The Collection of Second World War and Modern Gallantry Awards formed by the late William Oakley

Image 1

Click Image to Zoom

Date of Auction: 12th December 2012

Sold for £3,500

Estimate: £3,000 - £3,500

A poignant Second World War North Africa operations D.C.M. group of five awarded to Sergeant A. Darby, Royal Artillery, who commanded a mobile Deacon gun of 76th Anti-Tank Regiment in a classic desert action against Tiger tanks and 88mm. guns - hit in the chest by a shell splinter he died of his wounds just over two months later

Distinguished Conduct Medal, G.VI.R. (46566 Sjt. A. Darby, R.A.); 1939-45 Star; Africa Star; Defence and War Medals 1939-45, together with original Army Council condolence slip in the name of ‘Sgt. A. Darby, D.C.M.’, good very fine or better (5) £3000-3500

Footnote

D.C.M. London Gazette 1 June 1943. The original recommendation for an immediate award states:

‘On the morning of 27 March 1943, at first light, the rear of the Divisional Artillery Group which was situated about (T.) Y9313, was attacked by some ten tanks and four 88mm. guns. Sergeant Darby was commanding a Deacon 6-pounder which was travelling near the rear of the column. The going was extremely bad but Sergeant Darby extricated his Deacon and drove straight for the oncoming tanks and 88mm. guns, one of which was already in action, and he wheeled his gun into action and immediately engaged the enemy, getting off some eight rounds before his gun was knocked out.

By his prompt and gallant action he unquestionably halted the whole enemy force and made them pause for a vital five minutes during which the rest of the Battery, which was strung out along the column and some distance away, was able to concentrate and engage the enemy on good terms. As a result, all four 88mm. guns and tanks were knocked out. The action was witnessed by many of his comrades who are unanimous in his praise. Sergeant Darby was wounded in this action.’

Albert Darby was 29 years of age at the time of his death and left a widow, Edith Lillian, of Ladywood, Birmingham. He is buried in the Tripoli War Cemetery.

A good account of 76th Anti-Tank Regiment’s part in the early stages of the Mareth battle in March 1943 appears in the Royal Artillery Commemoration Book 1939-45, so, too, mention of Darby’s gallantry in the action near El Hamma on 27 March 1943:

‘A single Deacon had a stalking match with a Tiger Mk. VI tank, but did not succeed in getting within effective range. The Tiger had had a 17-pounder shot through the piece, so was naturally not anxious to close. Soon afterwards the crew of this Tiger abandoned it and came walking across the desert. They were a tough gang, extremely truculent and with a lot to say for themselves. Apart from the Deacon which had a wheel smashed in the first few minutes, the only other mishaps were a shot through the cab of another Deacon, and another that disabled the steering-gear. Both these vehicles were left on the ground but recovered some time later. The shot through the cab wounded Sergeant Darby, the No. 1, who had so gallantly sailed in first to attack the enemy tanks and 88s at the beginning of the action; he had a splinter in the chest which was thought nothing of at first. He died, however, some three months later in a Tripoli hospital from lung trouble, having meanwhile received a D.C.M.’