Medals from the Collection of David Lloyd
Date of Auction: 17th February 2021
Sold for £3,400
Estimate: £800 - £1,000
The Royal Victorian Order, M.V.O., Member’s V Class breast badge, silver and enamel, the reverse officially numbered ‘546’; The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, O.B.E. (Military) Officer’s 2nd type breast badge, silver-gilt; British War and Victory Medals (L-2545 W.O. Cl.1. R. P. O’Donnell. 21-Lrs.); Defence and War Medals 1939-45; Jubilee 1935, unnamed as issued; Coronation 1937, unnamed as issued; Army L.S. & G.C., G.V.R., 1st issue (L-2545 Bndmstr: R. O’Donnell. 21/Lrs:) mounted for display in this order; together with the recipient’s Cousins Memorial Prize Medal , 45mm, silver (Pupil R. P. O’Donnell 2nd. So. Wales Borders. 1903.) this with severe edge bruising; and a Worshipful Company of Musicians Medal, 55mm, silver (Rudolph O’Donnell) this with severe edge bruising, together with the smaller medal for breast wear, both housed in a fitted case, the lid embossed ‘Presented to Rudolph O’Donnell by the Worshipful Company of Musicians 26th October 1909’, generally very fine and better (12) £800-£1,000
FootnoteM.V.O. London Gazette 3 June 1924: Lieutenant Rudolph Peter O’Donnell, Director of Music, Royal Marines
O.B.E. London Gazette 1 January 1949: Wing Commander Rudolph Peter O’Donnell, M.V.O., Royal Air Force.
Rudolph Peter O’Donnell was born at Fort St. Goerge, Madras, India, on 10 March 1885, the son of a bandmaster in the South Wales Borderers and the second of three brothers, all of whom were to gain musical distinction. He received his musical education at the Royal Irish Academy of Music and the Royal Military School of Music, Kneller Hall and as a young band sergeant was posted to Egypt where he directed the personal orchestra of Lord Kitchener. He served throughout the Great War in India, as a bandmaster with the 21st Lancers, and was awarded his Long Service and Good Conduct Medal on 25 July 1918. Returning to England he transferred to the Royal Marines on 15 December 1919. He served on the Royal Yacht Victoria and Albert and at the special request of His Majesty King George V he and his brothers were commissioned, all three becoming Divisional Directors of Music in the Royal Marines. In 1931 he transferred again, being appointed Director of Music in the Royal Air Force, with the rank of Flight Lieutenant, and in so doing became the only Director of Music ever to have been in charge of a band in all three Services.
Under O’Donnell’s direction the Central Band of the Royal Air Force became a major force in British military music. Throughout the thirties many broadcasts, recordings and concerts were undertaken and the band regularly appeared at Royal occasions. In 1935 the band paraded outside Buckingham Palace for the Silver Jubilee celebrations. A few weeks after the jubilee the band paraded at RAF Mildenhall for the Royal Review of the Royal Air Force when King George V sent personally for his ‘Victoria and Albert Director of Music’. The following year O’Donnell was promoted to Squadron Leader.
In May of 1937 the musicians moved into tents in Kensington Gardens while they rehearsed for the Coronation of King George VI. On the day of the ceremony a band of forty marched in the procession while a further twenty-five played for the Guard of Honour at Westminster Abbey. The College Band was also involved and were part of the Guard of Honour at Buckingham Palace.
Promoted Wing Commander in 1940, O’Donnell rendered important musical service during the Second World War, often conducting the R.A.F. Band at various Royal and Diplomatic events (as a keen tennis player and occasional doubles partner of King George VI he was often invited to perform at Buckingham Palace). His final important performance was in Berlin following the end of the Second World War:
‘We were taken to Churchill’s villa under conditions of strict security and prepared to play for what was obviously a very important dinner party. For security reasons we were supposed to have known nothing in advance about the banquet, but the number of Russian guards surrounding Churchill’s villa hinted that the Marshal himself was expected. We were ushered into an ante-room... The first VIP to probe the ante-room was Molotov, looking for the smallest room in the house. He seemed surprised to see us. Suddenly the door was pushed open wider and Stalin and Truman were suddenly in our midst, arguing about music through an interpreter. The Russian Marshal, seeing us with our instruments at the ready, called for us to play. Churchill looked tired and preoccupied, but the President and the Marshal were enthusiastic, and we played the Walt from Tchaikovsky’s Serenade beautifully, with Stalin then asking for more. The evening ended well, with the ‘Big Three’ autographing Rudy O’Donnell’s score.’ (Music in the Air - The story of music in the Royal Air Force refers).
O’Donnell finally retired in 1949, after over 50 years’ military service, with the rank of Wing Commander, and was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in that year’s New Year’s Honours’ List.
Sold with copied research.