position of the enemy. In that charge, although rather long, we captured about 100 bags of dates, each about 200lbs. Better still, we killed their Commander-in-Chief and captured their General, along with two other superior officers, all being Turks. Made many prisoners, including a lot of women and children who cut our wounded to pieces during the night. Also got hold of a crowd of camels and horses. The way they manage to get their dead away is wonderful. If they cannot manage it they dig holes and bury them sitting facing to the East. We have really inflicted a very severe defeat on them and opened the way to our objective which is a strongly fortified seaport town. The only man in our platoon to get hit was an old Walmer postman, by the name of ——; in fact he used to live on 9th Avenue for a while. He was with our General Staff, and a stray bullet got him in the stomach. He has gone to hospital marked “severe case”. One of the 3rds who was wounded in the lungs, was gasping for breath when I came across him. I could see he was far gone, so I gave him my water and called for an ambulance cart. I came across several men dead and wounded on both sides, but it is not much of a subject to write on.

The General was well pleased with our work and thanked us all. Compliments came in from all over the country. I was surprised to see how calmly and fearlessly our boys went into fire. We just duck our heads when we hear the bullets and shells whiz over. The fight lasted all day and we covered 10-12 miles of their country. The next day search parties were out to bring in the fallen and clear up the field. On Monday we advanced another 14 miles; so you can see we have fairly smashed them this way. At present we are in a village waiting for transports, and more troops for the final assault, which I am looking forward to. I would very much like to tell you a lot more, but the Censor will not pass it.”


On 2nd March he further wrote: “The weather here is very hot, although it is now winter. Of a night a heavy dew falls, and as we sleep in the open veldt, our blankets are wet through in the morning. But being tired of a night we enjoy any sleep….”

He then left Alexandria on 12th April 1916, and disembarked at Marseilles on 20th April 1916, bound for the Western Front.

Sherman then found himself embroiled in the Battle of the Somme, where his regiment was involved in the capture of Longueval, and then deployed to Delville Wood on 15th July 1916, he being slightly wounded in action at Delville Wood on 17th July 1916, he having received a gun shot wound to the left shoulder.

Sherman was treated at the 25th General Hospital at Hardelot, and was then evacuated to England aboard the hospital ship Cambria on 20th July 1916, and sent for treatment at Lewisham Hospital.

The Port Elizabeth Advertiser published a letter written by Sherman to his parents and detailing his part in the opening days of the Battle of the Somme. The article was titled: ‘South Africans in the “Push” - Walmer Boy’s Experiences’. He wrote from Lewisham Hospital on 23rd July 1916: “You have read all about the ‘Big Push’ that is on the go now. The South Africans are in the violent Battle of the Somme. I had sixteen days of it excepting three days when our regiment was in the old trenches but at the same time subject to very heavy shell fire - not 13 pounder shells but 4.7’s to 12 inch.

The first man to get hit was Corporal Rae, the chap who Dad asked to look after me when we left good old Port Elizabeth station. I took a button from his overcoat as a souvenir when he was being carried away on a stretcher, wounded in the back by a shell fired from the wonderful aeroplane. How I was untouched is a marvel, for I was quite near, rolling my kit up as we were moving forward that night. I fell flat on my kit. A sergeant close at hand though I was hit, as I lay still, being covered with all sorts of dirt and soil thrown up from the shell. Anyway I was let off that time. Poor old Bull Rae was the only man hit in our platoon up till them and at that time. Our platoon has really been extremely lucky all along. In Egypt one man had his leg blown off and another got one in the stomach (still undergoing operations in England). A third died of dysentery, namely Diggery, and he was a good chappie too. Up in Belgium not one of us was touched, although narrow shaves were plentiful.

Of course our luck had to change and on Sunday last it completely went. On the Friday we cleared a village (Longueval) and many a Port Elizabeth boy was hit, but not any in our lucky platoon. In No.5 Perey Allen was shot above the heart and soon afterwards died. Port Elizabeth loses a footballer in him. Several others were wounded, including an old school-mate Maynard Atkinson, shot through the arm and leg and some other part. Well, we were chasing all over the village, some sections coming the Huns out of houses, others doing all sorts of murderous jobs. In the evening we advanced into Delville Wood, without a casualty again, we laid low on Saturday. I was attached to the machine-gunners, and two were killed alongside me. One poor Capetown lad was shot through the eye whilst aiming his gun - of course, stone dead.

I slept soundly that Friday night, but when I woke up on the Saturday morning I was surprised to see how close we were to the German trench - not 25 yards off. I might mention that night they made a strong counter attack, but we beat them off. The row was beyond description, and we fired where we thought they were. On the Saturday we had too good men killed, old Dad Macdonald, who brought down several snipers and Willie Ferguson (son of the baker). He was a good sort. Several were wounded. We had no rations that day, but we had emergency ones which I tackled. All the excitement makes one forget one’s appetite, but still one gets thirsty.

Sunday morning at ten o’clock we went over on the blast of a whistle, and then our boys fell like flies. As I was going over with two bags of Lewis ammunition a machine-gunner got it in the throat. He fell on me, knocking me right back into the trench. Now I was in a fix. Wounded were crawling back in the trench but I had to walk over them and to another spot as the original one was marked. I got over safely and wriggled my way along the ground to to within ten yards of their trench. Our boys were laying down waiting for the next rush. In the meantime I spotted a German officer, had a shot at him, but missed. He was in their support trench which was lined with machine-guns. A chap in ‘A’ Company was going to pot at him, but I got my shot off before him and the officer fell like a log. Some fine language was thrown at me by the ‘A’ Company man. I knew the Hun by his helmet.

We waited about twenty minutes for the next rush and got tired of it. Word was passed along for any officer, but no one could be found, so I threw off all my pack, rifle as well (a silly thing to do) and crawled along to the right about 25 yards to see if any officer was near, but all were hit so ack I crawled to my kit. As I was buckling it on Mr. Sniper caught me napping. He must have been up a tree as I had good cover behind a stump. He was a good shot. I told and ‘A’ Company man about the officers being hit, but he advised me to crawl once more and out of the young H—— time. So off goes all my kit again and I crawled in agony. Bullets seemed to fall thicker than ever, but I think it was a delirious imagination.

At the back of our irregular trench I came across a bump of bread and water. I ate half a loaf ravenously, had a drink, and then worked my way into an old German dug-out where I found a man of the 2nd Battalion, who dressed my wound. He had a sprained knee. The Huns spotted us there and sent some gentle reminders. Out I dashed this time and came across one of my mates wounded. A Black Watch stretcher bearer hurried us along to a dressing station, but they ****************** in order to get out of the shell fire as soon as possible. We picked up another wounded mate, and the three of us set out on a good pace, being walking patients. We passed through several dressing stations, had our wounds dressed, and of course, plenty of good things to eat. Those RAMC boys do wonderful work, and at every station there are tons of eatable luxuries.

I rode in several different ambulances right out of the danger zone to ———; got inoculated against lock—jaw and a lot of other things. I slept there that night, and next morning went off to ——— and got entrained for Boulogne. Got there and into an ambulance car off to Hardelot Hospital. Had a lovely bath, clean clothes and the greatest attention whilst in bed. The old doctor told me my nerve had gone and perhaps for life. Gave me the funks, but I can manage to use my arm, although the muscle and shoulder are all numb. No bones are broken - at least they think not, and I have been under the X-rays. I was sent over to England on the 20th as a stretcher case, and am now in a jolly nice hospital doing fine…I am quite happy and well cared for.”


On the 24th July, Sherman wrote another letter home which was also published in the same article. “The wound is going on as well as it can. The doctors reckon that then nerve power of the shoulder blade will be finished, but I hope not. I cannot lift the arm up, but from the elbow down I can use it freely…

The Germans are very treacherous, and you can believe all you have heard of them now, for they have played their tricks on us. One sniper was shot in a tree, covered with twigs, and on his left arm a Red Cross. A dressing station of theirs in a village with Red Cross flags flying had machine-guns in. They fired on two of our stretcher bearers carrying a wounded man, and he was killed in the stretcher (witnessed it). They fight like merry dickens until you get at bayonet reach; then up go their hands and they cry for mercy but they found very little. A Cameron Scotsman was sticking them galore, hands up or hands down, and they attacked our dressing station and burnt it to the ground. They also shelled many other dressing stations. Two RAMC men were carrying a wounded man when a shell burst hitting one in the arm and the other in the head. But they hung onto the stretcher, and carried it another hundred yards before help arrived. For this they are recommended for the D.C.M. Their tear shells are awful, but not harmful. They make your eyes run with tears and burn. We have tear goggles to help. I have been through four of these attacks and one of liquid fire. In Belgium had four gas attacks of which you know.”


Some fifty years later he would further reminisce in a local newspaper article titled ‘Delville Wood horrors relived. The Battle of Delville Wood cost 3000 South African’s their lives, and the article carried an image of Sherman in later life. The article read: ‘Half-an-hour before the first disastrous bayonet charge at Delville Wood, a parcel post from home was delivered to the South Africans waiting tensely in the trenches. Mr Henry Sherman of Fordyce Road, Walmer, who was just 20 years old at the time, still marvels today at that timely arrival.

At his home in Walmer, Mr Sherman has facsimiles of the records of all the Port Elizabeth “boys” who were in his platoon - No.6 Company of the 1st Battalion South African Infantry Brigade. After being twice wounded in France he was posted to the South African War Office and while there he took the opportunity of “cribbing” the records of his own company. There were 60, nearly all from Port Elizabeth, with a few from the country. Twenty-nine were killed.

“When we entered Delville Wood the Germans withdrew and in my estimation we should have followed them and there would have been no Delville Wood tragedy. But we had to stop there and ourselves in in slit trenches two or three feet deep. That night the Germans came over but we managed to hold them off with rifle and Lewis machine-gun fire. We were vastly outnumbered. The next day we lay low, crouching in the trenches as they were too shallow to stand up in. We slept crouching, too. Our rations were bully beef and biscuits. We drank from our water bottles. We were no supposed to smoke but we did.

On Sunday morning, July 16, at 10.30 we had to make our first really big bayonet charge. We went over as a whole unit and that is where we copped it. We were decimated, I was one of the lucky ones. I was wounded in the shoulder by a sniper shooting from a platform in a tree. I managed to wriggle back to my own trench and fall into it. The trenches were just filled with dying and wounded. It was terrible. Mr Sherman’s greatest praise is for his company’s two stretcher bearers, Van-Loggenberg and Willis, from South End, who worked in Victoria Park before joining up. There was not a vestige of skin left on their hands and arms - they were torn to shreds as they went back and forth under fire carrying the wounded.”


In Mr Sherman’s platoon one man was awarded the D.C.M and three the Military Medal. Mr Sherman himself received the M.M in the second Battle of the Somme.’

Having made a swift recovery, he returned to the Western Front and disembarked at Rouen on 21st September 1916, rejoining his unit in the field on 29th September 1916, being posted to No.5 Platoon.

It was only shortly afterwards, whilst still embroiled in the Battle of the Somme, that Sherman distinguished himself during operations in the line east of Le Sars during the period from 16th to 19th October 1916 in what was known as the action of the Butte de Warlencourt. He was also wounded for a second time, being buried by a high explosive shell.

A copied First South African Infantry Regiment South African Overseas Force Regimental Testimonial of Gallantry Card details that: ‘During the period 16/19th Oct. 1916, while in the line E. of Le Sars, was on duty as guide to all parties entering the trenches and continually carrying messages through heave artillery fire. He never once failed to carry out his orders or hesitated to face the heaviest barrage. After leaving the line he collapsed from exhaustion.’

It was for this that Sherman was awarded the Military Medal, the award being published in Brigade Orders on 1st January 1917, and published in the London Gazette for 22nd January 1917.

In the meantime Sherman had been sent to hospital on 22nd October 1916, this being the day he collapsed from exhaustion, and on the 24th October he was further admitted to the 13th Casualty Clearing Station suffering from diarrhoea, as a result of which he was moved to the 5th General Hospital at Rouen on 26th October, and transferred to Dublin aboard the hospital ship Gloucester Castle on 3rd November 1916, being sent for treatment when suffering from diarrhoea and debility, King George V hospital at Dublin, Ireland, before moving to England for further treatment at the Richmond South African Hospital from 8th December 1916.

Sherman’s account of the battle in which he won his Military Medal along with his second wounding was published in The Eastern Province Herald on 16th March 1917, taken from a letter sent to his parents on 11th November 1916. “Now were were pin the battlefield of the Somme and in the supports. Every yard of the country for miles around was marked by shell holes. Villages were just masses of stones blown flat. Woods looked like scaffolding round building under construction. The trenches wee the narrowest I have ever seen, with a stream of flowing mud in every one. The transport roads were so bad that long sticks had to be laid across them to prevent the sinking of the wheels. Nevertheless, with all the miserable rainy weather the good work has to go on, and is going on, in the same old cheery way as in the summer.

Wherever you cast your eyes you see small bivouacs made by the artillery men and their huge guns in the emplacements… Nothing much was done after this, except a good deal of sniping. In one day, our artillery and trench mortars were chasing them out, we must have laid nearly three hundred of them out for good. Some remarkable bombing was also done by the regiment. A pitiful slight was our dead Scottish (Transvaal Scottish) lying with their kilts lowing showing the bare blue legs underneath stiff and frozen. On the whole we gave them a good doing, but they were such boys, belonging to the Saxons and Marines. It makes a man wild to have mere kids blotting out our full-grown men.

The night I got my present was the 18th October, while I was guiding a party of Scottish in for working purposes. We got half way down the communication trench and the Germans started strafing it, causing a wild dash for cover. Before I knew where I was, someone from behind sent me flat on my face, and just as I was about to get up, the trench was blown up by a high explosive, sending me last again. They pulled me out but I was finished. I got into an old German dug-out more dead than alive, but not too bad to struggle back after showing them their work. I carried on the best I could the next day, after telling what had happened; a sprained leg (left, slight) and both hips, which have now become natural. The worst was a blow on the kidneys, which I am still suffering from.

Well that night the trenches were worse than ever, and I had to guide our relievers up to our exhausted but never-give-in lads. Their colonel wanted to send me back, seeing I was done, but as it was not much bother. I stuck it as best I could. I rolled up at headquarters again, and thought I was finished, but they planted a German officer on me to escort to the cage. I felt like doing him in and having a sleep in the open, but as I was told I need not return, the sooner I got there the better. I handed him over, got my receipt, and went back to where the regiment was now assembling in twos and threes. I took my boots off and my feet were like blocks of ice. I moved off to our old dug-outs behind the field guns, and was sent to bed, or rather got under my blanket and great coat by the doctor. My word, I suffered there that day with rheumatism, cold shivers and my recent injuries. A nice little chappie (also a runner) by name of Goddard, attended to me as much he could, and now the poor little chap is himself laid up with rheumatism and a bad leg.

I was shifted in the night of the 20th to the various dressing stations and rest stations, spending about five days on a stretcher, passing from one to the other. Eventually I arrived at No.5 General Hospital at Rouen. There I had a warm shower bath and was soon away in dreamland. When I woke up, there was the sister with the thermometer registering 102 degrees. I was put on beef tea and dry bread, and lay there on the broad of my back until the 4th, when the Channel, which was closed, owing to the recent raid, was again opened to shipping. There I was marked England to my great joy, and was that afternoon in the ambulance train.

I arrived at Le Havre and spent the night there, embarking the next morning on the hospital boat “Gloucester Castle”. The voyage was very rough, taking three days to reach Dublin. We very nearly put into Plymouth on account of the weather. Being in bed all the time I was not sick but had a very giddy head.” The writer goes on to give his experiences in hospital, and states that he was then well on the road to recovery.’


Posted to the 1st South African Reserve Battalion in late December 1916, he was still on service in England when news came through of his imminent investiture by the King at Hyde Park in London at the beginning of July 1917.

The Port Elizabeth Advertiser published a letter to his parents in which he details the occasion. ‘Hired a motor and drove to the Wellington Barracks opposite Buckingham Palace. People in thousands there, all kicking up a blinking row, but in the pair of us dashed, and reported ourselves. Had a roll call, a jolly good scoff. I was hungry. All jumped in huge buses waiting for us, and started feeling nervy. Drove up a few streets lined with London’s mad crowds, who were shouting even madder as we pushed along to Hyde Park. All seated in front of the Royal stand by 2.30, in the midst of 100,000 spectators, and feeling rather shaky. Guards of Honour over us; grand band of Regulars just returned home from a Paris tour filled the air with fine selections. Hundreds of paper men with cameras snapping us, film operators too. This is really a wonderful place to be in; so quick at everything - I mean news. Queen Alexandra arrived first, amidst great enthusiasm, followed shortly afterwards by the King and Queen Mary, accompanied by the Princess and various escorts, etc. All rose to the first note of the National Anthem, after which the Guard of Honour (Scots Guards) was inspected by His Majesty. Then started the programme.

Rather a long way down in the list, but at last my culminating point of nervousness was to be tested. Generals prepare us just before we walk up individually, directing us how near to step to the King. Well here goes; now or never. Plenty of wind up with this chicken. I commenced to walk up the gang-way, but no one knows how I did it, for my feet felt like surf boats and glued at that. The crowd make it so much worse for a chap, but there I was, standing face to face with the King of England after a difficult left turn and more difficult salute. ‘I have to award you the M.M for you gallant services in the field.’ ‘I thank you, sir’ - suddenly remembered ‘you Majesty.’ ‘Which part do you come from?’ Gave the proud answer, to which he replied ‘I did not call there during my tour when Prince of Wales.’

A good shake and having controlled myself. I gripped it too, for my pals had all put me up to it. Another salute, right turn and down the other side. I walked with a ruddy face back to my seat… About five we broke up, and the crown flew on to us. Several South African people congratulated me and plied me up with invitations. The majority I have never met before, except a few old Springboks. Some big toffs amongst them.”


Sherman returned to France on 17th July 1917, disembarking at Rouen and rejoining his unit on 5th August 1917 being posted to ‘B’ Company. Appointed to Lance Corporal on 8th August 1917, he was however shortly afterwards found unfit for duty and sent to the base at Rouen on 4th September 1917, being then transferred to England on 19th September 1917.

After a brief period of service in London, Sherman was sent on leave pending return to South Africa, and would appear to have been suffering from the effects of his shoulder wound back in July 1916, as he had developed rheumatism. On 10th October 1917 he reverted to Private whilst with the Discharge Depot in England, and remained employed with the South African Records Office in London for the rest of the war, being once again appointed to Lance Corporal on 30th October 1918, and promoted to Corporal on 28th January 1919 when still employed with the record office in London. It was for this work that Sherman received a ‘Mention in the War Office Communique’ of 28th August 1919.

Posted back to South Africa on 21st November 1919, he was noted at the time of his discharged on 14th January 1920 as suffering from rheumatism and enlarged feet, this being attributed to his war service, and he was discharged medically unfit for further service, he being issued an Honourably Discharged Certificate due to being disabled during the war. Sherman returned to work as a clerk with the firm of Messrs A. Mosenthal & Co at Port Elizabeth. His British War Medal and Victory Medal were despatched to him in February 1922.

In September 1926 Sherman was one of three Walmer men to receive a small gift from the Walmer Council, the three men being amongst six ex servicemen chosen to represent Port Elizabeth at the Delville Wood Ceremony over in France, and as such Sherman was present for the unveiling of the Delville Wood Memorial. Sherman was almost always at the top of the list for the presentations made by Walmer Council, his award of the Military Medal, and no doubt the contents of the detailed letters he had sent home and which were duly published, making him a local hero. Sherman’s name is listed in the Delville Wood Memorial Book, signed by those who attended the unveiling of the memorial.

During the Second World War, Sherman once again volunteered his services, joining the South African Civilian Protectorate Services at Walmer on 25th August 1941 as a Guardsman (No.20), and as such was employed as a Police Special Constable at Walmer for the next four years and six days, being discharged on the disbandment of the unit on 31st August 1945. His character on discharge was described as ‘exemplary’. For his wartime services with the wartime raised South African Civilian Protectorate Services, Sherman was awarded the relatively scarce South Africa Medal for War Services 1939-1945. This medal was awarded for men and women who served for at least two years in any official voluntary organisation in South Africa or overseas, they qualified for this medal so long as the service was both voluntary and unpaid. 17,500 medals were awarded.

In 1965 he attended the 50th Anniversary Re-union of the formation of the 1st South African Infantry Brigade, and in 1967 he attended the 1st South African Infantry (Overseas) Brigade Association Eastern Province Branch Annual Re-union Dinner that was held at the Grand Hotel in Port Elizabeth on 16th September 1967.

In May 1971 ‘The Springbok’ - the South African ex-serviceman’s magazine published his obituary, titled ‘Corporal H.J. Sherman’, in which it credits him as the recipient of the MM and an MID, this clearly being a mistake for his award of a ‘Mention in the War Office Communique’ of 28th August 1919. The obituary notes that Sherman was ‘one of the most loyal and faithful members of the Eastern Province branch of the First Infantry Brigade Association. He was one of the original members of the Brigade and saw service in Egypt before proceeding to France. In every sphere of life he was always willing to do his share of work and ever ready to lend a hand. Truly the tag “Service Before Self” should be attacked to his name and this was so amply borne out by the large congregation that attended the funeral service in St. John’s Church, where he had worshipped faithfully all his life.’