Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (30 March 2011)

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Date of Auction: 30th March 2011

Sold for £3,600

Estimate: £3,000 - £3,500

A rare and impressive Second World War Italy operations M.M. and Bar group of five awarded to Gunner J. Gilzean, Royal Artillery: a long-served O.P. signaller, he won an immediate Bar to his M.M. for the action at Lake Comacchio in April 1945 - an action invariably linked to the posthumous V.Cs won by Tom Hunter of the Commandos and Anders Lassen of the S.A.S.

Military Medal, G.VI.R., with Second Award Bar (14226045 Gnr. J. Gilzean, R.A.); 1939-45 Star; Italy Star; Defence and War Medals 1939-45, contact marks, generally very fine (5) £3000-3500


178 first Bars to the M.M. were awarded in the 1939-45 War.

M.M. London Gazette 28 June 1945. The original recommendation states:

‘Gunner Gilzean, on 31 August 1944, was detailed for O.P. duty with Captain Edgar in support of 46 Reconnaissance Regiment who were protecting the left flank of 46 Division. That day Mondaino was captured and Captain Edgar occupied an O.P. in the castle. He worked with remote control from his Dingo which was parked outside.

The following night the castle and surrounds came under heavy fire from 150mm. guns. The remote control was twice cut by splinters, and each time Gunner Gilzean volunteered to go out to repair it, which he succeeded in doing. When the wireless failed a third time, Gunner Gilzean again went out to repair it, this time finding that part of a tombstone had been thrown into the Dingo, breaking the steering wheel and damaging the wireless set. He removed the set, repaired and replaced it, again under shell fire.

Gunner Gilzean has acted as O.P. Signaller for over a year. He has invariably proved himself to be exceptionally calm and courageous under shell fire, and most efficient at his job.’

Bar to M.M. London Gazette 5 July 1945. The original recommendation states:

‘During No. 2 Commando Brigade’s operation of 2-4 April 1945, on the spit east of Lake Comacchio, Gunner Gilzean was Wireless Operator to one of the Forward Observation Officers with No. 2 Commando.

During particularly heavy mortar and shell fire on 2 April, Gilzean was wounded, but continued to maintain a first class communication, and as a direct result quick fire was brought down on an enemy counter attack which developed on the evening of 2 April 1945, and which was successfully broken up.

Shortly after this, while weak from loss of blood and in some pain, he was confronted by a German Officer whom he promptly took prisoner. He continued at duty until ordered to the rear on the morning of 3 April by his Troop Commander.

Gunner Gilzean’s standard of coolness, courage and efficiency was of the highest order and he was an inspiration to those around him.’

John Gilzean, who was from Stanley, Perthshire, served in the perilous role of Observation Post Signaller in 142 Royal Devonshire Yeomanry Field Regiment, Royal Artillery, throughout the Italian campaign. Equipped with 25-pounder self propelled Bishop guns, the unit, having earlier participated in the Sicily landings, lent valuable service at the Salerno landings and beyond, including the Monte Cassino operations.

But it was in the costly offensive launched against the Argenta Gap, east of Bologna, in early April 1945, that Gilzean won his second M.M., an action invariably linked to the spit of land which separated Lake Comacchio from the Adriatic. So, too, to two posthumous V.Cs, namely those won by Lance-Corporal Tom Hunter, 43 Commando, Royal Marines, on the very day Gilzean was himself wounded while acting in direct support of the Commandos, and, a few days later, by Anders Lassen, S.A.S., who had been operating in the area with his S.A.S. team.