Major John Madden DSO
C Company’s Commanding Officer was awarded the DSO for action at Montauban on 1st July 1916. His citation published on 25/8/16 reads “For conspicuous gallantry in action. When the leading waves of attack were wavering after losing most of their officers, he pushed forward, rallied the men and led them into the village. Later he organised and led a party which repelled a counter attack.”
John Madden is one of the few teachers from Merchiston College, Edinburgh (See Enlistment) to have survived hostilities. Originally, the OC of Herbert Vernon’s (Arthur Bell’s brother in law) VIII Platoon in B Company, he had clearly taken further responsibility with promotion to Company Commander and records suggest he may have commanded the Battalion at Trones Wood on 9th July 1916. The War Diary records Captain Madden attending a 4 week course at the 3rd Army School of Instruction, at Flixecourt, along with one Sergeant. This training was intended to develop the volunteer New Army Officers, who had not had the usual introduction to Army life at Sandhurst. He is known to have spent time with the 3rd Battalion in Cleethorpes during 1917 – presumably after wounds – and retired from the Regiment as a Major.
Lieutenant Colonel Edmund Fearenside DSO OBE
Captain Fearenside was in Command of A Company in the assault on Guillemont on 30th July 1916. It is thought his DSO citation relates to this action. “For conspicuous gallantry in action. He led up to two companies of reinforcements over some 1,800 yards of open ground swept by machine gun fire, into a village. Here he rallied his men and organised a further attack. He displayed the greatest coolness and courage throughout”. Lt Col Fearenside returned to Merchiston School after the war. More details on his career here. Lieutenant Colonel Edmund Fearenside DSO OBE. He spent the majority of hostilities with the Battalion, with a spell as a Staff Captain for 21st Brigade Major in June 1916.
Major Charles Leslie MacDonald
Long term Adjutant to the 17th Battalion, Charles MacDonald was initially gazetted for a DSO on 1/1/17 for “Distinguished Service in the field.” This probably related to service at Flers, or possibly earlier action where he commanded the Battalion as second in command.
He subsequently received a Bar where his second citation on 26/9/17 reads “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty at a moment when a party of his own battalion and other units were held up by an enemy strong point. He pushed forward and organised a bombing attack but the officer leading it was killed and it failed. Seeing a tank approach, he ran out under fire and got into it, directing the tank toward the strong point. As soon as he had given instructions, he got out again and rejoined his party in the trench under a storm of machine gun fire.” This will relate to his later role as CO of 19th Battalion on 31/7/17 when tanks are known to have assisted the assault at Ypres. Another former Merchiston teacher, Charles was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in autumn 1916 and posted to the 19th Battalion in the next spring. After hostilites, he returned to teaching as Headmaster in Surrey.
Lieutenant Colonel John James Whitehead
Gazetted 4/6/17 for action at Heninel 23/4/17. “For distinguished service in the field“. He had been Mentioned in Despatches in the previous month. Originally Officer in Command of B Company, he was Commanding Officer of the Battalion for sustained period in 1916/17 after the initial assaults near Montauban.
Major George Bantham Leathart Rae
Gazetted 3/6/19. Deed and date unknown. Later nominated in 1947 as a Sheriff of Cheshire, resident at The Lodge, Malpas and showing rank as Brevet Colonel.
Thanks to Mack of The Manchester Forum for some extra information on theses profiles.