Newfoundland & Labrador - A Contribution Remembered: Company Sergeant-Major, Cyril Gardner


COMPANY SERGEANT - MAJOR CYRIL GARDNER




Company Sergeant-Major Gardner was the only member of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment to be awarded a Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM), and Bar. This was the highest possible recognition for gallantry in action – second only to the Victoria Cross. The addition of the Bar made it the equivalent of earning two DCM’s.


 


Cyril Gardner enlisted at Trinity into the Newfoundland Regiment on December 22nd, 1914, at the age of 30 – an old man in comparison to his peers.



He served at Gallipoli where he was quickly promoted to Corporal, and then to Lance Corporal the following year. He was wounded at Beaumont Hamel on July 1st, 1916.



After his recovery, he rejoined his unit and was promoted to Sergeant two months later. Then, two months after that, he was promoted to Company Sergeant Major, and eventually commissioned as a Lieutenant.



But there is so much more to his story.



At the Battle of Gueudecourt, on October 12th, 1916, Sergeant Major Gardner sighted an enemy section in the distance. Taking two men with him, he attacked them. Catching them by surprise, they killed a number of them and took several prisoners, including an officer.



The rest fled.



For this action, he was subsequently awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM).



Then, just three months later, he was involved in another action that really described the type of soldier he was.



After a successful Unit attack into enemy territory, he was leading a party of stretcher-bearers, picking up the dead and wounded off the battlefield.



He then saw a German officer poking his head out of a trench that had been bypassed by his colleagues.



Gardner immediately ordered him to surrender and relieved him of his weapon.



Seventy-two German soldiers followed out behind him. Gardner then marched his 73 prisoners back to his own lines.



For this action, he was awarded a Bar to his already won DCM. But, the above action contained a unique twist.



Nearing his own lines with his prisoners, an allied soldier raised his rifle and took aim at the German officer. Gardner quickly intervened and thus saved the officer’s life.




The grateful German officer then removed his Iron Cross 1st Class, a German Gallantry award, and presented it to Gardner.



Gardner thus became (probably) the only Allied soldier to be awarded a German medal during the Great War.


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