Medals to the R.F.C. and R.A.F. from the Collection Formed by the Late Squadron Leader David Haller

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Date of Auction: 25th March 2014

Sold for £2,000

Estimate: £1,600 - £1,800

A fine Second World War D.F.M. group of six awarded to Flight Sergeant J. “Spud” Murphy, Royal Air Force, who was decorated for his gallantry as a Rear Gunner in No. 44 Squadron in 1943-44, when, among other operations, he participated in the Hamburg “firestorm” raids of July 1943 and the Peenemunde raid of August 1943: not adverse to enjoying the occasional pipe in his rear turret, he enjoyed the full confidence of his crew, his skipper once commenting “With Spud in the back we never had any worries about a rear attack”

Distinguished Flying Medal, G.VI.R. (1176231 F./Sgt J. Murphy, R.A.F.); 1939-45 Star; Air Crew Europe Star; Italy Star; Defence and War Medals 1939-45, good very fine (6) £1600-1800

Footnote

D.F.M. London Gazette 21 April 1944. The original recommendation states:

‘Flight Sergeant Murphy has now completed a successful operational tour of 28 sorties as an Air Gunner. Amongst the targets he attacked were Cologne (3 times), Berlin (twice), and Peenemunde, in addition to Milan (twice) and Turin.

This N.C.O. had severely dislocated both elbows when a child and although operational conditions caused periodical recurrence of the trouble in a painful form he skillfully concealed the fact because he was determined to remain with his Captain and crew to the end of their tour. No matter how severe or arduous the conditions, Flight Sergeant Murphy never complained and it was not until his tour was completed that the truth became known.

An extremely efficient Gunner, his cheerful, dauntless spirit and his personal courage, tested and proved many times, have made him both on the ground and in the air a most valuable asset to the Squadron and his crew.’

John “Spud” Murphy, who was from Glasgow, enlisted in the Royal Air Force in August 1940 and, having qualified as an Air Gunner, was posted to No. 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron, a Lancaster unit operating out of Dunholme Lodge, in May 1943. Teaming-up as a Rear Gunner in Flight Sergeant “Reg” Ash’s crew, he quickly established himself as a popular and amusing character - not least for his pipe smoking activities in the rear turret on long trips.

Of his subsequent tour of operations, and as noted in the recommendation for his D.F.M., Murphy was not spared heavily defended targets - three trips to Cologne and a brace to Berlin being cases in point; so, too, two strikes on Hamburg in late July - his skipper, “Reg” Ash, reported ‘the glow from the fires was visible at about 80 miles’. And on returning to the city two nights later, with the famous “firestorm” progressing apace, ‘a big column of smoke, reaching to 20,000 ft., was seen 70 miles away’.

Nor were Murphy and his crew spared the effects of efficient enemy gunnery, their Lancaster being hit by flak over Mulheim on the night of 22-23 June 1943 - with the electrical bomb release gear severely damaged, ‘jettison action was carried out manually.’ In fact, skipper and crew again experienced flak damage on their very final sortie - to Berlin on the night of 18-19 December - when their aircraft was diverted to Bradwell on its return to the U.K., owing to fuel shortage.

No less memorable must surely have been Murphy’s part in the famous Peenemunde raid on the night of 17-18 August, Ash reporting that ‘the target was clearly identified and ‘the R./T. bombing control perfect’, even though ‘numerous fighter combats were observed in the target area.’

Tour-expired, Murphy was awarded the D.F.M. and Ash, who had been commissioned, the D.F.C. The former returned to civilian life and Glasgow at the end of 1945, but would later attend a brace of 44 Squadron Association reunions; sold with a file of research, including a complete copied set of O.R.B. entries for all of the recipient’s operational sorties and assorted correspondence with “Reg” Ash.