A Collection of Medals to Second World War Casualties

Date of Auction: 18th July 2018

Sold for £340

Estimate: £140 - £180

Six: Colour Sergeant D. P. O’Byrne, Royal Marines, who survived the sinking of H.M.S. Royal Oak after she was torpedoed by the German submarine U-47 whilst at anchor at Scapa Flow, 14 October 1939

1939-45 Star; Africa Star; Italy Star; Defence and War Medals 1939-45; Royal Navy L.S. & G.C., E.II.R., 1st issue (PO/X. 2912 D. P. O’Byrne. Clr. Sgt. R.M.) mounted as worn, very fine (6) £140-180


Desmond Patrick O’Byrne served during the Second World War as part of the Royal Marine detachment in H.M.S. Royal Oak. On 14 October 1939, whilst at anchor at H.M. Naval Base Scapa Flow, Orkney, the Royal Oak was torpedoed by the German submarine U-47 under the command of Günther Prien; of the total ship’s complement of 1,234 men and boys, 833 were killed or subsequently died of wounds. O’Byrne survived the sinking; he subsequently gave the following statement:

‘I was on the Marines Mess Deck at the after end amidships at the time of four explosions. After the fourth a red flash came into the Mess Deck through each armoured door. Hammocks caught fire. A lot of dust and flames came through also. The first explosions sounded right forward and the remaining three aft, but before our mess deck, on the starboard side. I saw no result except the flash, and abandoned ship through the port after door and up the officers ladder immediately the lights went out, which was just after the fourth explosion. I did not see any hole in the ship.’

O’Byrne was awarded his Long Service and Good Conduct Medal in February 1954.