b. 24/09/1903 Bournemouth, Dorset. d. 06/04/1943 Sfax, Tunisia.
Derek Anthony Seagrim (1903-1943) was born in Bournemouth, Dorset, on 24th September 1903, the third of five sons, with one of his younger brothers being Hugh Seagrim GC, DSO, MBE. The Seagrim brothers hold the distinction of being the only siblings to be awarded the VC and GC (both posthumously). Their father was the Reverend Charles Seagrim, rector of Whissonsett in Norfolk and he was educated at the Norwich School, Norwich, where Derek and his younger brother Hugh also attended later.
He received his commission into the Green Howards in 1923 and served in Jamaica, Palestine and China. He completed a three-year tour with the King’s African Rifles in East Africa and, in 1939, returned to the 1st Battalion the Green Howards in Palestine as Intelligence Officer. At the outbreak of World War II, he was an Air Liaison Officer in East Africa before working on the staff for the Greek Campaign between 1941 – 42. He was given command of 7th Battalion the Green Howards at El Alamein in October 1942.
On the night of 20th/21st March, 1943, a battalion of the Green Howards was ordered to attack and capture an important and strongly defended feature on the Mareth Line. The battalion was subjected to intense fire; it appeared more than probable that it would be held up and that the main attack would fail. Lieutenant-Colonel Seagrim realized the seriousness of the situation and at the head of his battalion led it through a hail of fire to the assault, personally attacking two machine-gun posts; it is estimated that in this phase he killed, or captured, twenty Germans. By his personal courage, disregard for his own safety, and outstanding leadership he so inspired his men that the battalion successfully took and held its objective, thereby enabling the attack to proceed.
Derek died days later at a military hospital near Sfax, Tunisia on 6th April 1943, after being severely wounded at the Battle of Wadi Akarit. He is buried in Sfax War Cemetery, Plot XIV Row C Grave 21. Derek’s younger brother Hugh was posthumously awarded the George Cross for “most conspicuous gallantry in carrying out hazardous work in a very brave manner”, after he and eight of his Karen companions were executed by the Japanese in Rangoon. Both brothers’ medal groups were placed on loan at the Imperial War Museum in 2010 and are displayed side by side in the Ashcroft Gallery.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: SFAX WAR CEMETERY, SFAX, TUNISIA.
PLOT XIV, ROW C, GRAVE 21.
Kevin Brazier – Cemetery Map.
Andrew Swan – Image of the Seagrim VC miniature medals at the Green Howards Museum, Richmond.