A Collection of Awards to the Royal Air Force between the Wars (1919-1939) formed by Group Captain JE Barker

Date of Auction: 6th December 2017

Sold for £2,000

Estimate: £700 - £900

An unusual and scarce 1923 ‘Chanak Crisis’ O.B.E. group of four awarded to Air Commodore C. T. O’Neill, Royal Air Force Medical Branch and Honorary Physician to the King

The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, O.B.E. (Military) Officer’s 1st type breast badge, silver-gilt (hallmarks for London 1919); General Service 1918-62, 2 clasps, Iraq, N.W. Persia (F/L. C. T. O’Neill. R.A.F.); Defence and War Medals, M.I.D. Oak Leaf, mounted as worn, last two with traces of verdigris, nearly very fine (4) £700-900


Provenance: DNW, December 1999.

O.B.E. London Gazette 1 June 1923, the recommendation states:

‘This officer has shown great ability and zeal as a medical officer, and he has accomplished splendid work for the Greek refugees at the concentration camp at San Stefano. Owing to the prevalence of typhus and other diseases in the camp, this service was rendered at very great risk to his own life. His work among the refugees not only resulted in many lives being saved but also enhanced greatly the prestige of the British service.’

Approximately 47 ‘N.W. Persia’ clasps issued to the Royal Air Force, even fewer with the ‘Iraq’ clasp and possibly unique to a medical officer.

Christopher Thomas O’Neill was born at Sarsefields Court, Ireland in February 1893. Having trained in Belfast he qualified as a Doctor in 1918, and was commissioned into the Royal Air Force as a Medical Officer in the following year. O’Neill was posted overseas for service at the Aircraft Park Mesopotamia in 1920, and was attached to 216 Squadron at Heliopolis from October 1921. He served with 208 Squadron as part of the newly constituted British Forces in Turkey, and was present with them in September 1922 during the Chanak Crisis.

208 Squadron were part of the Constantinople Wing which moved to Turkey as part of the first rapid deployment operation undertaken by the Royal Air Force. This timely movement of several dispersed squadrons proved enough of a deterrent to an encroaching Turkey as to avert another war between the two nations. O’Neill was awarded the O.B.E. as a consequence of humanitarian services during the crisis.

O’Neill served as Acting Squadron Leader from October 1922, and returned to the UK where he had subsequent postings at R.A.F. Central Hospital and R.A.F Hospital, Cranwell. He was posted to 20 (Army Co-operation) Squadron, Peshawar, India, in September 1927, and advanced to Squadron Leader two years later. After a further posting to Karachi, O’Neill returned to the UK and was placed on the strength of the Central Medical Establishment, London. He served at Cranwell again prior to being appointed to the command of the medical branch team at No. 3 F.T.S. at Grantham in 1935. O’Neill advanced to Wing Commander during the latter year, and was subsequently posted as Deputy Principal Medical Officer, HQ Coastal Command at Lee-on-the-Solent.

Having been promoted Group Captain in December 1940, O’Neill’s Second War service included as Principal Medical Officer, AHQ Iraq and Persia from March 1942. He advanced to Acting Air Commodore and was appointed as Principal Medical Officer, HQ Maintenance Command, R.A.F. Amport, in August 1945. O’Neill served in a similar capacity at HQ Fighter Command, Bentley Priory, from November 1946. He was posted as Air Commodore and Principal Medical Officer, HQ Air Command, Far East, at Changi in July 1947. Two years later O’Neill was appointed an Honorary Physician to the King, and subsequently retired in January 1952 having completed just over 32 years of military service.

Air Commodore O’Neill died at R.A.F. Hospital Wroughton in April 1971.

M.I.D. unconfirmed.

Sold with a file of copied research, which includes photographic images of recipient in group photographs.