A Collection of Medals to recipients of the Burma Star
Date of Auction: 17th February 2021
Sold for £800
Estimate: £400 - £500
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, O.B.E. (Military) Officer’s 2nd type breast badge, silver-gilt; India General Service 1936-39, 1 clasp, North West Frontier 1937-39 (Lt. M. Mc.Clure Williams. R.A.); 1939-45 Star; Africa Star; Burma Star; Defence and War Medals 1939-45, with M.I.D. oak leaf, light contact marks, generally good very fine (7) £400-£500
FootnoteO.B.E. London Gazette 2 June 1962.
The official recommendation states: ‘Lieutenant-Colonel McClure Williams has been Assistant Adjutant and Quartermaster General, and Deputy Commander of Caribbean Area, for the past two and a half years. In a period which has seen endless political, administrative and consequent morale problems his own work and his magnificent example and inspiration to others has been quite outstanding. On these grounds along, the details of which are now omitted, a citation for Award was in draft form when, on 1 November 1961, Hurricane Hattie struck British Honduras.
From that date and for the next few weeks which followed, his skilful, inspired and untiring work were quite beyond praise. From a small headquarters, and from all the available sources he quickly gathered together, personally instructed, and set in motion an emergency organisation which handled not only the extensive transit of military reinforcements, but also co-ordinated, set priorities, and arranged air and sea transport for the entire military, civil Government, and Voluntary Services relief supplies and workers from Jamaica to British Honduras. He can have had but few hours of sleep, but he maintained throughout an attitude of cheerfulness, confidence and leadership which not only encouraged the military and civilians involved to great and sustained efforts, but further achieved a most harmonious and co-operative effort, when conflict and confusion could so easily have resulted.
The extent and value of this Officer’s personal contribution to the relief measures for British Honduras cannot be exaggerated. His example of tireless devotion to duty was in the highest traditions of the Service.’
Michael McClure Williams was born on 8 June 1915 and was educated at Wellington School and the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. He was commissioned Second Lieutenant into the Royal Artillery on 29 August 1935, and was promoted Lieutenant on 29 August 1938. He served prior to the Second World War on the North-West Frontier of India (the Indian Army List for July 1940 lists him as having served with the 1st Royal Mountain Battery from 29 November 1938), and then during the Second World War in the Middle East in 1942, and in Burma 1944-45. Promoted War Substantive Captain on 25 August 1942, he served as Acting or Temporary Major for the majority of the War, and for his services was Mentioned in Despatches ‘in recognition of gallant and distinguished services in Burma’ (London Gazette 9 May 1946).
Promoted Major on 29 August 1948, McClure Williams held the command of 36 H.A.A. Regiment, Royal Artillery, from 1954 to 1959, and was promoted Lieutenant-Colonel on 31 December 1956. He was appointed Assistant Adjutant and Quartermaster General (and Deputy Commander) of the Caribbean Area on 4 July 1959, and for his services in the aftermath of Hurricane Hattie, which hit British Honduras (now Belize) in November 1961, was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire. He retired on 17 August 1962, and died on 18 April 2010.
Hurricane Hattie was the deadliest tropical cyclone of the 1961 Atlantic hurricane season, as well as the strongest, reaching a peak intensity equivalent to Category 5 hurricane intensity. Hattie originated from an area of low pressure that developed and intensified into a tropical storm near San Andres Island on October 27. Moving towards the north and north-northeast, the storm quickly gained hurricane status and major hurricane status the following day. Hattie turned towards the west to the east of Jamaica, and strengthened into a Category 5 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 160 mph. The hurricane moved ashore at British Honduras with powerful winds and a storm tide of up to 14 feet near Belize City, a city of 31,000 people located at sea-level; the city's only defences against the storm tide were a small seawall and a strip of swamp lands. The capital experienced a 10 ft storm tide along its waterfront that reached the third story of some buildings, in combination with high waves. High winds caused a power outage, downed trees across the region, and destroyed the roofs of many buildings. The hurricane destroyed the wall at an insane asylum, which allowed the residents to escape. A prison was also damaged, prompting officials to institute a "daily parole" program for the inmates. All of Belize City was coated in a layer of mud and debris, and majority of the city was destroyed or severely damaged. Damage throughout the territory totalled $60 million, and a total of 307 deaths were reported; more than 100 of the fatalities were in Belize City.
In the days after the storm, throngs of survivors numbering in the thousands roamed the streets for days digging about in the crumbled ruins in search of any kind of food. Hattie damaged Belize City badly enough to force the government to relocate to a new capital further inland: its present location in Belmopan. Some permanent towns, such as Hattieville, were formed from temporary shelters built for those made homeless by the hurricane. Violence broke out in the aftermath of the storm, causing the British frigate, HMS Troubridge to land 125 officers and men to aid colony police in halting widespread looting and pillaging.
On the 44th anniversary of the hurricane in 2005, the government of Belize unveiled a monument in Belize City to recognise the victims of the hurricane.