Today, a campaign to restore the grave of a London Great War hero comes to its end with a service at the Grave of Commander A.W. Buckle, who was repeatedly decorated for gallantry
while serving as the commander of the Anson Battalion, Royal Naval Division.
Archibald Walter Buckle was a London schoolteacher. When war was declared in 1914, he was away on his honeymoon, but cut it short to join his unit in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. He was commissioned as an officer after serving at Antwerp during the German advance through Belgium in 1914.
He was sent to the Western Front again in 1916, when the Royal Naval Division (naval officers and men fighting as infantry) was deployed there towards the end of the year. He served his distinction in the battles of Arras and Third Ypres (Passchendaele), the German Spring Offensive and the Hundred Days campaign that brought the Allies victory in 1918. By the end of the war he had risen to be the commanding officer of the Anson Battalion.
In the last few years of the war, Buckle earned the Distinguished Service Order four times. This medal was awarded to senior field officers (such as battalion commanders like Buckle) for bravery, leadership and other good work. He was said to have been recommended for the Victoria Cross, but really earning four DSOs is just as impressive – showing repeated bravery and leadership rather than a single act to earned the higher award.
Commander Buckle’s story is told in greater depth on other websites, such as an extensive biography on the Friends of Brockley and Ladywell Cemetery website, as well as his obituary and a contemporary account by a comrade.
1st bar, July 1918 (after first award in March).
T./Lt.-Cmdr. Archibald Walter Buckle, D.S.O., R.N.D., R.N.V.R. For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty when in command of a battalion. He repelled the enemy’s attack, organised a counter-attack, and drove the enemy completely out of the menaced area. It was largely due to his courage, initiative and leadership that this important success was obtained.
2nd bar: January 1919
T./Comdr. Archibald Walter Buckle, D.S.O., Anson Bn., R.N.D., R.N.V.R. For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. When the progress of the brigade at a critical moment was checked by machine-gun fire, he went forward himself with his battalion staff, reorganised his battalion and led it forward on to commanding ground, seriously threatening the enemy’s retreat. The success of the operation was largely due to his courage and fine leadership.
3rd bar: October 1919
T./Comdr. Archibald Walter Buckle, D.S.O., Anson Bn., R.N.D., R.N.V.R. During the fighting round Niergnies on 8th October, 1918, he showed great courage and powers of leadership. After the enemy had counter-attacked and succeeded in entering our lines, he seized an enemy antitank rifle and engaged three hostile tanks with it and drove them off. He then rallied men of various units in his neighbourhood and led them forward to the positions whence they had been forced. Throughout he did excellent work.
Buckle returned from the war to Brockley and to his job as a teacher, becoming headmaster master of the council school in New Road, Rotherhithe. He suffered from his war wounds though, and his premature death in 1927 from bronchialpneumonia through osteomyelitiswas judged to have have been accelerated by his war wounds.
Commander Buckle was a London war hero. According to his obituary, ‘Mr Winston Churchillhas referred to Buckle as one of the “salamanders born in the furnace,” who survived “to lead,to command, and to preserve the sacred continuity”.’ Today his grave has been restored as a mark of respect and his story has become public knowledge again