Orders, Decorations and Medals (25 September 2008)

Date of Auction: 25th September 2008

Sold for £5,000

Estimate: £4,000 - £5,000

An excessively rare Second World War D-Day M.M. group of five awarded to Leading Aircraftsman J. Y. M. S. Reid, Royal Air Force, a Medical Orderly who won an immediate award for ‘gallantry of a high order’ while treating wounded on St. Laurent beach, near Colleville - part of the “Omaha” sector - under intense fire

Military Medal
, G.VI.R. (1550961 L.A.C. J. Y. M. S. Reid, R.A.F.), in its orginal card box of issue; 1939-45 Star; France and Germany Star; Defence and War Medals, these last four in their original card forwarding box, good very fine and better (5) £4000-5000

Footnote

Just 121 awards of the Military Medal (M.M.) were granted to members of the Royal Air Force in the 1939-45 War, the majority for evasion. The above example for work as a Medical Orderly is believed to be unique for D-Day.

M.M.
London Gazette 14 November 1944:

‘For gallantry, skill, determination and undaunted devotion to duty during the landing of Allied Forces on the coast of Normandy.’

The original recommendation for an immediate award states:

‘This airman, whose duties are those of a Medical Orderly, landed with his unit on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. Whilst the beaches were under intense fire from heavy and small arms he, under the direction of his Medical Officer, tended for many hours some 100 wounded - this involved moving many times across the whole beach. His example was one of intense devotion to duty and gallantry of a high order and he is recommended for an immediate award of the Military Medal.’

John Young McGregor S. Reid commenced his wartime career as an R.A.F. Medical Orderly when transferred to the Radar Station at Chigwell, Essex in March 1943. Subsequently posted to the American “Dorchester Sector” in the lead up to the Normandy landings, where he was attached to the U.S. Sick Quarters Staff, Reid was actually allocated to the Royal Air Force’s No. 15082 G.C.I. (Radar Unit), a component of No. 85 Base Group, at Portland Bill on the eve of D-Day - the unit comprised 168 officers and men, and 47 lorries and radar vans, and was intended to offer immediate radar support to nightfighters operating in defence of the beachheads. Their destination: “Omaha”.

Setting out in a flotilla of five L.C.Ts from Portland, Reid and his comrades arrived off the Normandy coast soon after dawn on 6 June 1944, but their first attempt to land in the “Omaha” sector was cancelled as a result of the carnage building up on the main beach, and it was not until 1700 hours that their L.C.Ts finally ran ashore at St. Laurent, near Colleville. Even then the ground was being raked by 88mm. fire, Reid’s unit alone suffering casualties of 11 killed and 33 wounded - and these in addition to many Americans who still required treatment. And in this gallant work - under intense fire - Reid was assisted by his C.O., an R.A.F. Medical Officer, Flight Lieutenant R. N. Rycroft, who won the M.C. on the same occasion. In his report of events ashore, Rycroft stated:

‘We had been given to understand that when we reached the beach we should be told immediately where our transit area was, and should be sent there without delay. In point of fact the beach was without visible organisation and, since there was no exit, the vehicles remained strung out for about three hours. The German artillery took full advantage of this and shelled us with great accuracy for several hours. The men took refuge under vehicles and in hastily dug fox-holes in the line of the shingle at the upper limit of the beach. After a short time my assistance was needed for severely wounded cases in the shingle area. The majority of wounds were compound fractures of the limbs, although the men were all lying down when injured. During the treatment of these freshly wounded personnel it was discovered that there were about 20 American soldiers who had been wounded in the early morning assault, lying in holes in the shingle. They had only received elementary first aid and after 12 hours in the open were in some cases severely shocked. Their dressings were adjusted and measures taken to keep them warm. The American wounded could give us no idea where we could contact American Medical Units. The first American Medical Officer seen by me was seen at 2200 hours. I saw no more until 1200 hours on 7 June.

At 2130 hours, all the wounded had been attended to and had been carried to the shingle away from the advancing tide. The shelling had ceased except for spasmodic bursts. The vehicles remaining were slowly moved through a gap in the wire and out in a small lane leading to a cluster of houses ... The night was fortunately mild and except for one bomb dropped 50 yards away was quiet. The hours of darkness were spent in moving around the wounded, adjusting dressings and applying dressings to wounds that had not been discovered in the early hours of the landing. Since the wounded were so numerous it was not found practicable to attach labels to each patient since the time was fully spent doing first aid. Considering the severe nature of many of the injuries and the elementary anti-shock measures taken it was expected that many patients would die during the night. Actually three patients died out of about 60 wounded and these were severely wounded and would probably have died in hospital had one been available ... I should like, in conclusion, to refer to the work done by the sole Medical Orderly L.A.C. Reid, J. (15082 G.C.I. Unit). His assistance given throughout the 24 hours cannot be rated too highly.’

Nor did the casualties stop coming in over the next few days, for enemy snipers worked incessantly day and night - a fact confirmed in an excellent account of 15082 G.C.I. Unit’s Normandy sojourn by Corporal Eric Heathcote, R.A.F. (see the B.B.C’s website, WW2peopleswar). For his own part, Reid remained actively employed with the unit until returning home in September 1944, and was present at the liberation of Paris in the interim.

Sold with original Buckingham Palace forwarding letter for the M.M., and related War Office communication, dated 8 October 1946, together with a portrait photograph of the recipient wearing his Honours & Awards in old age.