Saturday 14 May 2016

Presentation to Sergeant Major Hutchinson DCM

Potton School [Z1306/91/24/1]

Sunday 14th May 1916: For some time the children of the Potton Mixed School have been contributing to a fund opened by the headmaster (Mr W Bartle) in order that some suitable gift might be presented to Sergeant Major Hutchinson who was brought up at the school and who was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for conspicuous bravery at the Battle of Loos. As the Sergeant Major was home during last week, he was invited to the school on Friday afternoon to receive the gift. In making the presentation Mr Bartle said it was thought only fitting that something should be done to mark the pride felt in the gallantry of the Potton man who had brought such honour to their ancient town and to the Beds Regiment. The terms of the certificate given to the Sergeant Major needed no comment; he has done his duty as a brave and loyal soldier and his bravery had received the proper recognition and their thanks were due to him, especially as he was a Pottonian. Army orders which confer distinctions upon soldiers tersely and formally express the deeds by which the distinctions are won, but no great gift of imagination was required to compensate for official baldness. The Sergeant Major won his Distinguished Service Medal on the 25th-29th September at Loos when the British made such a gallant effort to break the German lines Actions like those he displayed speak of unusual determination and of a remarkable degree of cool, reasoned courage. Potton might well be proud of its many men serving the country; seven have already laid down their lives – three bearing the name of Hutchinson, R Surtees, W Gates, W Richardson and F Whitfield(1) – all died nobly doing their duty. Self-sacrificing bravery all men appreciate, for were it not for such valiant characters, they would not be where they now were, and when the war is over the men who had done “their bit” must be treated fairly and not as some of those who had returned from the Crimea – retreat to the Workhouse. The school master further said he hoped as time improved, the bag the children and teachers had bought for the Sergeant Major would, on many occasions, be a useful reminder of the deep appreciation and gratitude for the part he so gallantly played in helping to stave off the great German offensive. On behalf of the children and teachers he presented that gift, with a list of subscribers, and he wished Sergeant Major Hutchinson long life and good health and the necessary prosperity to enable him to enjoy the usefulness that the cowhide bag seemed capable of affording (cheers)”.

In accepting the bag the Sergeant Major said: - “Mr Bartle, teachers and children, I have great pleasure in accepting it, especially as it comes from Potton School. As you know I first landed in Belgium and I saw children sitting by the roadside with no one to teach them and that made me determined to fight hard”. He went on to say that it gave him great pleasure knowing that the gift was from the schoolchildren, and the school where he was brought up. He thanked them all most heartily.

Several patriotic songs were sung and three cheers were given for Sergeant Major Hutchinson DCM before dispersing.

Source: Biggleswade Chronicle, 12th May 1916
(1)  Details on these men are as follows:

  • 9271 Private Herbert Hutchinson, 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, died of wounds 24th October 1914 and buried in Ypres Town Cemetery.
  • 8196 Private Charles Nicholas Hutchinson, 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, killed in action 13th October 1914, commemorated on the le Touret Memorial
  • G/8320 Private George Hutchinson, 9th Battalion, East Surrey Regiment, died of wounds 5th March 1916, buried in Boulogne Eastern Cemetery
  • 2720 Private Richard Barron Surtees, 2nd Battalion, East Surrey Regiment, killed in action 28th April 1915, commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial
  • 2654 Private William Henry Gates, 2nd Battalion, East Surrey Regiment, killed in action 26th April 1915, commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial
  • 2711 Private Wilfred Ernest Richardson, 2nd Battalion, East Surrey Regiment, died 24th April 1915, commemorated on the le Touret Memorial
  • 141584 Private Frederick Whitfield, 21st Battalion, Canadian Infantry (East Ontario Regiment), died 22nd April 1916, commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial

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