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20 Battalion and Armoured Regiment

Bar to Victoria Cross

Bar to Victoria Cross

From Jun 27 to Jul 15 Capt Upham performed five acts of conspicuous gallantry. He was with his Company during all the fighting that took place during this period though he was wounded on three different occasions—on the night Jun 27/28; on the night Jul 14/15 and again on the afternoon Jul 15. On the first two occasions he rejoined his Company as soon as his wounds were dressed and after the third occasion, when he could no longer walk, he was taken prisoner of war. He showed fine leadership at all times and under his command his Company earned a remarkable reputation in attack. Capt Upham's complete indifference to danger and his personal bravery has become a byword in the whole of the NZEF.

Jun 27th: During the afternoon, when the Germans attacked the NZ positions at Minquar Quaim, the enemy made several attempts to clear a path for their tanks through our minefield. One forward section post of Capt Upham's Coy was occupying an important position on the edge of the minefield, and it was very heavily shelled and machine-gunned. Capt Upham walked forward over the ground that had no cover of any sort and which was swept by enemy fire, stayed with this section for a short period and came away only when he had assured himself that it could carry on and hold its ground.

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Night Jun 27/28: During the night when the NZ Div broke through the Germans at Minquar Quaim, Capt Upham led his men in inspiring fashion and his Coy overcame several enemy posts. The attack took place in very bright moonlight and at one stage a truck full of German soldiers was seen moving slowly through the soft sand. Capt Upham and a Corporal ran forward together, and in spite of heavy Tommy Gun fire from the Germans they reached the side of the truck and with hand grenades wiped out the entire truck load and left the truck in flames. Not one German left the burning vehicle. Capt Upham was slightly wounded in both arms from the explosions of his own grenades. He did not report to get his wounds treated until the following night when the Div was back in new positions, and he then rejoined his Coy.

Night Jul 14/15: During the attack on el ruweisat ridge Capt Upham's Coy was part of the reserve battalion which, during the six miles advance, was about two miles behind the leading battalions. Wireless communication had broken down and Capt Upham was instructed to send forward an officer in a ‘jeep’ to contact the forward battalions and bring back information. He went himself instead and after being fired on by an enemy post, procured a Spandau gun and set it up in the car. He had several further encounters with enemy posts but by operating the gun himself while the driver of the ‘jeep’ drove through anything in their path, he contacted the forward troops and brought back the necessary information.

Just before dawn, when the reserve battalions and the anti-tank guns were almost on to their objective, very heavy fire was encountered from a strongly defended enemy locality. There were four machine-gun posts and about five tanks. Capt Upham's Coy was the leading Coy and he quickly directed the attack on the two nearest MG's, which were using tracer builets. He personally led the attack on one post which was silenced and the enemy bayonetted. During the attack Capt Upham was shot in the elbow by a machine-gun bullet and his arm broken. He stayed with his men until the objective was captured and until positions were consolidated. He then reported to the RAP and then, with his arm in splints, went back to his Coy and stayed with it all day under the most trying conditions of heavy enemy artillery and mortar fire. The enemy made a strong counter-attack late in the afternoon, and Capt Upham was again wounded by mortar fire. He was no longer able to walk.

Capt Upham was taken prisoner of war on 15 Jul 42.

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