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

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Date of Auction: 12th December 2012

Sold for £2,900

Estimate: £1,800 - £2,200

An outstanding Second World War Italy operations M.M. group of five awarded to Lance-Corporal J. O’Connor, Grenadier Guards, who rushed an enemy machine-gun post with his Tommy gun, holding his fire until just four yards off - three of the enemy were killed outright, another wounded, and the remainder ‘ran screaming away’

Military Medal, G.VI.R. (2614553 L. Cpl. J. O’Connor, G. Gds.); 1939-45 Star; Italy Star; Defence and War Medals 1939-45, good very fine (5) £1800-2200

Footnote

M.M. London Gazette 8 February 1945. The original recommendation for an immediate award states:

‘On 5 September 1944, in a daylight patrol on M. Pomino, Lance-Corporal O’Connor was ordered to take his section round an enemy M.G. post in order to bring fire to bear a flank. On the way the section had to cross a piece of open ground which was being sprayed with enemy M.G. bullets. Lance-Corporal O’Connor skilfully manoeuvred his section across this without loss and managed to place himself between the enemy M.G post and their main positions. He then, on his own initiative and without orders from the patrol leader, rushed in single handed on the enemy post in which there were seven Germans. He held his fire until four yards off and then emptied his Tommy-gun magazine into the enemy, killing three, wounding one. The remaining four ran screaming away. Although the object of the patrol, which had been to dominate the ridge by offensive patrolling, had been achieved, Lance-Corporal O’Connor led his section at a further post on the reverse slope of the hill and succeeded in wounding at least two Germans with fire. During this episode, Lance-Corporal O’Connor’s complete disregard for his own personal safety was an example to all and was largely responsible for the success of the patrol.

In active operations since June 1944 this Lance-Corporal has always shown outstanding courage in every engagement but his acts of bravery have not as yet been given recognition. I recommend Lance-Corporal O’Connor for the immediate award of the M.M.’



James O’Connor was born at Hulme, Manchester, in January 1915 and enlisted in the Grenadiers in May 1935. Clearly a bit of a colourful character, he was twice convicted by the Civil Powers in Manchester - once in December 1941 and again in August 1942 - activities that appear to have resulted in his transfer to the Reserve. In September 1943, however, he joined the British North Africa Force as a member of the 3rd Battalion, Grenadiers, in which capacity he was actively engaged in the Italy campaign, winning a memorable M.M. for the above cited deeds at Pomino, near Florence in September 1944.

Returning home in August 1945, he was discharged in September 1946, a notation on his service record stating that he appeared at the Salford Hundred Quarter Sessions, Bolton, in January 1949; sold with the recipient’s original Buckingham Palace M.M. forwarding letter, together with two letters to his mother from the Grenadiers London H.Q., dated 9 February and 20 September 1945.