Peter Redican DCM, Stockton’s Forgotten Hero

The Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) citation pictured here, belonged to my mother’s cousin, Peter Redican, who was born in Stockton on 16th April 1913. Peter served in The Gordon Highlanders during WWII.  I have not seen his official service record, so my knowledge of his military history before 22/08/1944 is very limited.

I became aware of Peter’s D-Day heroism by the late Dora Redican, who was Mayor of Stockton during1995/6.  Dora was at that time the widow of Sydney (Sid) Redican who had also been Mayor of Stockton (1985/86).  Sid was Peter Redican’s cousin and died in 2000, Dora passed away ca. 2010.  It was Dora who was kind enough to give me the original citation.

While doing some genealogical research about 20 years ago, I discovered that Peter Redican had a son and a daughter, but I have not been able to trace them.   I was able to make contact with several of his female cousins and one niece.  The cousins were quite elderly and most have now been deceased for several years.  Peter’s niece kindly provided me with a couple of photographs of him.  I’ve now lost touch with her.

I’ve no idea what happened to the DCM medal and thought that the original citation would be better placed, where it would rightfully given the appreciation it deserved, rather than just languishing in my filing cabinet.  Consequently, I made contact with the Gordon Highlanders Museum.  The original citation is now in the museum’s good hands at Aberdeen, where I feel that  it belongs.  Hopefully, it will remain there in posterity, as a testament to Peter’s bravery that day in 1944.

Ruth Duncan, curator of the museum, kindly undertook to carry out further research in connection with the “5th/7th Battalion of the Gordon Highlanders and the events leading up to and beyond 22nd August 1944.  It was my intention to take details from the results of Ruth’s kind efforts on my behalf, but thought that her own words would give a greater emphasis than ever I could.   The following represents her findings:

“5th/7th Battalion sailed from Tilbury Docks, Essex, at 9am on 5 June, 1944.  The landing, on the western side of JUNO Beach on 6th June, was unopposed.  5th/7th Battalion was the first unit of 51st (Highland) Division to land in Normandy, landing around midday. 

While the fight for Caen was going on, both 1st and 5th/7th Battalions were fully occupied to the East and South-east of the city.  With occasional breaks in reserve at Douvres, they fought in this area against tenacious German resistance for 2 months.  Small hamlets – Touffréville, Bréville, Escoville, Herouvillette, Colombelles – all had to be cleared.  The Gordons and their fellow units may not have gained much ground in terms of distance, but they played a vital role in tying up – and defeating – German troops who would otherwise be fighting in Caen or further west. 

1st and 5th/7th Battalions were both involved in the crossing of the River Vie on 18 August. 5th/7th were resting after their exploits at St Maclou when they were ordered at half an hour’s notice to attack Grandchamp, on the east bank of the Vie.  After an unpleasant night advance in the wet, they managed to cross despite resistance and secure the bridge”.

The entry into Lisieux is covered in the Regimental history, and in fact Peter Redican is mentioned by name in reference to the events of 22nd:

“Entry into the near side of Lisieux on 22nd August was undisputed. The Brigadier and his intelligence officer drove in, followed by Major du Boulay and the officer commanding the attached tanks; then came a company of Gordons and a tank squadron.

The Gordons pressed forward and were soon across the river. In the houses on the further side, however, S.S. troops offered a determined resistance and progress was slow. It was here that Private Redican proved his worth. His platoon were in an awkward position and at a critical moment he opened covering fire with his Bren gun, keeping it in action after being wounded in both legs. He was recommended for the Victoria Cross and eventually received the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

Eventually the men moved as far as the central square and then barricaded themselves in for the night. The next day the Battalion was ordered to help clear the houses and then find a position on the Lisieux-Paris road. It was a difficult task as they were pinned down by fire from well hidden Spandaus and the tanks moving in support of them were taken out by the Panzerfauste, but after much hard fighting, Lisieux had been won.

The emphasis relating to the recommendation for the VC is purely my own and it makes me wonder why a recommendation, presumably by his commanding officer would be turned down.  I’ve made enquiries about this and I understand that the recommendation would have gone before an awards committee, which would have decided what award was to be given.

I understood from what I was told, that Peter lost one or both legs following his bravery on 22nd August 1944.  Ruth hasn’t mentioned this and I have no way of knowing whether it is factual or not.

Peter’s father, John Redican (1884-1918) was killed just before the end of WWI, when the minesweeper on which he was serving as a stoker, was torpedoed.  John’s father was Irish and John worked at Thornaby Ironworks, where he was a labourer in the rolling mills.  John Redican and his siblings had all lived in Stockton.  One of Peter’s lady cousins told me that the hostility directed to towards Irish ironworkers crossing the Victoria Bridge, leading from Stockton to Thornaby, was so fierce that John & his family had to move their home to Thornaby.

John’s commemorative reference at the Naval Memorial, at Chatham, gives his widow’s address as, 19, Lumsden St., Thornaby on Tees. Apparently, the term “Irish” also referred to those born in England, but of Irish parentage.  I was also told that their identity was not too difficult to determine.

Photograph and details courtesy of Andy Wood.

8 thoughts on “Peter Redican DCM, Stockton’s Forgotten Hero

  1. The First World War. If during battle an act of supreme bravery (no matter how brave) was not witnessed by an Officer then the VC could not be awarded, the DCM, the Distinguished Conduct Medal was given instead. The reasoning was an Officers word could be trusted, but a soldiers words might be prone to exaggeration, My wife’s Uncle Sergeant W Mack, Serving with the Seaforth Highlanders charged two German machine-gun posts armed with a rifle and captured both leaving a large number of German dead, he was awarded the DCM because his act had not been witnessed by an officer, shortly thereafter he was helping to load a wagon with an Artillery Cannon – it rolled off the wagon and killed him outright. I often think of him and what he
    did and ask myself could I have done what both he and Peter Redican did and the answer is no, I do not think of myself as a coward but maybe my RSM would?

    There were two Irish uprisings against British rule in Ireland. The 1798 uprising was led by Presbyterians, Methodists and Catholics angry at being shut out of power by the minority Anglican establishment. This uprising was brutally suppressed by British forces with a death toll of 10,000 upwards. The second uprising occurred during Easter Week, April 1916, it was launched by Irish republicans to end British rule. This uprising failed but in some respects, it succeeded because following the brutal execution of the Easter Rising’s leaders – 16 of whom were executed in May 1916, the Irish nation voted en-masse to end British rule. A fact never mentioned in Ireland is: During the Potato Famine England offered to send vast quantities of free food to Ireland and these food shipments were strongly opposed by Irish retailers who argued: “if you send free food here, then we cannot sell our food and it will be putting Irish shopkeepers out of business.” No one realised the full extent of the tragedy occurring until it was too late to act. An Emergency Law should have been passed that all farm and household rents could go unpaid until agricultural recovery occurred, instead the famine allowed hundreds of absentee landlords to seize farms, properties and livelihoods and to evict the helpless Irish life tenants for unpaid rents.

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  2. The DCM no longer exists most medals were looked at by a committee and many changed in 1993. Those classed as Medals such as the DCM or the MM were awarded to Senior NCO’s and below where as the Officers got a cross the the MM became the Military Cross instead of Medal. It was all changed so that all ranks got the same and some medals such as the DCM were discontinued. That particular medal was one below the VC so a very good one and it was probably because he lived many VC’s are awarded Posthumously.

    The question was asked about the Irish population in Stockton, my Father called them all Fenians or Irish rebels. You have to remember History lives as long as those who live it.
    The older population remembers the 1916 Rebellion and then again 1920 to 1922 rebellion with its murders and atrocities by both sides. Many of the so called Black and Tans were WW1 ex soldiers who volunteered for the Ulster Police and were mainly used in the South lots of them came from this area so people knew about the troubles.
    As the work in steel on Teesside increased there was a massive influx of workers to where the work was, Middlesbrough had been a small village in a swamp which suddenly exploded into a massive Iron making complex. My own family arrived over that period of time from Ireland Scotland the Midlands and Newcastle. With ICI came Miners from Wales so Teesside had area’s that were called Little Ireland Scotland and Wales as like people tended to gather together.
    Over the Border was how I grew up knowing Portrack, and Thornaby, the Victoria Bridge being one border and the Railway Crossing at Portrack the other, we had Little Scotland in Billingham and Little Wales in Haverton, they were the actual names we were used to and Dad a Haulage contractor would visit those places daily as he delivered to Building sites me with him and so meeting the boys and girls in those areas as he loaded or unloaded the truck.
    As we grew up with a hatred of our wartime enemies so my parents grew up with times that caused hatred among communities. Over time those hatreds die away and it is realised we are all the same with maybe differing accents, to the Scotsmen I served with and the Londoners I was always Geordie, trying to explain I was over thirty miles from being a Geordie was useless and so it has always been, your accent will always be your marker.
    Frank.

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    • Frank,
      I know what you men about being labelled. I moved from Portrack at 19 to the South of England and was referred to as a Geordie. It was futile explaining that a true Geordie was someone born and bred on Tyneside. It didn’t help that I was born in Bishop Auckland and until the age of about 2 years old, lived at Spennymoor. A true man of County Durham. Even now, living in Lincolnshire, people recognise that I have a Northern accent.
      George

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      • George, I was also a bit of a mix, Dad born in Wallsend Mother born in Yorkshire me born in Stockton County Durham and no matter how many name changes we have I am proud to be from Stockton Durham.
        On Holiday in Austria I was always up early for a run through quiet streets apart from a multitude of people cleaning the streets. Small carts served hot coffee and cake I would stop for a drink and talk to the cart oner. A chap sweeping around suddenly stopped said “you are from Durham”? “Err yes” he said I was a POW in Durham and it was a wonderful area with lovely people, he called some more men over it would seem half the German army Austrian Veterans had been POW’s in the North East. I never had to pay for my own coffee for the rest of the holiday and we had a lot of chats. The ex-POW had recognised my accent.
        My Main dance partner came from Portrack, we both went through the school of church hall school hall and Cockran’s school of dancing so as I walked usually with a group of people from the dance to the crossing you were inspected by the “Thou shall not pass boys” any stranger walking their girls home were thwarted at the crossing and turned back they looked at me with Josie and said he is one of us pass friend, I was the Posh G– from Norton Green mascot.
        The people from Portrack I knew to be hard working hard playing people with hearts of gold. The people who gave Portrack a bad name did not know them.
        Frank.

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