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Home -UK Medals - Gallantry - Derek Anthony and Hugh Paul Seagrim

Introduction

The Seagrim Family, through the Brothers Derek Anthony and Hugh Paul Seagrim, are currently the only family to have been awarded both the Victoria and George Cross gallantry medals.

Derek Anthony Seagrim

Derek Anthony Seagrim was born in Bournemouth, Hampshire, on 24 September 1903, before residing in Devonshire (now Devon). Derek Seagrim was a Temporary Lieutenant Colonel, commanding 7th Battalion, The Green Howard's (Alexandra, Princess of Wales's Own Yorkshire Regiment).

On 20-21 March 1943 at the Mareth Line, Tunisia, Lieutenant Colonel Seagrim's courage and leadership led directly to the capture of an important objective. When it appeared that the attack on the position would fail owing to the intensity of enemy fire, he placed himself at the head of his battalion and led them forward. He personally helped to place a scaling ladder over an anti-tank ditch and was the first across. Leading an attack on two machine-gun posts, he accounted for 20 of the enemy and when a counter-attack was launch next day he moved from post to post quite unperturbed, until it was defeated.

Lieutenant Colonel Seagrim died at a military hospital near Sfax on 6 April 1943, following being severly wounded at the Battle which took place at Wadi Akarit. He is buried in Sfax War Cemetery, grave reference XIV.C.21.

The award of the Victoria Cross to Lieutenant Colonel Seagrim was published in the London Gazette on 11 May 1943:

The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the posthumous award of the VICTORIA CROSS to:Major (temporary Lieutenant-Colonel) Derek Anthony Seagnm (26914) The Green Howards (Alexandra Pnncess of Wales Own Yorkshire Regiment) (Westward Ho Devon).

On the night of the 20th/21st March 1943 the task of a Battalion of the Green Howards was to attack and capture an important feature on the left flank of the main attack on the Mareth Line. The defence of this feature was very strong and it was protected by an anti-tank ditch twelve feet wide and eight feet deep with minefields on both sides. It formed a new part of the main defences of the Mareth Line and the successful capture of this feature was vital to the sucqess of the main attack. From the time the attack was launched the Battalion was subjected to the most intense fire from artillery, machine-guns and mortars and it appeared more than probable that the Battalion would be held up entailing failure of the main attack.

Realizing the seriousness of the situation Lieutenant-Colonel Seagrim placed himself at the head of his Battalion which was at the time, suffering heavy casualties and led it through a hail of fire. He personally helped the team which, was placing the scaling ladder over the anti-tank ditch and was himself the first to cross it. He led the assault firing his pistol, throwing grenades and personally assaulting two machine-gun posts which were holding up the advance of one of his Companies. It is estimated that in this phase he killed and captured twenty Germans. This display of leadership and personal courage led directly to the capture of the objective.

When dawn broke the Battalion was firmly established on the position which was of obvious importance to the enemy who immediately made every effort to regain it. Every post was mortared and machine-gunned unmercifully and movement became practically impossible but Lieutenant-Colonel Seagrim was quite undeterred. He moved from post to post organising and directing the fire until the attackers were wiped out to a man. By his valour disregard for personal safety and outstanding example he so inspired his men that the Battalion successfully took and held its objective thereby allowing the attack to proceed.

Lieutenant Colonel Seagnm subsequently died of wounds received in action.

Hugh Paul Seagrim

Hugh Paul Seagrim was born in Ashmansworth, Hampshire, during 1909. He was a Temporary Major in 19th Hyderabad Regiment, attached to Force 136. Major Seagrim was also the holder of the MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) and the DSO (Distinguished Service Order).

Major Seagrim was the leader of a party which included two other British and one Karen officer, operating in the Karen Hills (Burma), from February 1943 to February 1944. Towards the end of 1943 the presence of this party became known to the Japanese, who started a wide-spread campaign of arrests and torture to discover their location. In February 1944 the other two British officers were ambushed and killed, but Major Seagrim and the Karen officer escaped.

The Japanese then arrested 270 Karens, including elders and headsmen, and tortured and killed many of them, but they continued to assist and shelter Major Seagrim. In order to save them further suffering, Major Seagrim surrendered himself to the Japanese on 15 March 1944.

He was taken to Rangoon and, with 8 others, was sentenced to death. He pleaded that only he should be executed, as the others had only obeyed his orders, but such was the devotion he had inspired that they all expressed their willingness to die with him and they were executed on 22 September 1944 in Rangoon. Major Seagrim is buried in Rangoon War Cemetery, Myanmar (Burma), grave reference 4.A Collective Grave 13-20.

Major Seagrim's award of the George Cross was published in the London Gazette on 12 September 1946:

The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the posthumous award of the GEORGE CROSS, in recognition of most conspicuous gallantry in carrying out hazardous work in a very brave manner, to: Major (temporary) Hugh Paul Seagrim, D.S.O., M.B.E. (IA.985) 19th Hyderabad Regiment (now The Kumaon Regiment), Indian Army.

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