A Diffident Colonel
Colonel Denis Keliher Wells TD. Honorable Artillery Company Royal Artillery
The Man Denis Keliher Wells was born on 27th October 1917 in Marylebone son of Henry W Wells and Norah L nee Keliher. Little detail is known about his early life but during 1937 aged 20 he enlisted into the Honorable Artillery Company, the oldest regiment in the British Army and the second most senior unit of the Territorial Army, in the Royal Artillery, 121st Officer Cadet Training Unit with service number 1397171 and was promoted to Sergeant. He was described as 5’ 9” tall, of a fresh complexion with blue eyes and dark brown hair. He served a total of 2 years and 22 days and was discharged on 23rd December 1939 at Aldershot upon being appointed to an Emergency Commission in the Regular Army. His military conduct was given as Very Good and his Testimonial read: ”Excellent technical knowledge and a good all round cadet. Though somewhat diffident in nature, should do well”. The next day, 24th December aged 22 Denis was Commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant into the RA with a new service number 113128. He was promoted to War Substantive Lieutenant on 27th June 1941, Temporary Captain 5th February 1943, Acting Major 1st November 1943, War Substantive Captain and Honorary Major 1st February 1944. He saw service in North Africa as part of the 8th Army, the Italian campaign and North West Europe and was mentioned in despatches on 22nd March 1945 for gallant and distinguished Services in NW Europe. He was awarded the 1939-45 Star, Africa Star with 8th Army clasp, Italy Star, France & Germany Star, Defence Medal and War Medal 1939-45 with MiD. On 3rd May 1946 he was discharged from the 190th Field Regiment RA at the Military dispersal unit in Guildford and in the London Gazette of 25th March 1949 awarded the Efficiency Medal ‘Territorial’ with the HAC ribbon. On 1st April 1951 he transferred from the war time Emergency Commission back into the Territorial Army as a Lieutenant with seniority backdated 22nd January 1944 and one month later on 1st May promoted back to Captain and acting Major which became substantive on 27th October. On 1st January 1958 he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel followed by promotion to Brevet Colonel on 1st January 1962 and transferred to the Territorial Army Reserve of Officers on 2nd January aged 44, and back into the TA from the TARO on 14th February 1963.
He was promoted to full Colonel the same day moving from the Royal Artillery to Commands and Staff. On 28th February 1965 aged 48 he was transferred from the active list back into the TARO and was awarded the Efficiency Decoration ‘Territorial’ in the London gazette of 16th March 1965, the earlier award of his Efficiency Medal was cancelled the same day, although the medal never returned, due to the extant regulations at the time, but later changed. In July 1986 aged 69 Denis Married Evelyn M Beattie in the registration district of Deben, Suffolk and died nine years later during the first quarter of 1995 aged 77 and is buried in All Saint’s Church, Sudbourne, Suffolk, his headstone being placed by his wife.
The Story The group of medals awarded to Denis Keliher Wells were acquired from E-Bay on 17th November 2014 and were of interest because of the Efficiency Medal with Honorable Artillery Company ribbon and the award of the Efficiency Decoration in 1965. It was possible to build up a very brief biography from the London Gazette and Ancestry.UK as well as finding his grave on the Gravestone Photographic Resource. Further detail may be forthcoming from his will in due course.
The Honourable Artillery Company is the oldest regiment in the British Army and the second most senior unit of the Territorial Army. The Company traditionally dates its origins to 1537 when Henry VII granted a charter to the Fraternity or Guild of Artillery of Longbows, Crossbows and Handguns for ‘the better increase of the defence of this our realm’ and ‘the maintenance of the science of artillery’. This fraternity practised in the Artillery Ground in Bishopsgate (Spitalfields) until around the 1560s. During the years of the Armada threat in 1586-1588, this practice ground was again used by the officers who trained the City of London’s Trained Bands and who were also known as the ‘Captains of the Artillery Garden’. The word ‘artillery’ was used at this time to describe archery and other missile weapons, while bigger guns were known as ‘great artillery’. In 1611 practice was again revived in the Bishopsgate ground when the ‘society of arms’ also used the space for training. This 1611 group, who were performing the same training in the same space used by the 1537 fraternity, are the certain ancestors of today’s Honourable Artillery Company. During the Civil War period of 1642-1649, the City of London was predominantly Parliamentarian and members of the Artillery Company fought on mainly the Parliamentarian side, but there were also some Royalists amongst its membership and also men who changed sides. Although some of the Company’s silver and records were lost during the Civil War period, its Archives mainly survive from 1657. Since at least the 1620s (according to new research), the HAC has been governed by a Court of Assistants, like many of the City livery companies, and a number of committees are appointed by the Court. The courtesy prefix ‘Honourable’, which was first used informally in 1685, was officially confirmed by Queen Victoria in 1860. The Company has always had strong connections with the City of London. In the early part of the 17th Century the Court of Aldermen appointed the chief officers and paid the professional soldiers who trained members of the Company. The Lord Mayor and Aldermen are honorary members of the Court of Assistants. Since the Restoration, the Company has provided Guards of Honour in the City for visits by members of the Royal Family and overseas Heads of State. In gratitude for the Company’s role in restoring order to the City at the time of the Gordon Riots in 1780, the Corporation of London presented ‘two brass field-pieces’, leading to the creation of the HAC’s first dedicated artillery unit. In the mid nineteenth century the control of the Company moved from the Home Office to the War Office and in 1889 a Royal Warrant gave the Secretary of State for War full control of the Company’s military affairs. The first occasion that the Company’s membership saw active service overseas was as part of the City Imperial Volunteers (CIV) during nine months in 1900 when the CIV served in the South African War. In 1908 the Company became part of the Territorial Army. Seven HAC units were mobilised for the First World War with nearly 13,000 men serving in one of the HAC units, with around 4,000 commissioned into other units of the armed forces. Over 1600 members serving either in HAC units or with other units of the armed forces were casualties of this war. In the Second World War the HAC provided four regiments of artillery, whilst its Infantry Battalion was converted into an Officer Cadet Training Unit. Around 4,000 men were commissioned into other units of the armed forces. Around 900 members and other men serving with HAC units died in the Second World War. Since 1947 the Company has remained part of the Territorial Army – now renamed the Army Reserve. Also referred to as being part of the Active Unit is the Special Constabulary. Formed in 1919 as a detachment for the Metropolitan Police, it has been aligned to the City of London Police since 2003.
With thanks to GRAVESTONE PHOTOGRAPHIC RESOURCE for providing the picture of Colonel D K WEllS' Heasdstone
- 1939 - 45 Star: Unnamed as issued.
- Africa Star: Unnamed as issued.
- Italy Star: Unnamed as issued.
- France & Germany Star: Unnamed as issued.
- Defence Medal: Unnamed as issued
- War Medal 1939-45: Unnamed as issued
- Efficiency Decoration: 1965
- Efficiency Medal: CAPT. D.K.WELLS R.A.
This page last updated 13 Sep 15