F. H. W. Guard

C.M.G. London Gazette 1 January 1919.

C.B.E. London Gazette 28 December 1922.

D.S.O. London Gazette 1 January 1918.

Mention in despatches London Gazette 11 December 1917 (France) and16 January 1919 (North Russia).

Frederick Henry Wickham Guard was born in March 1889 and was educated at Handle College. Having travelled in Canada, where he worked variously as a fruit grower and as a branch manager of a refrigeration company, he returned to the U.K. in 1910. Guard next found employment in London on The TImes, but fell in with ‘bad company’ and was in ‘very poor shape indeed’ by the time his father bailed him out. He subsequently found employment on the West African Railways in Sierra Leone, and obtained a commission in the West African Field Force soon after the outbreak of hostilities in August 1914.

Invalided home from West Africa, he obtained a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Hampshire Regiment in February 1915, but is believed to have first gone to France with the Staffordshire Regiment. Then in July 1917 he transferred to the Royal Scots, with an appointment as C.O. of 15th Battalion, which unit became quickly embroiled in the bloody fighting at Harigcourt in the following month, not least in an attack launched against the enemy on the 26th. Almost certainly Guard’s subsequent award of the D.S.O. stemmed from his leadership on this occasion, when the Battalion sustained around 200 casualties, ‘casualties that were not out of proportion to the tactical advantage gained’, namely new positions which enabled direct observation over the Hindenburg Line. Guard was still in command during the German “Spring Offensive” in 1918 and, in all probability, it was during this period that a gas shell landed in his dug-out, compelling his return to the U.K. (accompanying handwritten notes by his sister refer). Before this occurred, however, he was instrumental in checking the withdrawal of his exhausted men in at least one hotly contested brush with the enemy:

‘The Royal Scots were near the end of their tether, and when the Bosches swarmed down upon them from Croisilles, they began to betray signs of unsteadiness. The breaking-point came when shells from our own guns also rained into the trench; the men, temporarily demoralised, fled rearwards in batches, and only by dint of numerous appeals and threats were Lieutenant-Colonel Guard and Major Warr able to arrest the rout at a trench in the third system of defence, where the shattered battalions were reorganised. Happily the rent created in the line by this withdrawal did not bring about the collapse of the Division, and the other units, after a valiant resistance, also reached a position in the third system in line with the Royal Scots, where the Germans were kept at bay till nightfall’ (regimental history refers).

In the summer of 1918, Guard went out to North Russia, in which theatre of war he served with distinction, initially as C.O. of Force ‘A’ on the Vologda railway, one of his objectives being to push back local Bolshevik forces with an armoured train, work that found him working in close liaison with the French (and later the Americans). The officer who was placed in direct charge of the train later described how effective and influential Guard’s command had been, describing him as a ‘born guerilla leader’. Certainly Guard was blessed with the necessary diplomatic skills to bring together a multi-national force, the whole determined on a single cause, and on one occasion enlisted the assistance of 20 Cossacks, ‘ferocious looking fellows in long dressing-gowns and high black caps, bristling with knives and scimitars’ (By Sea and Land refers). When, later in the year, he was temporarily invalided home, he was sorely missed, the same source stating - ‘There could have been no more serious loss. During the operations that followed the lack of his firm hand on the tiller made itself felt at every hour of the day.’

Guard was subsequently recommended for the C.M.G., an old handwritten document included in the Lot citing the following deeds:

‘This officer has commanded Force ‘A’ on the Vologda railway since the advance from Isaka Gorka south began. His courage and energy has carried the small force over many a difficulty in the face of the enemy. His tact in organizing his Russian workmen, and with the many nationalities of which his force is composed, has carried him over the rest. The work and anxiety imposed upon him through the superior numbers of the enemy, the vulnerability of his lines of communication through a country which cannot be described as friendly, and numerous difficulties presented by the forest, bogs, rivers and lakes his force has had to traverse, was enormous. The strain on him has been enough to break-down many an ordinary man, but he has kept not only himself going, but also his influence has pervaded the whole force, which has had many examples of his courage to follow.’

Guard was also the recipient of a French Brigade Order citation (North Russia), dated 30 January 1919, which cited his courage and leadership in the period August-September 1918, and no doubt led to the award of his Croix de Guerre; and a mention in despatches from Major-General F. C. Poole (London Gazette 16 January 1919). His subsequent services in Russia were subject to further praise, no better example being the glowing testimonial written by Major-General Ironside, C.-in-C. Allied Forces Archangel, on 27 April 1919:

‘Lieutenant-Colonel Guard has served with the North Russian Expeditionary Force since its commencement in the Summer of 1918. As a fighting commander in the early stages, he proved himself capable to the highest degree. He then directed the organisation and training of the Russian National Army until, through the sickness of the Chief General Staff Officer, he was called upon to fill his place. He proved himself an officer of strong character with great power of organisation. He leaves for demobilisation, to my regret, as he has been my standby during many anxious days.’

Interestingly, Lord Rawlinson, on being appointed C.-in-C. North Russia, wrote to Guard in July 1919, pleading with him to return to that theatre of war, because of his ‘complete knowledge of the situation there and of your experience in past operations.’ Guard, sensing the pending closure of the Allied intervention, declined the invitation.

Instead, as verified by the following testimonial, he was ‘specially employed’ as 2nd in command of the Auxiliary Division of the Royal Irish Constabulary 1920-21, and was awarded the C.B.E.:

‘Lieutenant-Colonel F. W. Guard, C.M.G., D.S.O., joined the Auxiliary Division, Royal Irish Constabulary in October 1920 and was appointed a Company Commander. He was promoted to Assistant Commandadnt of the [2nd] Division in February 1921. During his service with the Division, he has proved himself to be an officer of unusual force of charcater and resource. His handling of all situations both tactical and administrative has been marked by efficiency, energy and decision. His services are only terminated by the impending demobilisation of the Force arising out of the change in the Irish Government.’

Guard next transferred to the Royal Air Force in the rank of Squadron Leader, and in 1922 went to Iraq with the first detachment of R.A.F. armoured cars, commanding the Basrah section until 1925 - ‘He did great work in the East with his Armoured Car Company, which he infused with his own fine spirit and energy’ (letter of condolence from Sir John Salmond refers). While in Iraq, Guard also qualified for his “Wings” on Bristol Fighters, a subsequent assessement from his course at Hinaidi strongly recommending him for an ‘advanced course of instruction at a flying training school at a very early date.’ Sadly, however, as a result of his next appointment, the command of Iraq’s Inland Water Transport, he contracted pneumonia, which was complicated by malaria, and he died back in the U.K. in June 1927.

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