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.