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How a Military Medal was won

by Jonathan

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Richard (Dick) McCarthy
Location of story: 
Rots village, France
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
30 May 2005

Richard MrCarthy during the second world war, receiving his Military Medal from the later FM Lord Montgomery

This story is about my great uncle Richard (Dick) McCarthy, known to his pals in the war as 'Mac'. He was one of 13 children, 9 brothers and 4 sisters who were all brought up by their mother, my great grandmother in St Helens Lancashire, who really herself in my opinion deserved a medal for the hard times she endured in those years.
Uncle Dick never divulged to any of his relatives how he won his Military Medal (M.M.), not even his own wife and children found out until after he died at the age of 80 in 1996. This letter was received my his wife 'B' after he died. It was written by one of his old army pals Bill who served with him during the war.
Uncle Dick was in the Royal Army Medical Corps, and seconded to the 46 Commandoes as a medical orderly. I'm not sure as to whether Bill was a medical orderly or in the Royal Marine Commandoes as a soldier.
Though the Royal Marines go back as far as 1664, they were originally raised as Sea Soldiers, but the Commandoes we know of today, were originally born out of the Army.
During the early years of WW2, Britain had little to cheer about. Europe had been lost, with the evacuation from Dunkirk, the Desert Army had been driven back into Egypt and the Japanese had taken Singapore. Something needed to be done to boost moral and, in an inspired moment, Churchill ordered the formation of the Commandoes to carry out raids against the coast of Europe and keep the Germans occupied.
The Army rose to the challenge by forming ten Commando Units which served with great distinction throughout the remainder of the war. It was only after WW2 ended that the Commandoes became a regiment of the Royal Navy, which we know today as the Royal Marine Commandoes.
This is the letter, unedited with the exception of the missing out of my aunties name and the insertion of some text in brackets where I cannot read the Officers name on the original letter and the explenation of R.A.M.C.

'Dear 'B',
We hope this letter finds you well and still trying to to come to terms without Mac, although we were not at his funeral we had all of you in our thoughts on the day. We saw Reg and his wife Murial in Barnstaple yesterday and he showed us your letter. Now 'B' I can tell you how Mac won the M.M. because I was there. It happened that our troop "B" was in the lead when we entered the village of Rots. It was defended by the 12 S.S. Hitler Youth a formidable fighting force in fact we discovered afterwards that they were the Elite of the SS Divisions, we won the day but at a heavy cost to "B" troop only 11 members out of 65 came out of it. The rest of the commando eventually came in and we were so low in numbers that they put us into an old barn to lick our wounds.
That night a French farmer came into the barn and said there were wounded marines lying in a field about 500 yards away. Our officer, Capt ----(unable to read name in letter) was wounded in the kneecap, also Macs friend Bobby McMichael had a bullet in the thigh. The captain asked for volunteers to go and get them out knowing the Germans would still be up there somewhere. Eight of us said we would go, there was a tank alight in the village and we knew from the light of the fire the Germans would see us coming. The plan was if they started shooting it was to be every man for himself. We set off in the dark Mac was last because he was not allowed to carry arms being R.A.M.C. (Royal Army Medical Corps) about 300 yards up the lane they opened up and we broke up going different ways. I got under a gate into a garden where I laid listening to the Germans talking the other side of the wall in the next garden. I laid there for about three hours and then when all was quiet made my way back to the boys. When I got back the others were there all except Mac. It appeared he did the same as I did about four or five gardens down and he crawled into a field. There he found the boys who were wounded and gave them what medical attention that he could and stayed there with them for the rest of the night. The French Canadians came in at dawn the next morning and found the Germans were gone having done our job we moved back a couple of miles. The Canadians went around counting the German and British dead and found Mac and the boys in the field, they took the wounded down to the Beach-head to go back to England and MAc joined up with us later that day and he was as pleased to see us as we were to see him. That 'B' is how Mac won the M.M. and in our opinion it was well earned.
What I have told you is the truth and how it happened so 'B' you and your family now know. I hope you can understand my scribble and the way I have told it.
All our love to you 'B' and your family


P.S. I shall never forget Mac, sometimes the rolling back of the years make it seem only yesterday.

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