£50,000 for SAS founder member Jack Byrne's WWII medal group

Dix Noonan Webb never fails to offer a truly exceptional range of fine, rare gallantry medals and militaria at their auctions, and this month's sale is no exception.

One of the sections is, of course, a selection of Second World War medals, and two of the very best items on offer are medal groups associated with the Dieppe Raid.

The first of these belonged to Boatswain P J Allsebrook of the Royal Navy, and is based around an extremely rare Second World War landing craft operations DSC (Distinguished Service Cross) as well as a submariner's Distinguished Service Medal.

The group of six is particularly unusual as only 11 DSC and DSM combinations were awarded during the 1939-45 War.

Allsebrook's citation for the DSC in the London Gazette in 1943 read as follows:

"While in charge of L.C.S. No. 3, he rendered invaluable service in the salvage of stranded landing craft. His untiring devotion to duty and good seamanship were responsible for 26 craft being salved and the majority replaced in service, thereby notably contributing to the success of the operation." whilst his DCM recommendation of November 1940read simply:

"For high example set to the crew as Coxswain, contributing to the general efficiency of the submarine."

He also won a 'mention' for his gallant work in the Dieppe Raid: "For courage and skill in supporting the landing on "White" beach in command of Glengyle's Landing Craft Support." His group is expected to sell for £6,000-8,000.

Lieutenant-Commander A J Lee's group of nine medals is expected to bring £12,000-15,000 and is based around a DSC won for his actions at Dieppe, specifically:

"...his gallant work in saving the destroyer H.M.S. Brocklesby after she had run aground, under point blank fire, off "White Beach": by then nearly 50 years of age, he had already been recommended for an immediate D.S.C. for his part in the St. Nazaire Raid."

However, neither of these is expected to be the top lot in the sale. That honour is likely to go to the WWII DCM group of eight awarded to SAS Sergeant Jack Byrne (pictured above).

Only 12 Distinguished Conduct Medals were awarded to the SAS in the 1939-45 War, and Byrne's was one of only five given to a member of the original 'L Detachment' from which the organisation developed.

Jack Byrne Distinguished Conduct Medal group
Jack Byrne's Distinguished Conduct Medal group
(Click to enlarge)

Byrne survived the detachment's first disastrous parachute drop in which 22 men were killed, and went on to be a part of several notable desert raids, notably the raid on Agedabia airfield. Byrne recalled:

"Whilst Bill and I were running hard towards the fighters, I squeezed the time-pencils of two of the bombs and for good measure jerked the pull-switches; the bombs should now explode in fourteen seconds. It took only a moment to place a bomb on each plane - all ME 109 Fs, apparently brand new, each one having a canvas-type horse-blanket strapped around its fuselage.

"Bill stood watch at the wingtip of each plane whilst I placed the bombs. Twice he held out a hand to take the tommy-gun from me but I pretended not to notice. When we got to the seventh fighter, I ran straight past it, putting the last bomb on the eighth whilst Bill remained standing by the seventh fighter, shouting his head off until I displayed an empty hand.

"As we turned to run back to the others, the first four of the fighters went up in flames almost together, and within seconds all eight were burning fiercely, the planes being so close together that one well-placed bomb in the centre of the row would probably have destroyed the lot."

Following the raids, Byrne was captured, but escaped from Germany, before completing an equally gallant D-Day Commando raid. His group is listed at £40,000-£50,000 in the auction which will take place in London on September 16-17. Online bidding is available.


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