Special Collections

Sold on 6 July 2004

1 part


Medals From The Collection of Hal Giblin

Hal Giblin


№ 423


6 July 2004

Hammer Price:

An interesting Great War group of four awarded to Lieutenant A. J. Philip, 1/16 London Regiment: he was the first man of the Queen’s Westminster Rifles to venture out into “No Man’s Land” on Christmas Day 1914 and meet the enemy - one of their officers told him he came from Catford!

1914 Star, with clasp (1405 Pte., 1/16 Lond. R.); British War and Victory Medals (Lieut.); Defence Medal, mounted as worn, the first sometime gilded, very fine or better (4) £400-500

This lot was sold as part of a special collection, Medals From The Collection of Hal Giblin.

View Medals From The Collection of Hal Giblin


The 1/16th (County of London) Battalion (Queen’s Westminster Rifles) landed in France on 3 November 1914, and, having been inspected by Sir John French, were immediately sent to the front - they were also inspected by Field-Marshal Earl Roberts, the V.C. and Indian Mutiny veteran, who died a few days later.

While the Battalion’s trenches were in an appalling state - the water sometimes being waist deep - casualties were comparatively light, so it is just possible that this made Philip’s journey into “No Man’s Land” on Christmas Day 1914 a little easier than might be imagined. Nonetheless, there was certainly no precedent for his action, so it was undoubtedly a brave one. The Battalion’s Great War history takes up the story:

‘Christmas Day 1914 dawned in a thick mist, with the ground white with frost. The Germans began to sing again at daybreak, and our men could not resist applauding them, and then they began to shout greetings across No Man’s Land. At one point they called “Good morning, Englishmen. A merry Christmas to you - you not shoot, we not shoot.” At another point they invited the company opposite them to send a representative half-way between the trenches. Rifleman (later 2nd Lieutenant) A. J. Philip went out and found five Germans who made no attempt to take advantage of their numerical superiority. One of them gravely saluted and announced that he was an officer and came from Catford! Gifts of wine, cake, chocolates, cigarettes, etc., were interchanged, and the officer intimated that hostilities on Christmas Day would be considered unnecessary.

The same sort of thing was taking place on the front of the units on either flank, and on the right a formal truce was agreed upon to enable each side to bury its dead.

On the front of No. 2 Company, several of the enemy were seen moving in the mist two hundred yards in front of the line. It was found that they were burying their dead.

As the mist cleared the enemy were seen in large numbers standing on top of their parapet. The British troops did likewise when they heard that there was a truce on the right. Permission was given for the men to go out into No Man’s Land, with orders that they were not to go more than half-way and to see that none of the enemy approached our lines.

Sufficient men were kept in the trenches to make any attempt at treachery on the part of the enemy impossible.

The men all returned to their trenches for their Christmas dinner, but in the afternoon the scene can only be described as astounding. The enemy were standing in dense masses on their parapets, and groups of British and German soldiers could be seen half-way across apparently, as indeed they were, for the time being, the best of friends. Presents and souvenirs of every description, including copies of cartoons, in the “Daily Mirror”, of “Big Willie” and “Little Willie”, were exchanged and some curious pieces of information obtained. The troops holding the line were Saxons belonging to the 107th Regiment; they were of good military age for the most part, though there were some very young men among them. They seemed happy and healthy, and well fed. Some of them, however, were despondent. Some said that they thought they were just outside Paris, having been brought up to the line in closed railway carriages, and they also believed that the Germans were occupying London!

The Saxons behaved extremely well, and in no way attempted to take advantage of the situation; they freely acknowledged their hatred of the Prussians, and their officers went so far as to warn us not to allow their temporary truce to influence us in dealings with Prussians, who, they said, could not be trusted to play fair in similar circumstances.

The troops on both sides were withdrawn to their trenches before dark, and in the evening a note was sent across by an officer from the enemy lines, stating that at midnight he would “fire his automatic pistol, when the war would continue.”

So ended the most remarkable Christmas Day that any of those who took part in it are likely to experience.’

The final word, however, rested with Sir John French, who had been so impressed with the Queen’s Westminster Rifles when he had inspected them in the previous month. He wrote afterwards that he ‘issued immediate orders to prevent any recurrence of such conduct and called the local commanders to strict account.’ Lieutenant-Colonel R. Shoolbred, T.D., D.L., J.P., C.O. 1/16th London Regiment - and Private A. J. Philip - no doubt took note.

Later commissioned, Philip commanded ‘A’ Company in the Battle of the Scarpe on the Somme in August 1918:

‘Zero hour was at 12.30 p.m. on August 28th. The moment the companies left their trenches, they were met by extremely fierce and accurate machine-gun fire from Guardian Reserve trench on the right and from the high ground about 1000 yards in front. Many of the officers were shot down almost at once, and very many casualties were sustained by the other ranks. ‘C’ Company alone lost all of its officers and 85 per cent of its men as they struggled to get through the wire ...’

During the 1939-45 War, Philip served as an Air Raid Warden in the Wandsworth Common area.