Here we have four First World War medals (including the Distinguished Conduct Medal) belonging to Sergeant Reginald (‘Jack’) J T Evans.
Jack was the first man from Hemel Hempstead to receive the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM), which was awarded for bravery in the field and was second only to the Victoria Cross in ranking.
Born in 1888, Jack served an apprenticeship as a wood borer at the Gade Brush Factory of GB Kent and Son in Apsley. He lived in Broad Street, Hemel Hempstead, with his mother and brothers. He joined the Herts Territorials in 1913 and he was with them at camp in August the following year, when war was declared.
The Gazette of 8th August 1914 described the scene:
‘when notices ordering the Territorials to report themselves to headquarters were posted on the post office and other prominent places. There was an immediate rush to respond to the call and the first to reach the Drill Hall was Mr R Evans. Others quickly followed on and soon the hall was filled with members of the local Company, all highly delighted at the prospect of being able to serve their country.’
Jack served in F Company, 1st Hertfordshire Regiment and went to France in November 1914.
In October 1915, he was awarded the D.C.M for a moonlight reconnaissance.
Later Jack wrote about the mission and described that the regiment needed:
‘A volunteer to go out that night and report what damage had been done to the enemy’s wire and front trenches by the intensive bombardment. The artillery would receive orders to cease fire for an hour whilst the reconnaissance was carried out but, so as not to raise suspicions at the lull, machine guns would carry on covering fire over the German lines. Whoever took the job on would have to go alone. It would probably mean death but would certainly mean glory.’
Jack succeeded in his mission:
‘The state I was in when finally I did reach our trenches can be imagined. Challenged by a sentry, I was almost too exhausted to reply. Plastered with mud and clothing literally in shreds, I was almost unrecognisable even by men of my own Company. After making my report I found an old dug-out where I was only too glad to turn in and sleep. I had been out over an hour longer than was intended and been given up for lost, hence the recommencement of the bombardment, which so nearly caused my death. A personal letter from the General leading the brigade was handed to me next morning, thanking me for the reconnaissance made and the report sent in and when after a few days, news came through that I had been awarded the D.C.M. I felt that I should need the attraction of a whole barrow-load of decorations before undertaking another expedition of the same kind.’
The following year, in February 1916, he was badly wounded in the face and received pioneering plastic surgery, performed by Captain (later Sir) Harold Gillies at Britain’s first plastic unit set up in the Cambridge Hospital, Aldershot.
Jack later joined the Royal Sussex Regiment and took part in a campaign in Russia in 1918–19. Jack settled in Staffordshire after the war, married, had a family and ran a newsagent. He was a member of the Home Guard during the Second World War and died in 1943.