Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (17 & 18 May 2016)

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Date of Auction: 17th & 18th May 2016

Sold for £5,000

Estimate: £6,000 - £8,000

An outstanding Second World War Normandy operations M.M. group of five awarded to Marine R. Emsley, 4th Special Service Brigade (B Troop) 47 Commando, Royal Marines, who was decorated for his gallantry in the attack on Port-en-Bessin on 7 June 1944, the day following the D-Day landings: Whilst so engaged, ‘a mortar shell exploded, taking out his left eye and filling his body with shrapnel’ but he continued firing his gun and succeeded in rescuing two of his comrades

Military Medal, G.VI.R. (PO.X.105331 R. Emsley, Mne., R.M.), 1939-45 Star; France and Germany Star; Defence and War Medals 1939-45, generally very fine and better (5) £6000-8000

Footnote

M.M. London Gazette 12 September 1944:

‘For gallant and distinguished service while operating with the Army in Normandy.’

The original recommendation for an immediate award - submitted ‘In The Field’ on 15 June 1944 by Lieutenant Colonel C. F. Phillips, Commanding 47 (R.M.) Commando - states:

‘During the attack on Port-en-Bessin on 7 June, Marine Emsley was seriously wounded by a German mortar bomb. Despite his injuries, he continued to give supporting fire with his Bren and throughout showed an excellent offensive spirit. By this fine act and devotion to duty Marine Emsley very materially assisted the advance and final success of his comrades.’

Roy Emsley was born in Burnley, Lancashire in November 1922 and joined the Royal Marines in April 1941, direct from his employment at the Northern Diecasting Company.

47 Commando (R.M.) landed on Gold Beach at 9.50 a.m. on 6 June 1944, following a perilous run-in in rough sea and and among mines which knocked out four of its 14 assault craft: as a consequence 28 men were killed or drowned, 21 wounded and another 27 posted ‘missing’.

Notwithstanding such casualties and the loss of considerable amounts of ammunition, the Commando then made a forced march nine miles west to its main objective, the small harbour of Port-en-Bessin, which was to become the main port for fuel supplies until the liberation of Cherbourg.

The port was attacked at 1600 hours on the following day and, after a fiercely contested battle, aided by supporting fire from the cruiser H.M.S.
Emerald, was finally captured during the following afternoon. Here, then, the point at which Emsley won his M.M., a local newspaper report confirming that he suffered multiple wounds on the same occasion:

‘Emsley was providing covering fire for a comrade who was attempting to rescue two wounded men under heavy crossfire. Whilst doing so a mortar shell exploded, taking out his left eye and filling his body with shrapnel. Despite being terribly wounded he continued firing his gun enabling the two soldiers to be rescued.’

It is likely that Emsley was among 50 Marines led up a zigzag path by Captain T. F. Cousins, in order to capture the enemy’s third and final strongpoint. As darkness fell, the position was taken with 100 prisoners, but Cousins was shot dead by a sniper.

General Sir Brian Horrocks, commander of British 30 Corps in Normandy, wrote of 47 Commando’s capture of Port-en-Bessin, ‘It is doubtful whether, in their long, distinguished history, the Marines have ever achieved anything finer.’

Emsley was still being treated for his wounds when presented with his Military Medal by the King at Buckingham Palace in February 1945. He was discharged in October of the same year and died in Burnley, Lancashire in December 1991; sold with copied research.