This is the Death Medal of 19 year old 2nd Lieutenant Howard Avenel Bligh St George of the 1st Life Guards.
Known as ‘Ave’, he was one of the many Old Etonians to join up on the outbreak of war. A dashing sportsman and popular officer, the teenage Ave saw action almost at once when his brigade reached Belgium in October 1914 - just as mounted roles were become obsolete. He wrote home:
“Words can’t describe the hell it is... the worst part of it all is the ghastly sight of wounded men.” He told of the guns’ “continuous roar”, of how he opened fire with a rifle on 500 Germans advancing 1,200 yards away and of seeing a Zeppelin destroyed.
During one advance he wrote how he came across three Germans with fixed bayonets, adding: “They got such a fright they flung down their arms and surrendered to me – which I may tell you was rather a relief.” Within a month Avenel was dead, aged only 19, shot by a sniper at Ypres in November 1914. His mother Evelyn, a beautiful American heiress, was heartbroken and commemorated him in plaques and stained glass windows at Newbold Pacey and Zillebeke Church where he was buried.
He was an archetypal young officer, epitomising a generation and class that were destroyed in the front line of battle during the Great War. While his Death Medal is in our Museum, a broken 1908 pattern cavalry sword, picked up from the battlefield he died on, can be found in our archive. This symbol of so much shattered youth was retrieved by Corporal of Horse James Bolton who served throughout the war and lived into the 1960s.