Youngest British Divisional Commander's WWI medals go to auction

A WWI Distinguished Service Order, 1914-15, and other medals awarded to Major Gen HK Bethell will be among the highlights at Warwick & Warwick's June 16 sale in the UK.

Second Lieutenant Hugh Keppel Bethell was originally seconded for service in the Indian Army for the Royal Garrison Artillery on March 20, 1904, and later promoted to Captain in 1911 whilst serving alongside the 7th Gurkha Rifles.

Upon returning from his service with the Indian Army, Bethell joined the 7th (Queen's Own) Hussars on the February 14, 1914.

Thereafter, Bethell spent World War I on the Western Front and continued to ascend through the ranks - first to Temp Major in 1915 while commanding the 1st Northamptons; then Temp Lt Col in June 1916; and then Temp Brig Gen commanding the 74th Brigade in October that same year.

Two years later, Bethell was awarded his CMG (on June 3, 1918), which is included in this DSO group of medals (pictured below).

At this time, he was the youngest British Divisional Commander of the 20th century as Temp Major General commanding the 66th Division. Bethell's CB medal was awarded to him between 1918-19.

The awarding of Bethel's DSO, while a Temp Brigadier General during the previous year, was announced in the London Gazette on September 26, 1917...

Major Gen HK Bethell's Distinguished Service Order and other medals

"For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty whilst commanding an attack upon a hostile position," reads the report. "It was a very hard fight, and it was due to his fine leadership that the attack was a complete success.

"By his energy and personal example he very greatly inspired all ranks of his brigade."

The 74th Brigade were heavily involved in 1917 in the Battles of Messines and Pilkem Ridge, near Ypres, and the DSO is thought to have likely been awarded for one of these actions.

After WWI, Bethell was awarded the MVO on December 1, 1919, and appointed Military Attache to Washington in 1919-23.

Afterwards, he became Commander of the 2nd Rhine Brigade BAOR 1924-28, Brigadier of the Northern Command in India, 1928-30, and Commander of the Presidency and Assam District 1930-34.

Bethell was placed on half pay in Dec 30, 1934, and died in 1947.

The full size medals for sale at Warwick & Warwick include a WWI Distinguished Service Order, 1914-15 star trio with MID oak leaf, 1911 Delhi Durbar Medal, 1935 Jubilee Medal, and a US Distinguished Service Medal.

A French 1914-17 Croix de Guerre with palm leaf, Italian War Merit Cross and Belgian Croix de Guerre with palm leaf to Maj Gen H.K. Bethell (Capt on star) are also in the group.

Also offered is a miniature group, comprising the CB, CMG and MVO.

Both sets of medals are mounted as-worn in Garrards' cases, bearing the initials "H.K.B." on the tops of their lids.

Major Gen HK Bethell's DSO group of medals will auction tomorrow with an estimate of £4,700 - a bargain price for any collector looking to become the lucky custodian of this cherished piece of military history.

The auction will be held in Warwickshire, UK.


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