Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (10 & 11 May 2017)

Date of Auction: 10th & 11th May 2017

Sold for £13,000

Estimate: £4,000 - £5,000

A rare Second War “D” Day, Normandy Beaches Naval Frogman’s D.S.M. group of four awarded to Petty Officer S. C. Eagles, Royal Navy, who was one of the first men ashore, 6 June 1944, and who attempted, unarmed, to clear underwater obstructions from the beach under mortar and systematic sniper fire, whilst in rough sea subject to rising tides

Distinguished Service Medal, G.VI.R. (P.O. S. C. Eagles. R/JX. 180766.); 1939-45 Star; Atlantic Star, 1 clasp, France and Germany; War Medal 1939-45, generally good very fine (4) £4000-5000

Footnote

D.S.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 Recommendation (upgraded from an M.I.D.), dated 11 June 1944, states:

‘For devotion to duty and for setting a good example in the initial assault period whilst subjected to steady mortar fire and accurate sniping.

Remarks of Intermediate Authority:

Forwarded, fully concurring. Petty Officer Eagles showed conspicuous devotion to duty under fire as a member of L.C.O.C.U. No. 1 whilst attempting, unarmed, to clear underwater obstructions from the beach under hazardous conditions due to the rough sea and rising tide.’

Sydney Chadwick Eagles served during the Second War as a Petty Officer in the Royal Navy (Boom Defence). He was a Frogman, who was one of the first men ashore on “D” Day, 6 June 1944. He swam ashore as a member of No. 1 Landing Craft Obstruction Clearance Unit, and the latter unit, ‘whose job was both vital and unenviable, had to have a truly amphibious outfit because the chances were that they would have to fight it out on the beaches after they had completed their dangerous diving and the clearance of beach obstacles.... The first men ashore on “D” Day were frogmen. This time they were called Landing Craft Obstruction Clearance Units, there were a hundred and twenty of them, and their object was to clear away the underwater obstructions and mines so that the assault craft could get on to the beach.

The frogmen who blasted a hole in the Nazis’ Atlantic Wall and enabled invasion craft to reach the Normandy beaches on “D” Day were nearly all ‘hostilities only’ men. The men who led the units were Lieutenant R. E. Billington, DSC and Bar, RNVR, aged 28, of Purley; Lieutenant H. Hargreaves, DSC, aged 21, a cotton salesman from Burnley; Lieutenant J. B. Taylor, DSC, RNVR, aged 22, a Middlesex bank clerk; Lieutenant W. Brewster, DSC, RNVR, aged 28, an Edinburgh bank clerk; Captain A. B. Jackson, Royal Marines, a Dumfries bank cashier; CSM D. J. R. Morss, RM, a carpenter’s mate from Herne Hill; Lieutenant D. J. Cogger, MC, RM, an engineering apprentice from Canterbury; Sergeant P. H. Jones, DSM, RM, a carpenter from Bournemouth; Lieutenant D. J. Smith, RM, an assistant engineer from Purley, and Sergeant K. Briggs, DSM, RM, from Dorking.

Hargreaves, Billington, Taylor, Briggs, and Jones received their decorations for the Normandy invasion operation. Four others who were decorated were PO S. C. Eagles, DSM, a costing clerk from Manchester; PO F. Livingstone, DSM, a Hull carpenter; Corporal E. Deans, DSM, a motor-driver from Barrow-in-Furness, and Corporal R. Headley, a Newcastle-on-Tyne apprentice engineer. So there you have them - bank clerks, engineers, carpenters, clerks, and students. Some of them had previously served in midget submarines and human torpedoes. All of these bank clerks, engineers, carpenters, clerks, and students acquitted themselves nobly on “D” Day.’ (The Frogmen, by Waldron & Gleeson refers)

Lieutenant H. Hargreaves later described what he, and the other frogmen like Eagles, faced on “D” Day:

‘The invasion of Normandy to the average person was the greatest combined operation that had ever taken place, and in fact that was the truth. However, few people know of the work carried out by small, special units, both before the operation, and during the initial assaults. We were one of the small units which had a particular role to play. A role which was not easy, and from which many of us did not expect to return, but one which we were determined to carry out until our work was completed. For the invasion of Normandy the Force Commanders used approximately a hundred and twenty officers and men of the Locku units divided into ten parties, or units. Each unit had an officer and eleven men, and each was allotted to its own beach and had its own particular job to do.....

We were supposed to go in at H hour, which was the very beginning of the assault. We were dropped into our craft from an LSI at seven o’clock in the morning, and went hell-for-leather for the beach, and arrived hoping to find the front row of obstacles on the water’s edge, and not in the water, but discovered some two or three feet of water over them. We left our craft and got to work at once on posts with mines secured to the tops of them, specially constructed wooden ramps which were mined, and steel hedgehogs with mines and anti-aircraft shells on top of them, and we were subjected the whole time to quite a hot fire from rockets, shells, and bombs.

We must have been about four hundred yards from the beach when the firing first started, and they didn’t forget to inform us that they knew we were coming. When we finally got on the beach we discovered that we were being systematically sniped, not only with rifles but also by odd bursts of machine-gun fire - a most unpleasant experience but one that we soon got used to.... The weather was very much worse than anyone would have expected in June, and we had the greatest difficulty working in a very heavy surf. It was hard going and we soon got pretty tired, but in the meantime the obstacles were slowly but systematically destroyed...’

Hargreaves, like Eagles, was decorated for his gallantry on “D” Day. Eagles was one of six frogmen awarded the D.S.M. for “D” Day, and out of the force of 120, two frogmen were killed and ten wounded.