Rank: 2nd Corporal 66338
Regiment: 23rd Divisional Signal Company, Royal Engineers
Died: 17 November 1918
Beer Memorial Cross, St Michael's Church Tablet, Beer
Other Memorial: Tezze British Cemetery, Treviso, Italy [Google]
PDF Download: GUSH Archibald Walter
Archibald Walter Gush was born in Beer in 1893, the son of Walter James Wills Gush and Elizabeth Frances Gush of Marine Cottage. He was the younger brother of Charlie Cleaver Gush.
The 1911 Census records his occupation as Post Office Assistant, and he was living in Fore Street, Beer. However, when war broke out in 1914, he was a sorting clerk and telegraphist in the post office in Ilfracombe. This was a reserved occupation, and he was initially prevented from joining up, but Archie eventually joined the Royal Engineers on 1 February 1915, and arrived in France on 27 August of that year.
In October 1916, during the latter stages of the battle of the Somme, he won the Military Medal for gallantry. The citation reads:
“Sapper Archibald Walter Gush, 23rd Signal Company, Royal Engineers, for conspicuous gallantry in laying and maintaining telephone lines at and near Martinpuich from the 1st to 8th October, and especially on October 7th and 8th, after the capture of Le Sars. Sapper Gush worked long hours during the night and under very heavy shellfire, and by his efforts enabled communication to be kept with the brigade at the north of Martinpuich.”
In June 1917 he was wounded, but the wound was not serious enough to warrant evacuation to England, and he eventually returned to his unit. In November of that year he was sent to Italy, where British troops were supporting the Italians in their campaign against the Austrians.
The Pulman’s Weekly News on 26 November 1918 reported:
“In the last letter he wrote to his parents, he stated that he had hardly been out of the saddle for three nights and days, and their rations were two biscuits per man per day. On the second day the cable detachment was the first wagon across a certain river, and they were shelled and fired at by machine guns for over two hours.
“In fact one shell hit a tree, then hit the wagon, but failed to explode. Had it not been a ‘dud’ every horse and man would have been in the air. But all was well, with the exception of a few wettings, the last when they had to ford the river.
“If the weather keeps fine,” added the writer, “we ought to have the Austrians in a bad way before long. We mustn’t grumble when we are winning.”
This incident may have been the one which earned him a Bar to his Military Medal. On 7 January 1919, under the headline ‘Gallop Across Bullet Swept Bridge - Posthumous Award for Late Corporal Gush’, the Pulman’s quoted a letter from Archie’s company commander, in which he described an “extremely gallant deed”. The Pulman’s account went on to quote the citation:
“Gallantry and great initiative during the crossing of the River Monticano on October 29th, 1918. He encouraged his men, and held them together when the cable detachment came under very heavy machine-gun fire. He went forward under intense fire, and reconnoitred on the far bank of the river, the place where the cable wagon and horses could not be got under cover. On his return, Corporal Gush rallied his men, and the detachment crossed the bullet-swept bridge at the gallop. Owing to this NCO’s daring, communication was established, and the wagon safely parked behind the house, within 200 yards of the enemy.”
Just over 117,000 men were awarded the Military Medal during the First World War, but Archie Gush was one of only 164 who were awarded a bar to the medal.
Sadly, this was to be a posthumous award, as Archie contracted influenza and died on 17 November 1918, without knowing of this second gallantry award. His elder brother, Charlie, who was in the Royal Army Medical Corps, died of complications following influenza in Uganda less than a month later, on 11 December 1918. So both brothers survived the war but died of the flu in the month following the Armistice.
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