Military and honours - Second World War
Decorations were awarded for actions both on and off the battlefield, by soldiers and civilians alike. This page tells the stories of just a handful of the many members of staff who were awarded decorations and service medals for their service during the Second World War.
In Autumn 1944, National Provincial Bank’s staff magazine Natproban was proud to report that the latest list of recipients of the Distinguished Service Cross, which was awarded for gallantry in operations at sea, included not one, but two members of the bank’s staff. Temporary Lieutenants John Reginald Pitt of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (from the bank’s New Milton branch, pictured above left), and Reginald Charles Lane of the Royal Marines (London Piccadilly branch, pictured above right) were both granted the medal in recognition of their service at the Salerno landing, which marked the beginning of the Allied invasion of Italy in September 1943. Lane went on to be awarded a bar to his Cross for his role in the invasion of Elba in June 1944. After the war, both men returned to work for the bank. Lane become manager of Brixton branch in 1957 before retiring in 1965.
James B Aldred of Westminster Bank was awarded the Military Cross for his service in the Royal Regiment of Artillery. Aldred was a member of staff at Westminster Bank’s Bradford branch before going on military service. In early 1944, Lieutenant Aldred, who at the time was serving as a temporary Captain, led his Battery for months through continuous battle in India, including the Battle of Imphal, in support of many Battalions of an Infantry Brigade. Captain Aldred, while leading his Battery, acted as forward observation officer and served in the gun position even as it was heavily shelled by enemy forces. In recommending Aldred for the Military Cross, his commander spoke of his ‘courage, calmness and fine leadership… under difficult and dangerous circumstances’. His show of continuous support, ‘regardless of his own personal safety’, served as ‘an inspiration to his brother officers and to the men of his Battery’.
In the air
Neil Cameron of Commercial Bank of Scotland was awarded both the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) and the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for his service in the Royal Air Force. Cameron began working for the bank in 1937, and was a member of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve prior to the outbreak of the war. By 1944 he had reached the rank of Acting Squadron Leader. In November of that year, he was awarded the DFC for his service in Britain, Russia, and the Far East. His official medal citation cites his leadership, ‘fine fighting spirit, reliability and great devotion to duty.’ In October 1945, Cameron was awarded the DSO for outstanding leadership, ‘keenness, determination and courage’, and ‘setting an inspiring example’ to other pilots while serving in Burma. After the war, Cameron resigned from the service of the bank to pursue his career in the RAF, eventually becoming an Air Chief Marshal in 1975. He achieved many other accolades and honours in his later years, and in 1983 was created a life peer, becoming Baron Cameron of Balhousie.
Constance M Mason was awarded a Red Cross service medal for her work with the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) (a voluntary unit of civilians providing nursing care for military personnel). Before and throughout the Second World War, Mason worked at the London Chief Office of Commercial Bank of Scotland, having joined the bank in 1916. In 1938, she volunteered with the Air Raid Precautions (ARP) First Aid Section and trained with the Red Cross. Upon passing her training, she was assigned to a men’s surgical ward in her local hospital in London where she underwent nursing duties and assisted with operations. She continued working for the bank throughout the war and carried out her nursing duties when not at work. Although her home was damaged by bombs three times during the war, Mason continued to carry out her duties, even while spending time in a public shelter. Mason also received a Blood Donor’s Medal from the Red Cross for the number of times she gave blood during the war.
Read about another member of staff who received a Red Cross service award here: Hilda Lloyd.
Some members of the British Armed Forces also received medals of service from other countries for their services. W Neil E Jones of National Provincial Bank and WJM Tabrum of Westminster Bank, among others, received the Croix de Guerre, a military decoration of France awarded to those soldiers who distinguish themselves by acts of heroism involving combat with enemy forces. HE Norris of Westminster Bank was awarded both the Chevalier of Order of Leopold II, a Belgian military decoration, and the Croix de Guerre for his service in the North West European campaign. Captain William James Melville Lamond, of St Andrews branch of National Bank of Scotland, was awarded the American Silver Star for his leadership during operations in Arnhem.