Orders, Decorations and Medals (25 March 1997)

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Date of Auction: 25th March 1997

Sold for £3,000

Estimate: £3,000 - £3,500

An exceptional Second World War D.C.M. and Korean War group of fifteen awarded to Sergeant Major Victor Debuf, Belgian Special Air Service Regiment

Distinguished Conduct Medal, G.VI.R. (2538 Tpr. V. Debuf, Belgian Army); 1939-45 Star; France and Germany Star; Defence and War Medals; Belgium, Medal of Honour, 2nd class with silver palm; Croix de Guerre 1940, with bronze palm; Volunteer Medal 1940-45; Volunteer Medal 1950, with 3 clasps, 1940-1945, Coree-Korea, Pugnator; War Medal 1940-45; Decoration of the Military Fighter; Korea Medal, with 3 clasps, Coree-Korea, Imjin, Chatkol; U.N. Korea, bar Coree; U.S.A., Bronze Star; Republic of Korea, Korea War Medal, edge bruise to the first, otherwise good very fine (15)


D.C.M. submitted to the King 10th February 1945. The citation, dated 20th December 1944, reads:

‘2538 Trooper Victor Debuf, Belgian Army. S.A.S. Operation CALIBAN, September, 1944, Province of Limburg (Belgium).

Trooper Debuf showed magnificent courage, intelligent initiative and presence of mind. Moving in daylight across open country, his squad of six was forced by an approaching German column, to hide in slit trenches. Trooper Debuf was detached with his Light Machine Gun for flank protection. An 88 mm gun Battery, unaware of their presence, stopped in front of them, and started firing its guns a few yards away, offering a field of fire to Debuf’s Light Machine Gun only. The latter, unable to contact his squad commander, due to the enemy being so near, acted on his own initiative.
He jumped into the open and fired his Bren-gun hose-pipe fashion from the hip, spraying the German position at point-blank range, and at the same time shouting to the rest of the squad to take firing positions, thereby initiating a violent engagement during which the enemy lost 52 killed and an undetermined number of wounded. The German Battery was subsequently forced to move elsewhere.’

Belgian Croix de Guerre, Prince Regent’s Decree, 13 February 1947. ‘For the courage he has shown during the Belgian Campaign, especially in the airborne operation at Caliban in September 1944.’

Belgian Medal of Honour, 2nd class, Royal Decree, 7 May 1952. ‘Won distinction by his courage, notwithstanding the danger, as a splendid section chief in United Nation’s service
in Korea on the first day of the Chinese Spring Offensive on April 23rd, 1951 [Battle of Imjin River]. Was wounded when he stood upright to direct the fire of his section that was partly overcome by a Chinese assault.’

U.S.A. Bronze Star, General Orders No. 636 of 7 July 1953. ‘As a squad leader, Sergeant Debuf maintained a high level of morale and aggressive combat efficiency among his men. When Sergeant Debuf was wounded in April 1951, he was sent to Belgium for a period of hospitalisation. Upon recovery, he again volunteered for Korean service and returned to his organisation as a platoon leader. His bravery in combat was a constant source of inspiration to the men under his command, and his loyalty, initiative, and devotion to duty earned him their respect and admiration. The meritorious service rendered by Sergeant Debuf throughout this period reflects great credit on himself and the Belgian Army.

Vic Debuf was born in Ostend on 14 November 1923 and volunteered for service with the Belgian Armed Forces in the UK on 17 April 1942. 5th (Belgian) SAS evolved from ‘B’ Company, 2nd Battalion, Belgian Fusiliers, which having formed in the UK on 8 May 1942, underwent parachute training at Ringway. Following qualification in October 1942, the company was attached to the British 3rd Parachute Battalion for tactical training. In January 1943 it was redesignated the Belgian Independent Parachute Company and, in August 1943, it posted as No. 4 Company to the British 8th Parachute Battalion. Further training involved the whole company going through the Commando Training Centre near Fort William, prior to joining the SAS Brigade in January 1944 as 5 SAS, and carrying out operational jumps in northwest Europe. On 10 September 1944, during SAS Operation CALIBAN, in the province of Limburg, Belgium, Debuf’s squad of six men was part of two groups under Sergeant Melsens setting up an ambush on the Helchteren - Bree road. Having deployed the men into ambush in a ‘sand-pit’ and behind a ‘grassy hillock’, Melsens was standing on the road checking his dispositions, when the approach of an 88 mm gun battery drove him into the nearest ditch.

‘Orders rang out. The guns were set up on the side of the road, ammunition unloaded and the empty ammunition waggons put to one side, near the grassy hillock’, runs an idiomatic contemporary commentary. Trooper Debuf was ‘in hiding behind his light machine gun, [and] was chewing over, more and more nervously, the sergeant’s last words: “Above all, don’t fire uselessly.” No more sergeant. And Cpl. Sas is out of voice range. In the sand-pit, the corporal is, moreover, facing his own problem: an insufficiently clear field of fire. And this is not the time to carry out fieldworks, even elementary ones. The gunners push another ammunition cart towards the hillock. The machine gunner can hang on no longer: the enemy is about to catch sight of him. He stands up, the light machine gun at his hip, fires on the Germans he can see and shouts to his comrades: “Get to the wood and cover me.” Numerous gunners are already lying dead in the grass. Taking advantage of the surprise and confusion, the paratroops race towards the trees and start firing with their automatic carbines, protecting the withdrawal of the machine gunner, who rejoins them. The Germans regroup, even attempt a flanking movement. The machine gunner mows them down again, whilst the other paratroops fall back, then fire, whilst the machine gunner retreats again. The enemy, in this way, pursue the paratroops for some 2 k.m., and then give up. At the campsite, the paratroops care for the corporal who has received 3 bullets in his arm and await, in vain, for the return of Sgt. Melsens whose body will be found next day, with empty ammunition pouches - he had fought to the end. The enemy battery had lost 52 killed; it loaded up 50-odd wounded and set off again towards Germany, out of the fight.’

Following Caliban, the Belgian Company carried out actions with jeep patrols during the Ardennes offensive, and then in April 1945, on receiving many volunteers from Belgium, became the Belgian SAS Regiment, and operated as three squadrons under the 2nd Canadian Corps in northern Holland and Germany. On 19 April 1945, Debuf, who received his DCM from Field Marshal Montgomery, was appointed Corporal of the Reserves, and was present at ceremony held at the Abbaye de la Carnbre, near Brussels, in September 1945, as a member of the honour party which received a Belgian SAS Regiment flag from Brigadier Calvert to mark the occasion of the Belgian Regiment leaving the SAS Brigade and coming under direct orders of the Belgian Ministry of Defence. The Belgian Regiment, reduced in size to battalion strength, but still wearing British SAS insignia, was serving at that time in a counter-intelligence role in Denmark and Germany.

On 17 October 1950 Debuf re-enlisted for service in Korea with the Corps Volunteers Coree, which arrived in Pusan on 31 January 1951. At the Battle of Imjin River (22 April - 27 May 1951) the Bataillon Belge, as the Corps was known, was attached to the 29th British Brigade which held a ten kilometre front between the US 3rd Division and the 1st ROK Division. Promoted Sergreant three days before the Chinese spring offensive, Debuf was wounded during close-quarter fighting on 23 April, ‘when he stood up to direct the fire of his section that was partly overcome by a Chinese asault’. He returned to Belgium for hospitalisation, but continued to be assigned to his battalion. He re-embarked for Korea on 20 October 1952 and was appointed Company Sergeant on 1 December 1952, and Sergeant-Major on 25 March 1953, in the Bataillon Belge which was then attached to the 3rd US Infantry Division. Returning to Belgium on 11 November 1953, he next joined the Para-Commando Training Centre, and was finally discharged from the Belgian Army on 1 January 1957.

Settling in London, Debuf fell foul of the law. On 25 August 1959
The Times reported: ‘Man with excellent war record gaoled. A former licensee who was said to have been decorated by Field Marshal Montgomery and to have received two personal American Presidential citations was sentenced to six months gaol at Hendon yeaterday. Mr T. N. Graham, chairman of the Magistrates, said to Victor Debuf, described as a caterer of no fixed abode, “It has been said on your behalf quite properly that you have an excellent war record. That makes these offences worse. You have had every incentive to go straight.” Debuf pleaded guilty to embezzling sums of 4 guineas, 2 pounds and 4 pounds, the property of Benskins brewery while he was manager of the Royal Oak, Finchley Road, Golders Green. He also admitted stealing 65 pounds from his former employer and asked the magistrates to take into consideration the theft of 226 pounds.’

The group is sold with several photographs, original citations for the D.C.M. and Bronze Star, full career details from the Belgian Ministry of Defence, his original S.A.S. metal beret badge (reverse lugs removed) and additional research.