I bought this from eBay last week. It was in a mixed lot, was badly titled and didn’t cost a fortune.
I assume from the mention of sacrifice that the name on the back belonged to a soldier killed in the Great War and a quick search of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website provides the name of 17433 Private Walter John Heeley of the 2nd battalion Coldstream Guards, who died on 30th November 1917.
He is buried in Gouzeaucourt New British Cemetery, France, Grave III. B. 4. Plot III was the original cemetery, which was started in November 1917. It originally held 55 burials but now contains 1,295 burials, of which 381 are unidentified. Some are from later fighting in the area but others are the result of post-war work in bringing in battlefield burials from the small plots where they were buried during and immediately after battle.
The story of the burial of the dead is a fascinating, complex and gruesome one. You can find more information here, though you may need a strong constitution.
On 30th November 1917, the Germans took the village as part of the fighting around Cambrai and the Guards Division was ordered to counter-attack. The 1st Guards Brigade, (consisting of the 1st and 2nd Coldstream Guards and the Irish Guards) was first on the scene. They formed up in an area masked by high ground and charged the village without waiting for reinforcements.
It was a military success, and it saved the British line. It was even mentioned in a poem – The Irish Guards – by Kipling, whose son John had been killed serving with the regiment in 1915. It wasn’t, unfortunately, such a success for Walter Heeley.
He was 26 years old and the husband of Rose Elsie Heeley, 42 Franchise St, Kidderminster. His parents were John Dennis Heeley and Rebecca Heeley, of Kidderminster.
In the UK he is commemorated on Kidderminster War Memorial. He also appears on the memorials of St John the Baptist Church. Kidderminster and the Kidderminster Conservative and Unionist Club War Memorial.
The only other information I have gathered so far is that a number of these badges are known to men from Kidderminster who were killed in the war, but nobody seems to know who gave them out. Some are marked Mother’s Medal on the back. This one isn’t, suggesting that it was given to Heeley’s widow.
There is clearly still a lot of work for me to do.