George Medal (GVI), 1939-45 Star, France and Germany Star, Defence Medal, War Medal, General Service Medal (GVI), bar Malaya, Major Ronald Victor Harley, Royal Sussex Regiment, late Royal Army Ordnance Corps.
George Medal officially engraved; “CAPT. RONALD V. HARLEY R.S. REGT”.
General Service Medal bar Malaya, officially impressed; “CAPT. R.V. HARVEY. G.M. A.O.C.” His initials ‘R.V.’ have been officially corrected at the mint.
He was born on 2nd August 1919 as Ronald Victor Cheese, a native of Shropshire, he married an Eastbourne Girl, Miss Margaret Simmons, whom he first met during the war when he was in the Dorset Regiment and came to Eastbourne with the S.E. Command Vehicle Maintenance School.
After attending Ludlow Grammar School, he was then a mail sorting clerk and telegraphist for the Ludlow Post Office in 1936.
As the war began, he became a Subaltern with the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry, serving in the 11th Armoured Division in North-West Europe, the division known as “The Black Bull” it was the response to the German Panzer Divisions, the 11th Armoured Division were responsible for major victories in the Landings and Battle of Normandy in the Summer of 1944, they participated in the rapid advance across France, Belgium, Netherlands and the Rhine Crossing in March 1945, leading into the invasion of Germany.
The Division was disbanded in January 1946 and after demobilisation in 1946 he was for about 18 months an English master on the staff of the Technical School in St Anne’s Road.
On 25th April 1946, he changed his name by deed poll from “Cheese” to “Harley”, possibly from a few months of school children calling him “Cheese”
He also commanded the Eastbourne platoon of the Lewes Company of the 4th/5th Cinque Ports Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment (T.A.).
He served with the Royal Sussex Regiment in the Territorial Army from 1947, joining the war in Malaya on attachment to the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, which he later transferred to in 1952.
After returning home to England he was stationed at Hampstead Norris in Bramley when he earned the George Medal, announced in London Gazette of 31st July 1951;
“‘Captain Ronald Victor Harley (243086), The Royal Sussex Regiment. On the 21st February, 1951, No. 243086, Captain R. V. Harley, Royal Sussex Regiment, attached Royal Army Ordnance Corps, was on duty at No. 3 Central Ammunition Sub-Depot, Hampstead Norris (Bramley), supervising the receipt of ammunition. He was in the sorting shed when a round of 25 Pdr. Ammunition exploded and injured six soldiers of the Royal Pioneer Corps, one of whom died later. The blast was so violent that it blew other shell to pieces, reduced many more to a very dangerous condition, started a fire, and blanketed the area with smoke.
Captain Harley immediately ordered all men out of the building, leaving it himself only when he could see no more personnel. He re-entered the building almost immediately to find some injured men running out. Without hesitation he went right up to the scene of the explosion which was still enveloped in smoke, and saw flames. He ordered a soldier who was at his side (No. 14441727) Pte. McGarrigle, Royal Pioneer Corps, to fetch fire appliances, and himself went further into the smoke where he found a badly injured soldier staggering about. By this time another helper had arrived and Captain Harley, after seeing that the injured soldier was being evacuated, ran to the office next door to call the ambulance and fire brigade. Next he saw that all the casualties were being attended to, and ordered the most serious cases to be taken to hospital straight away in a unit vehicle. Then he again went to the scene of the explosion to check up that the fire was out and that there were no further casualties, and finally ordered a roll call to see that all his personnel had been accounted for.
Captain Harley, owing to his proximity to the explosion suffered considerably from its effects; he had seen the wounded men and heard their screams, and was fully aware of the possibility of further detonations taking place. In spite of this he showed bearing and leadership of the very highest order, and undoubtedly his exemplary behaviour affected the discipline of the men under his command in their efforts to extinguish the fire and succour the casualties under very hazardous circumstances.”
The medal was awarded to him by the Duke of Gloucester at Buckingham Palace, the Eastbourne Hearld 10th November 1951 notes;
“ DUKE HANDED HIM HIS MEDAL
AWARD FOR GALLANTRY
Awarded the George Medal for bravery, Captain Ronald V. Harley, of Caburn-close, Hampden Park, was among servicemen who received their decorations from the Duke of Gloucester, deputising for the king, at an investiture held at Buckingham Palace on Wednesday Afternoon.
While attached to the Royal Army Ordnance Corps at Hampstead Norris, Bramley, in February, Capt. Harley organised rescue work and attended other injured men, despite his own wounds, following an explosion at the ammunition depot.
Six soldiers of the Royal Pioneers, one of whom died later, were injured, and the blast blew other shells to pieces, started a fire, and blanketed the area with smoke.
The citation stated that owing to his proximity to the explosion Capt Harley suffered considerably. “But in spite of this he showed bearing and leadership of the very highest order, and undoubtedly his exemplary behaviour affected the discipline of the men under his command in their efforts to extinguish the fire.”
Capt. Harley, who was for a time an English Teacher at the Eastbourne Technical School, married an Eastbourne Girl, Miss Margaret Simmons, the daughter of the late Police Constable Charles Cyril Simmons, of Matlock Road, who was awarded the King’s Police Medal for gallant rescue work at Beachy Head.”
he died on 19th August 2010, aged 91 in Devon.
Medals court mounted as worn, with photograph of the recipient wearing his medals as currently mounted, also included is his ‘Operation Overlord’ commemorative medal, for his part in the Normandy Landings with the K.S.L.I. armoured division.