A brave and by his own words modest man died last month. His name was Mike Dauncey. He was 97, and so in the language of the battle for hearts and minds that the English call the game of cricket, Dauncey had a “good innings”.
It was so nearly not so. Below is his citation that accompanied his DSO medal for his actions at the Bridge Too Far of Arnhem. (He was recommended for the supreme accolade, the Victoria Cross) but better yet, read the story of his wounding, hospitalisation, capture, escape, the matter-of-fact bravery of his Dutch hosts told in his own words and note once again that characteristic shrug of the shoulders courage of a generation of men that should be celebrated now and forever.
During the action at Arnhem from 20th to 25th September 1944, Lt Dauncey was in command of a party of men defending the guns of the Airlanding Light Regiment RA at Oosterbeek. The position was continually attacked by superior forces of enemy tanks and infantry. On three occasions the enemy overran the sector necessitating a counter attack. Lt Dauncey, on his own initiative, organised and led each sortie with such determination that the positions were regained with heavy loss to the enemy. In the face of heavy small arms and mortar fire he personally attacked machine-gun posts, showing remarkable coolness and complete disregard for his own personal safety. During these attacks he was wounded on three occasions but refused to be evacuated from the area.
On 24th September a more determined attack was made by the enemy using tanks and S.P. guns. Lt Dauncey, whilst leading his men in a further counter attack, was wounded again – losing the sight of one eye. In spite of pain, and handicap of defective vision, he continued to lead his men in a fearless manner thus recapturing the lost ground and inflicting heavy loss to the enemy.
On 25th September the position was subjected to intense fire from an enemy S.P. gun. The houses were set on fire and the order was received to withdraw. By now no anti-tank weapons were available and there was imminent danger of the enemy S.P. gun penetrating the gun positions. Realising this fact, Lt Dauncey, who had remained alone, assaulted the enemy vehicle single-handed with gammon bombs. By his action the critical situation was averted but Lt Dauncey received further injuries which resulted in his capture by the enemy.
The high morale of the men, who had been drawn from many units, was undoubtedly due to the fine example of this officer. Had the enemy broken through this sector, the gun positions would have become untenable and thus unable to support the Airborne Division.
Lt Dauncey’s indomitable courage, initiative, coolness and selfless devotion to duty, in spite of his wounds, was in keeping with the highest traditions of the service.