A Collection of Awards to Chaplains formed by Philip Mussell

Date of Auction: 27th September 2017

Sold for £1,300

Estimate: £1,400 - £1,800

A Great War D.S.O. group of four awarded to Chaplain to the Forces the Reverend J. M. Connor, Army Chaplains’ Department, a gallant Presbyterian Minister who first came to notice for his services under fire during the retreat from Mons

Distinguished Service Order, G.V.R., silver-gilt and enamel, with integral top riband bar; 1914 Star, with copy clasp (Rev: J. M. Connor. A.C.D.); British War and Victory Medals, with M.I.D. oak leaves (Rev. J. M. Connor.) mounted as worn, the D.S.O. with loose reverse central medallion, good very fine, the remainder with contact marks and heavily polished, thus fine (4) £1400-1800


Provenance: John Chidzey Collection, Dix Noonan Webb, March 2012.

D.S.O. London Gazette 1 January 1918.

John Morgan Connor was born in Biggar, Lanarkshire, in January 1872, the son of a clergyman, and was educated at Biggar Townhead School, Glasgow Hutcheson’s Grammar School, and Glasgow University. Having then attended the United Presbyterian College in Edinburgh, he was appointed a Chaplain to the Forces 4th Class in December 1904, and served out in Egypt and the Sudan, on attachment to the Camerons, the Argylls and the K.O.S.B., in the period leading up to the Great War.

Embarking for France soon after the outbreak of hostilities, as a member of the Highland Brigade, Lowland Division, he arrived on the Western Front on 17 August 1914 and distinguished himself in the retreat from Mons and beyond, a chapter in his military career touched upon by the Rev. O. S. Watkins in his account of that bitter campaign:

‘In my own Division Bickerstaffe-Drew (R.C.), Goudge, Burrough, Winnifrith (C. of E.), and that gallant Scot, Connor (Pres.) were all earning the admiration and respect of all ranks. Never during the War was a more gallant team to be found in any Division ... To them no service was too menial, no task ever came amiss. They washed the swollen, filthy feet of the infantry; they helped the Doctors with the wounded, lent a hand to carry a stretcher, rode ahead to choose bivouac or billets, and then guided the unit to its place of rest. These were the things which brought us close to our men and opened their hearts to us so that we could minister to their spiritual needs. But most precious and most sacred was the service rendered to the dying, and when the end came, the last sad office to the dead ... I declare that never before have men been so tested as these were during the fortnight of the retreat from Mons, and the following week, when, turning, we pursued the enemy and shared with the French the battles of the Marne and Aisne. It was a triumph of mind and spirit over physical weakness, and it impressed our comrades of the fighting services far more than our preaching has ever done or is likely to do.’

Connor was mentioned in despatches (London Gazette 19 October 1914 refers), and remained actively employed in France and Flanders with the Glasgow Highlanders, H.L.I., gaining the D.S.O. and two further “mentions” (London Gazettes 27 May and 14 December 1917 refer).

Retiring to the Isle of Wight, he acted for a time as Officiating Chaplain with the Royal Navy at Gosport, prior to his death in Ryde in March 1952.