Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (25 & 26 September 2019)

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Date of Auction: 25th & 26th September 2019


Estimate: £1,500 - £2,000

Four: Corporal P. J. O’Connell, Royal Marines, who is reputed to have served with the Special Boat Service in the Gulf War in Operation Desert Storm

General Service 1962-2007, 1 clasp, Northern Ireland (Mne P J O’Connell PO37290G RM); U.N. Medal, UNFICYP riband, unnamed as issued; Gulf 1990-91, 1 clasp, 16 Jan to 28 Feb 1991 (Cpl P J O’Connell PO37290G RM); Royal Navy L.S. & G.C., E.II.R., 2nd issue (Cpl P J O’Connell PO37290G RM) mounted as worn, edge bruise to Gulf, light contact marks, good very fine (4) £1,500-£2,000


Peter James O’Connell ‘joined the Royal Marines in 1978 in 110 Troop. He saw active service in Northern Ireland in 1983 and with the United Nations in Cyprus in 1984 with 40 Commando. He then joined the Special Boat Service (S.B.S.) and was with them during the Gulf War (where it is believed that he took part in the operation detailed below). Known as "Bisto" as he was apparently as mad as a hatter (and thicker than gravy!), he attained notoriety in the early eighties when a punk rocker came into The Eagle pub (a bootneck haunt) in Plymouth carrying a very large python, and it is alleged Bisto bit off its head, an act for which it is believed he was fined £50. This was later reported on the local news. There was a story that Bisto among others came back to camp covered in blood after fighting with an Australian rugby team, and in the Corps boxing championships he was disqualified for head butting an officer he was boxing because he was getting the better of him. He was awarded his Long Service and Good Conduct Medal (somehow) in 1993. Upon leaving the corps he is believed to have joined the police.’ (type-written account included with the lot refers).

January 1991: Desert Shield has transformed into Desert Storm and allied warplanes are pounding the Iraqi military. Saddam Hussein's response was to target Saudi Arabia and Israel with long range scud missiles. Whilst not a significant military threat, the scud launchers caused a political crisis with Israel gearing up to enter the conflict which would have caused the West-Arab coalition to crumble. Something had to be done to stop the scuds flying. Scores of allied aircraft were tasked with finding the launchers, which proved to be next to impossible as the Iraqis hid them in barns and under bridges. In need of a role in a remote control war, United Kingdom Special Forces drew up plans to deal with the scud threat. S.A.S. landrover and foot patrols were sent into the Western Iraqi desert whilst the S.B.S. covered the East. Intelligence pinpointed a network of fibre optic cables sprouting out of Baghdad which the Iraqi regime were using to send targeting information and fire control messages to the mobile scud launchers. The cables were underground and so couldn’t be hit from the air. It was decided to assign the S.B.S. the task of finding and cutting the cables. In the dead of night, a team of around 36 S.B.S. operators, on board 2 Chinooks from R.A.F. Special Forces flight, flew from Saudi into Iraq, flying at low level until touching down at their landing zone which was only 40 miles south of Baghdad. The S.B.S. men were split into teams. One team would handle the demolitions and so were laden down with explosives and shovels and cable detection gear. The rest of the S.B.S. would protect both the demolitions team and the 2 helicopters. Heavily armed with G.P.M.G.s, grenade launchers, and anti-tank weapons, they formed a protective perimeter around the operation, keenly aware of how perilously close to the Iraqi capital they were. It has been reported that the S.B.S. demolitions team were accompanied by a member of the secretive American intelligence unit, the Intelligence Support Activity (I.S.A.), who was an expert in the types of communications cable the Iraqis were known to use. The operation took several hours as the demolition teams located and dug out the cables. All the while the 2 Chinooks kept their engines running with disengaged rotors so as to keep the noise down but not risk any engine startup problems. To the relief of all, the demolitions team completed its task, packing the cables with explosives and setting the fuses. The S.B.S. men quickly rebussed onto the Chinooks which took them back to base in Saudi. As they flew home, a bright flash on the horizon behind them signalled that the cables had been cut. This raid behind enemy lines was a classic Special Forces mission, executed with daring and professionalism, a mission that could not have been done from the air. The success of the operation proved that even in the age of modern hi-tech warfare, there is still a need for well trained forces on the ground.