2nd Lt Cyril Gardner, of British harbour, Royal Newfoundland Regiment
On January 27, 1917, the Newfoundland Regiment were in support of an attack launched by the 87th Brigade. The Newfoundlanders provided machine gun and trench mortar support as well as stretcher duty to bring in wounded soldiers. Some of the men eager to join the fight went over the top of their own volition. It was here that one of the most celebrated stories of the Regiment occurred. Company Sergeant Major Cyril Gardner of British Harbour was in no man’s land after the advance, supposedly keeping an eye on his own men, when he stumbled across a company of the enemy in a trench that had been by-passed by the advancing 87th Brigade. Acting quickly, he seized a gun (as he was unarmed) and said to a German officer, “Tres bon. You’re late. Everyone else had Kameraded.”
Surprisingly an entire company of Germans capitulated to an unarmed Gardner. Triumphantly, Gardner marched his prize back to his own line, but not without incident. As he approached, a British officer confronted his prisoners, with his gun raised, threatening to shoot them. If not for Gardner’s coolness and his brevity at stopping the British officer, these Germans would have been slaughtered. In recognition of Gardner’s actions, a decorated German officer knowing that Gardner saved their lives pinned Germany’s coveted military medal, the Iron Cross First Class, onto Gardner’s breast. Gardner was awarded a Bar to the Distinguished Conduct Medal he had won at Gueudecourt after much lengthy discussions and possible repercussions ostensibly for his action of having been out in No-Man’s-Land unarmed but more likely because of his confrontation with the British officer.
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