Three medals awarded to a Hemel Hempstead-born soldier who was one of the first British officers to be killed in action during the First World War will be auctioned tomorrow.
Major Alexander Ingles, of Apsley End, Kings Langley, was in his mid-forties when he was killed during the First Battle of the Aisne in Picardy, Northern France, on September 20, 1914 – just seven weeks after the start of conflict which claimed millions of live over the next four years.
He served with the first battalion of the West Yorkshire Regiment.
The second-in-command of the regiment subsequently wrote to Major Ingles’s widow: “You will be proud to know that he died a glorious death at the head of his company.
“The companies on the firing line were tricked by the Germans, who advanced under cover of the white flag and then opened fire and enfiladed our men in the trenches.
“Your husband then shouted out: ‘All who will not surrender follow me’ and retired fighting to the trenches on the left and was soon shot down and killed by a rifle bullet.
“He was buried where he fell with others of the company.”
Major Ingles was the most senior in rank and age to be killed during the first battalion’s first engagement of the war and is commemorated on the Ferte-sous-Jouarre Memorial.
The memorial, in a small town some 65 kilometres east of Paris, was unveiled in 1928 and commemorates nearly 4,000 officers and men of the British Expeditionary Force who died in August, September and the early part of October 1914 and who have no known grave.
Names are listed on the memorial by regiments in order of precedence, under the title of each regiment by rank, and under each rank alphabetically.
The battle in which he died was rapidly followed by the development of trench warfare, which dominated the conflict until 1918.
Now nearly 100 years after his death, his medals are coming up for sale and they are expected to fetch between £350 and £400 at Spink in Bloomsbury, London.
Oliver Pepys, a medals expert at Spink, said: “Major Ingles was one of his regiment’s finest officers in the early days of the Great War.
“He was killed in action leading his men from the front during his battalion’s first engagement of the war and in doing so set the standard of leadership that would be maintained by the officers of the regiment for the next four years.”
Major Ingles was the son of the Rev Canon David Ingles and his wife, Anna and the brother of Bessie Ingles.
The Ingles family lived at Apsley End, Kings Langley, and in 1871 they employed four live-in servants, including Hemel Hempstead-born Julia Arnold.
Altogether 13,541 British and French troops – including Major Ingles – were killed or wounded in the First Battle of the Aisne, which lasted for 16 days, from September 13,1914 to September 28,1914.
Major Ingles’s medals on offer at the auction include his 1914 Star and his British War and Victory medals.