- Second World War (1939-1945)
- No. 51 Commando, Combined Operations Headquarters, War Office, British Government
- Awarded on:
- September 23rd, 1943
“Before Keren, Eritrea.
On the night of 4/5 March 1941, three Officers and 35 other ranks were given the difficult task of scaling a very steep gully running south from the heights of Beit Gabru. Their instructions were to harass the enemy position at the top where ever possible.
At 2230 hours they bumped into an enemy post, which incidentally happened to be wired, and having got through the wire succeeded in killing all the occupants of the enemy position. They straight away moved on and took up a position on top of the high ground awaiting daylight, hoping then to see what their next best move should be. As daylight broke they were engaged by Breda (an Italian make of machine gun), mortar and rifle fire at close range. It was evident that a considerable force of the enemy was endeavouring to surround them. At this period two men were badly wounded. The officer, realising that they were not a strong enough force to hold their position, gave orders for a withdrawal. He, Sergeant Heath and one other officer remained behind to cover the withdrawal with their Tommy Guns. The distance to the edge of the ridge where troops could take cover from fire was a matter of approximately 60 to 70 yards. This vantage point having been gained, the covering party started to withdraw themselves. After retreating some 30 yards, they came across one of the wounded men previously mentioned. His legs appeared to be paralysed.
Sergeant Heath again gave covering fire while the two officers endeavoured to drag the wounded man to cover. They had gone but a few yards, when the officer commanding the party was hit in the foot, at the same time the wounded man received another bullet which killed him. Both men then proceeded to assist the wounded officer and again before the safety margin could be reached the Officer Commanding the party received a second wound which laid him low, and the other officer was hit in the foot. Sergeant Heath received a graze on his left arm that stopped him from getting a wound in his hip. The Officer Commanding the party’s last words, were orders to leave him and for them to get away as best they could. Sergeant Heath again gave covering fire with his Tommy Gun. At this period his Tommy-Gun jammed, and he managed to make the falling ground without further incident. At the same time helping back the other officer hit in the foot. Sergeant Heath was the only British NCO in the party. The exemplary nature of the way Sergeant Heath behaved was remarked on from all sides.
Since that date, he has continued to work with untiring energy in spite of the fact that he has had to attend sick parade daily, and has refused to be sent down on the sick list. His command has since been taken over by another officer. Both on 15th March and 21st March 41, it attacked enemy positions advancing over very difficult and exposed ground. On both of these occasions, Sergeant Heath by his coolness, determination and initiative helped very largely in these positions being gained by our troops.”