17 September 2004
Six: Private G. H. Seal, The York and Lancaster Regiment, late Royal West Kent Regiment, who was a successful sniper in the North West Europe operations, gaining a bravery commendation from his C.O.: he was killed in action near Antwerp on 29 September 1944, in the same action that Corporal J. W. Harper won a posthumous V.C.
General Service 1918-62, 1 clasp, Palestine (6342832 Pte., R.W. Kent R.); 1939-45 Star; Africa Star, clasp, 8th Army; France and Germany Star; Defence and War Medals, the first with original card box of issue in registered envelope, extremely fine (6) £400-500
George Henry Seal, who was educated at Lillian Road School, Ramsgate, enlisted in the Royal West Kent Regiment in December 1933, aged 20 years. He subsequently witnessed active service with the 1st Battalion in Palestine during 1938-39, one newspaper source stating that his unit was in several skirmishes with Arab tribesmen, including the occasion they wiped-out a terrorist gang that had attacked a lorry transporting Jews; on another occasion two of his comrades were shot dead as they went to draw water from a local pool.
Seal was next posted to Malta, where the Battalion quickly found itself embroiled in the defence of the “George Cross Island”, working as it did on aerodrome defence until coming home in June 1943. As the same newspaper source would afterwards recount, ‘Private Seal saw life with a capital L.’ during the famous siege, and ‘helped to bring down many raiding aircraft.’ He was, moreover, employed on the distinctly dangerous task of unloading newly arrived ships at the height of the siege, ‘working hard in the hold and wondering every moment if a bomb would hit the vessel.’
Having departed Malta, the Battalion arrived in North Africa, where it served in operations with the 8th Army, but afterwards Seal returned home and was transferred to the 2nd Battalion, East Surrey Regiment. Then in July 1944, as the invasion of occupied Europe got under way, Seal was again transferred, this time to the Hallamshire Battalion of the York and Lancaster Regiment.
He subsequently served with distinction in the Allied advance and was awarded a commendation card by the Lieutenant-Colonel Commanding the Hallamshires, ‘for gallantry in action in France and Belgium during 1944.’ And, as evidenced by the following letter from his Company Commander, sent to his widow after his death in action on 29 September 1944, during the attack on Depot de Mendicite, he accounted for a number of the enemy with his marksmanship:
‘Your husband was perhaps the best soldier in my company. He had been a sniper and had done some wonderful work. The day before he was killed he had crawled some distance into the enemy line and shot several Germans. The next day he was hit by a piece of shrapnel from a mortar and died soon after. Not only was he a good soldier but he was liked by everyone and everyone knew him. He is a great loss to us ...’
What this letter understandably avoids to mention is that another Hallamshire who fell in the very same attack, Corporal John Harper, was in the process of being successfully recommended for a posthumous V.C. His extraordinary citation is a fitting memorial to the Hallamshires’ bold assault that day, and makes frequent mention of the devastating mortar fire that killed Seal. More importantly, in terms of establishing just how close Seal was to his gallant Corporal as he unknowingly went about winning the V.C., is the following fact: Both men are buried side by side in graves 15 and 16 at the Leopoldsville War Cemetery, north-east of Brussels.
Sold with a quantity of original documentation, including the recipient’s commendation card, signed by the C.O. of the Hallamshires, Lieutenant-Colonel T. Hart-Dyke, D.S.O., and his related forwarding letter to Seal’s widow, in which he confesses his regret that men like her husband were never decorated due to the allocation of awards, dated 27 December 1944; War Office forwarding letter for the G.S.M. for Palestine, also dated in 1944; and the above quoted local newspaper cutting.