The Winning of the Victoria Cross
by Major H.W. Le Patourel at Tebourba Gap Tunisia 1942.
The painting by Terence Cuneo was commissioned by The Royal Hampshire Regiment in 1980; it is oil on canvas and measures 98 x 135cms.
Terence Cuneo CVO, OBE, RGI, FGRA had served in the Royal Engineers during the Second World War but was famous for his portraits, scenes of railways, horses and military action; he was the official artist for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.
Cuneo always placed a small mouse in his paintings and the postcard below shows a sketch he drew for this painting. The mouse is seen carrying the standard of the 78th Infantry Division, in which 2nd Hampshire fought.
Major H.W. Le Patourel VC
Citation for the award of the Victoria Cross:
After 2 days of hard fighting, on the afternoon of 3rd December 1942, the enemy had infiltrated to an important high feature on the left of the company commanded by Major Le Patourel. Counter attacks by another battalion and detachments from Major Le Patourel’s own company had been unable to regain the position. This officer then personally led four volunteers under very heavy fire to the top, in a last attempt to dislodge several enemy machine guns.
When the party was pinned down by machine-gun fire Major Le Patourel rallied his men several times and engaged the enemy, silencing several machine gun posts. Finally, when the remainder of his party were either killed or wounded, he went forward alone with a pistol and some grenades to attack the enemy machine guns at close quarters, and from this action he did not return. From reports received from the wounded men the officer died of wounds… Major Le Patourel’s most gallant conduct and self-sacrifice, his brilliant leadership and tenacious devotion to duty in the face of a determined enemy were beyond praise.
It was believed that Major Le Patourel had been killed and, indeed, his Victoria Cross was awarded posthumously. However, it was discovered later that he had been seriously wounded and taken prisoner.
He later recovered and finally died in 1979 a set of stamps being issued in his honour in Guernsey.