Did They Get Their Medals

The first Filipino I ever met was a temporary teacher at West Byfleet Secondary School in Surrey. We were tall, obstreperous teenagers around 15 years old and he was a short, wiry man, probably in his 30s, with whipcord muscles and an easy smile who taught us PE (Physical Exercise). He was the only teacher I can recall who had the courage to mix it with us on the Rugby field. Rugby is a rough game, especially when played by 15 year old Brits, and the opportunity to cause some physical pain to a teacher was ever-present and taken advantage of. He was certainly Rizalian, he gave what he got, and he acted as an equal.

I can’t recall a single racist remark being made against him. In fact, we became rather proud of him as a sort of Local Hero when, spotting the lower floor of a house on fire and realising the occupants were asleep and unaware on the upper floor, had the presence of mind to throw a milk bottle through the upstairs window to wake them up. He undoubtedly saved their lives.

Sadly, like the Rose, I cannot recall his name.

I was reminded of him while flipping through the Rizal issue of the Philippine Republic for December 1925. What caught my eye was a small paragraph that may have been printed at the request of the Bureau of Insular Affairs in Washington possibly at the behest of the British Foreign Office. The British government was searching for five brave Filipinos in order to give them medals.

The Filipinos, identified only as E. Laxinto, R. Valencia, H. Sim, J Demerin and C. Fernandez, were apparently working aboard the President Lines passenger ship SS President Taft when they went to assist the crew of a shipwrecked British merchant vessel, the Mary Horlock. Says the report “Their conduct was of such meritorious character it was reported to the British government, which has awarded each of the five men a medal of gallantry”.

All I can find on the Mary Horlock is that she was a dry cargo carrier of 5,253 tons and served in WW1. She sank in the Western Pacific on January 26, 1924. As of the December 1925 issue those five Filipino heroes had yet to be found.

I wonder if they ever got their medals?

4 thoughts on “Did They Get Their Medals

  1. Bob,

    Hello, I know this is a little off subject, but I have had difficulty contacing you through email. Just finished reading “Hang the Dogs.” Your book, along with Borrinaga’s, are by far the best sources written on the subject that I have seen and I found both of them very enlightening. Also, I have been doing a little research on my own and have come across some materials that I would like you to comment on (if you have the time):

    * First of all, I found a “New York Times” article dated October 7, 1901 stating that Foote was in Balangiga the day BEFORE the attack (Sept. 27th) and had warned Connel. The report says that Foote had been warned about the impending attack by a priest in Basey, and that he felt Connel had taken the necessary precautionary measures. Have you heard anything about this reported visit?

    * After reading the section in your book, “Fakes, Frauds, and Mystery,” I was curious whether a couple of individual accounts I have come across are legitimate or phony. First, Company C member Delbert Gibson is listed both by your book and by the “Annual Reports of the War Department” as not being at Balangiga during the attack, rather he had been “probably left at Manila” in the hospital. However, an article in “The Daily Oklahoman” (Gibson lived in Oklahoma City) dated December 18, 1901 printed a letter Gibson had sent to his mother describing the attack in which, according to him, he not only was present, but also was wounded in the hip while bayoneting a Filipino attacker. Some of the details of his account sound like they fit, however there are some mistakes that make it appear fishy. I have not seen Gibson mentioned in any of the survivor’s accounts that I have access to, so I was curious. Secondly, another article also from “The Daily Oklahoman” dated July 30, 1908 details the miserable mental anguish being suffered by a supposed Company C survivor of Balangiga named Patrick McGuire from Brooklyn. According to the report, McGuire had tried to kill himself in order to escape the memories of the massacre. However, none of the records that I have seen list a Patrick McGuire enrolled in Company C, and neither do the survivor’s accounts mention him that I am aware of. Again, I am curious if you know anything about this one.

    *Lastly, have you read Andrew Pohlman’s, “My Army Experiences,” published in 1906? The book chronicles Pohlman’s time with the 1st Infantry stationed at Borongan before, during, and after the Balangiga Incident. It is a good first-hand source of information on the “kill and burn” campaign that was taking place on Samar BEFORE the Massacre at Balangiga.

    I have many other questions, but I have already used up enough of your time. If you would like to have electronic copies of the above mentioned articles or book, just let me know and I will email them to you.

    Frank Moser Email: hoopscoach_77@yahoo.com

  2. Hi, Pvt. Delbert Gibson’s May 12, 1902 discharge includes where he served. The massacre at Balangiga is listed. Gibson was from Meadville, Missouri. Hope this helps.
    Best wishes, Jim Shaw

    1. Hi, Malcolm, in which case I’m surprised I didn’t remember it – that was my step-mother;s maiden name. An odd name for a Filipino though.

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