Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (12 November 2020)

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Date of Auction: 12th November 2020

Sold for £3,200

Estimate: £1,400 - £1,800

A fine Second World War 1943-1944 ‘M Special Unit’ M.B.E. group of six awarded to Captain H. A. J. Fryer, Allied Intelligence Bureau, late Australian Survey Corps, who showed outstanding leadership and ability whilst in command of patrols behind enemy lines in Japanese occupied New Guinea

The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, M.B.E. (Military) Member’s 2nd type breast badge, silver; 1939-45 Star; Pacific Star; War Medal 1939-45; Australia Service Medal, these four officially impressed ‘VX 102690 H. A. J. Fryer’; United States of America, Freedom Medal, bronze, unnamed, good very fine (6) £1,400-£1,800


M.B.E. London Gazette 19 July 1945:
‘In recognition of gallant and distinguished services in the South West Pacific.’

Commonwealth of Australia Gazette 19 July 1945:
‘In recognition of services rendered in the South-West Pacific Area during the period 1st April to 30th September 1944.’

The original recommendation states: ‘For outstanding leadership and ability whilst in command of an Allied Intelligence Bureau party behind the enemy lines in the Aitape-Wewak area from 24 May 44 to 30 August 44. Although the natives of the area were mostly under Japanese domination, this officer by his sound judgement and knowledge of the natives, also the area, was able to evade Japanese patrols sent to capture him. While doing this he secured valuable information of enemy dispositions and strengths and many casualties were inflicted on the enemy by Allied Air Forces which attacked targets pin-pointed by Captain Fryer.
Captain Fryer was previously in command of an Allied Intelligence Bureau party which reached and operated in the Rawani Mountains area from January to December 1943 after a remarkable march from Mount Hagen, in the course of which he also guided and assisted a party to reach the border of Dutch New Guinea through country unfamiliar to the Dutch Leader. During these activities Captain Fryer made the greatest use of his technical knowledge as a Surveyor in collecting and supplying much valuable topographical information.’

Herbert Albinus Jackson Fryer was born on 6 May 1910 at Canterbury, Victoria. A geological surveyor and engineer by profession, he worked in New Guinea, 1940-42, where he supervised the development of the first petroleum drilling areas and on 30 March 1942, having already served in the Militia, he was commissioned into the Australian Survey Corps, Australian Army. Although initially stationed at Bendigo, Victoria, compiling maps of little known areas of New Guinea, he was soon recruited by the Allied Intelligence Bureau, a joint United States, Australian, Dutch and British intelligence and special operations agency responsible for operating parties of spies and commandos behind Japanese lines. Sent to New Guinea on 22 August 1942, he worked with both M Special and Z Special Units, leading many patrols, mostly in the Sepik district, including, of note, M Special Unit’s Operation Locust which ran in conjunction with the more widely known Operation Whiting. Leaving the Bena Bena - Mount Hagen plateau on 21 January 1943, ‘Locust’ involved an extensive 6 month, 500 mile trek through Japanese-occupied New Guinea, arriving in the Toricelli Mountains in June, where a base camp was set up to observe the Japanese. The Australian War Memorial’s Official History of World War Two, ‘Volume VI - The New Guinea Offensives’ by David St. Alban Dexter gives some insight into the difficulties which ensued:
‘The Sepik and Wewak areas about which the Allies were anxious to obtain information were proving trouble spots. A party led by Lieutenant Fryer and accompanied by a Dutchman, Sergeant H. N. Staverman of the Netherlands Navy, and an Australian, Sergeant Siffleet, arrived in the well-populated Lumi area south of the Torricellis in July. After reaching Lumi, Fryer and Staverman parted, Fryer to remain in the general Sepik area and Staverman to penetrate across the border into the hills behind Hollandia. Once again the unreliability of the natives led to failure. Fryer’s party was trapped by apparently friendly natives a few miles south of Lumi. The Australians managed to beat off the attack, but in the process their carriers deserted and seven weapons were lost. The party escaped south and joined Lieutenant Stanley’s party at Wamala Creek, a tributary of the Yula River. Fryer and Stanley then sent a signal asking for retaliatory action against the offending villages. After some delay a strafing attack was carried out in mid-September by two Lightnings on empty bush and near a friendly village. Meanwhile Staverman and Siffleet with two Indonesian soldiers had crossed the Torricellis early in July. Learning of the Japanese patrols searching for Fryer they warned him by radio before setting out for the Dutch border.’

The Whiting patrol under Staverman and Siffleet soon ran into difficulties of its own, however, and news that Staverman had been killed prompted Fryer and Lieutenant Black to set out to find the remaining members of his party but they returned on 23 November having failed to do so. The entire Whiting patrol team was either killed or captured - a photograph, found by American troops in 1944, of a blindfolded Sergeant Siffleet being beheaded by Japanese soldier, in time would become one of the most famous images of the entire war. As a result of the increasing dangers, from mid August 1943, Fryer’s Intelligence gathering patrols received some added protection:
‘Two days later GHQ approved a plan for the establishment of a guerilla column on the Sepik. The force under the command of Major Farlow would be known as “Mosstroops” and would be flown in and supplied by air. The main task of Mosstroops would be to protect the special patrols operating in the area. At this time these patrols comprised, as well as the AIB patrol of Fryer, the FELO patrol of Stanley...’ (

Temporary Captain Fryer remained with “M” Special Unit until discharged on 27 August 1946. He was awarded the United States Medal of Freedom on 2 January 1948 and died in 1980.

Note: This lot is available for viewing in Swanbourne, Western Australia, by appointment with our Australasian representative, John Burridge.