I was recently taking a tour and amongst them was a 16 year old lad that was greatly moved by the CWGC cemetery at Bayeux. He was drawn to the grave of Corporal Sidney Bates of the Royal Norfolk Regiment that had a great deal of messages, crosses and flags around it. Corporal Bates sacrificed himself for his platoon. Bates showed the ultimate form of leadership and bravery by doing something that was so dangerous that he didn’t make the soldiers under his command carry out the required action. I am sure he didn’t want to die, but he also didn’t want all his pals to die.
Bates came from a humble background, brought up in Camberwell South London and died at the age of only 23.
This is the announcement and accompanying citation for the decoration and was published in a supplement to the London Gazette on 2 November 1945, reading:
‘War Office, 2nd November, 1944.
Headstone in the Bayeux Commonwealth Grave Cemetery
The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the posthumous awards of the VICTORIA CROSS to:—
No. 5779898 Corporal Sidney Bates, The-Royal Norfolk Regiment (London, S.E.5).
In North-West West Europe on 6th August, 1944, the position held by a battalion of the Royal Norfolk Regiment near Sourdeval was attacked in strength by 10th S.S. Panzer Division. The attack started with a heavy and accurate artillery and mortar programme on .the position which the enemy had, by this time, pin-pointed. Half an hour later the main attack developed and heavy machine-gun and mortar fire was concentrated oh the point of junction of the two forward companies. Corporal Bates was commanding the right forward section of the left forward company which suffered some, casualties, so he decided to move the remnants of his section to an alternative position whence he appreciated he could better counter the enemy thrust. However, the enemy wedge grew still deeper, until there were about; 50 to 60 Germans, supported by machine guns and mortars, in the area occupied by the section. Seeing that the situation was becoming, desperate, Corporal Bates then seized a light machine-gun and charged the enemy, moving forward through a hail of bullets and spnnters and firing the gun from his hip. He was almost immediately wounded by machine-gun fire and fell to the ground, but recovered himself quickly, got up and continued advancing towards the enemy, spraying bullets from his gun as he went. His action by now was having an effect on the enemy riflemen and machine gunners but mortar bombs continued to fall all around him.
He was then hit for the second time and much more seriously and painfully wounded. However, undaunted, he staggered once more to his feet and continued towards the enemy who were now seemingly nonplussed by their inability to check him. His constant firing continued until the enemy started to withdraw before him. At this moment, he was hit for the third time by mortar bomb splinters, a wound that was to prove mortal. He again fell to the ground but continued to fire his weapon until his strength failed him. This was not, however, until the enemy Had withdrawn and the situation in this locality had been restored.
Corporal Bates died two days later from his wounds.