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Sold on 6 July 2004

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Medals From The Collection of Hal Giblin

Hal Giblin

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№ 449


6 July 2004

Hammer Price:

A poignant Great War pair awarded to Lieutenant G. C. V. Taylor, Royal Welch Fusiliers, an officer who attracted the sharp end of Siegfried Sassoon’s pen: he was killed by a sniper at Polygon Wood in October 1917

British War and Victory Medals
(Lieut.), one or two edge bruises, very fine (2) £300-400

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


Guy Collins Vernon Taylor was born in Cheshire in February 1888 and was educated at Sedbergh. Settling at New Brighton, he worked as a bank clerk at Lloyds Bank at the Exchange Branch, Liverpool.

The advent of hostilities in August 1914 found him attesting for the 4th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment but in early 1915 he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant and posted to the 3rd Battalion, Royal Welch Fusiliers, his service record clearly showing that he now styled himself as G. C. ‘Vernon-Taylor’.

Unfortunately for him, and there can be no doubt about it by means of comparing the relevant facts, he was an unpopular officer who attracted the sharp end of fellow Royal Welch Fusilier Siegfried Sassoon’s pen. He wrote in his now famous
Memoirs of an Infantry Officer:

‘Outside in the evening light, among the subalterns who waited for the Olympians to emerge from the ante-room, I had spoken to no one. Next to me was a young man who talked too much and seemed anxious to air his social eligibility. From the first I felt that there was something amiss with him. And he was, indeed, one of the most complete failures I ever came across in the War. G. Vivian-Simpson [obviously a pseudonym for Lieutenant ‘Vernon- Taylor’] had joined the battalion two or three months before, and for a time he was regarded as smart and promising. A bit of a bounder, perhaps, but thoroughly keen and likely to become competent. He was known among the young officers as “Pardon-me”, which was his characteristic utterance. Little by little, poor “Pardon-me” was found out by everyone. His social pretensions were unmasked (He had been an obscure bank clerk in Liverpool). His hyphenated name became an object of ridicule. His whole spurious edifice fell to bits. He got into trouble with the Adjutant for cutting parades and failing to pass in musketry. In fact, he was found to be altogether unreliable and a complete cad. For two and a half years he remained ignominiously at the Camp. Fresh officers arrived, were fully trained, and passed away to the trenches. In the meantime guards had to be provided for the docks along the Mersey, and “Pardon-me” was usually in command of one of these perfunctory little expeditions. He must have spent some dreary days at the docks, but it was rumoured that he consoled himself with amorous adventures. Then, when he least expected it, he was actually sent to the Front. Luck was against him; he was introduced to the Ypres salient at its worst. His end was described to me as follows.

“Poor old ‘Pardon-me’! He was in charge of some Lewis gunners in an advance post. He crawled back to Company headquarters to get his breakfast. You remember what a greedy devil he was! Well, about an hour after he’d gone back to the shell-hole, he decided to chance his arm for another lot of eggs and bacon. A sniper got him while he was on his way, and so he never got his second breakfast!”

It was a sad story, but I make no apology for dragging it from decent oblivion. All squalid, abject, and inglorious elements in war should be remembered. The intimate mental history of any man who went to War would make unheroic reading. I have half a mind to write my own.’

The unfortunate Taylor is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial.