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TOPIC: Medals to the Imperial Military Railways (IMR)

Medals to the Imperial Military Railways (IMR) 1 month 1 week ago #67144

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Pictures courtesy of BoB

MC GV
QSA (0) (A.C. Solomon, Imp. Mil. Rlys.)
1914/15 Star (Pte. A.C. Solomon, Enslin’s Horse)
[BWM and VM]

Allan Solomon came from a well known and well respected family in Cape Town. His great uncle, Saul Solomon had been a leading light in the fairest Cape in the 1800’s and had at one time been offered the position of Prime Minister of the Cape Colony. He was also the owner and original publisher of the Cape Argus newspaper.

Having completed his studies he went on to the University of Cape Town where he was enrolled for the years 1895 and 1896 whereafter he was employed by the Railways which is where we find him at the outbreak of the Anglo Boer War in October 1899. Solomon was employed in a clerical capacity and it was as a Clerk that he saw service in the war only joining up on 20 March 1902, towards the end of the conflict.

For his efforts he was awarded the Queens Medal with no clasps.



Continuing in the employ of the Railways the equanimity of his life was undisturbed for a further 12 years until that momentous day dawned when the world woke up to find itself at war. On 11 October 1914 Solomon enlisted with Enslin’s Horse for service in German South West Africa. Assigned no. 137 and the rank of Private he provided his father, H. Solomon of “Dorean”, Algarkirk Road, Sea Point as his next of kin. Fighting it out with the Germans and, more importantly the heat and dust, Solomon’s service ended with the disbandment of his unit on 26 May 1915, some two months before the cessation of hostilities there. For his troubles he was awarded the 1914/15 Star.

Now at a loose end Solomon was faced with the choice of returning to his humdrum job on the Railways or continuing the fight with the Germans. Choosing the Western Front he completed the strangely named Attestation form “For Period of German War and Six Months After if Required” at Cape Town on 23 August 1915. Signing up for the South African Heavy Artillery he confirmed that he was 35 years and 11 months old and that he was a Civil Clerk by occupation. He claimed previous service with the Cape Town Guards before being transferred to the Imperial Military Railways until they were disbanded.

Physically he was 5 feet 7 inches in height, weighed 148 pounds and had a fresh complexion, grey eyes and dark hair. He was a member of the Church of England. Having been pronounced as Fit for the Army he was assigned no. 581 and the rank of Gunner.

With service counting from 9 August 1915 he set sail for England and, on arrival on 16 September 1915, settled in for a period of training and adjustment. On 19 October 1915 he was promoted to Acting Bombardier and on 1 January 1916 he was appointed as Temporary Lieutenant before being posted to the 75th (Natal) Siege Battery of the South African Heavy Artillery. His promotion was Gazetted.

The battery had its first encounter with gas on the night of 3 June when a large number of shells fell in the neighbourhood of the battery position. For the Battle of the Somme the battery fell under III Corps with the first shot being fired on 11 June the target being the ruins of the church of La Boiselle. Having calibrated their guns they were in an ideal position when the barrage bombardment started on 1 July. Despite having fired 7 874 rounds from the Albert position very little hostile shelling was encountered. On 14 July the sections moved forward to Becourt Wood and at the end of July both sections billeted in the cellars of the village of Mametz. This is where the first casualties were sustained – two gunners being wounded.

Solomon was promoted to full Lieutenant on 11 August 1916 and on 16 October 1917 was awarded the Military Cross for bravery. The citation in the London Gazette read thus,

“For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. When an ammunition dump and a truck full of ammunition were set on fire by enemy shells, with a small party he went to the spot and extinguished the fire, in spite of several explosions, after fifteen minutes work, thereby saving many lives and a large quantity of ammunition.”



From 31 July until 20 December 1917 the battery supported every attack made on the Pileem Ridge, Passchendaele Ridge and Houthoust Forest incurring only one casualty, Solomon, who was slightly wounded, by shrapnel in the left leg. Admitted to 4 Casualty Clearing Station he received treatment for the wound before being transferred to 24 General Hospital at Etaples. On 7 November 1917 he was sent back to England aboard the “Stad Antwerpen” being admitted to the S.A. Hospital at Richmond in Surrey for further treatment on 16 November.

The Proceedings of a Medical Board assembled at Richmond in respect of Solomon reported that he had sustained a G.S.W. RIGHT FOOT at Langemark in Flanders on 3 November 1917 and that he be granted 3 weeks convalescent leave. The Board’s finding was that ‘the officer was wounded with H.E. shell on the outer side of right ankle. Small Foreign Bodies removed at 24th General Hospital at Etaples. Admitted S.A. Military Hospital with small linear incisions with two stitches just above lateral malleolus. On 13 November stitches removed.’

Discharged from hospital Solomon whiled away the time before he was able to return to the front. The monotony of his days broken by the announcement that he had been Mentioned in Despatches on 28 December 1917 and a visit to Buckingham Palace on 2 January 1918 where the Military Cross was pinned to his chest by King George V at a ceremony for that purpose.

His promotion to temporary Captain was announced on 22 November 1918.

For his efforts he was awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal to go with his Military Cross and 1914/15 Star. These are missing.

Allan Cameron Solomon passed away in Johannesburg in 1956, 25 years later at the age of 77. He had never married.
Dr David Biggins
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