Special Collections

Sold on 12 December 2012

1 part


The Collection of Second World War and Modern Gallantry Awards formed by the late William Oakley

William Raymond Oakley

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№ 610


13 December 2012

Hammer Price:

The outstanding Second World War North Africa operations M.M. and Bar group of eight awarded to Trooper S. Johnston, North Irish Horse (R.A.C.), who won both of his decorations for his courage in the unit’s Churchill tanks inside eight weeks

Military Medal, G.VI.R., with Second Award Bar (7903288 Tpr. S. Johnston, N. Ir. H.); 1939-45 Star; Africa Star, clasp, 1st Army; Italy Star; Defence and War Medals 1939-45; Coronation 1953; Special Constabulary Long Service, E.II.R. (Samuel Johnston), mounted as worn, minor contact marks, very fine and better (8) £6000-8000

17 Military Medals and two Second Award Bars were awarded to members of the North Irish Horse during the 1939-45 War.

London Gazette 8 July 1943. The original recommendation states:

‘On 28 February 1943, part of ‘A’ Squadron were returning to take up their position at first light in the area 3247 (Tunisia, Sheet 4), when Major W. H. Ketchell’s tank was hit through the turret at close range. The Operator and gunner were killed and Major Ketchell seriously wounded.

Trooper Johnston and Lance-Corporal Moriarty, the two drivers, immediately jumped out of the tank and succeeded in rescuing their Squadron Leader from the turret and carrying him to safety. This action was performed under considerable M.G. fire and in full view of the enemy who were approximately 300 yards away. They undoubtedly saved the life of Major Ketchell as his tank was subsequently set on fire and totally destroyed by enemy fire. Their conduct was most inspiring to their comrades.’

Bar to M.M.
London Gazette 23 September 1943. The original recommendation states:

‘On the afternoon of 22 April 1943, Captain MacKean, ‘A’ Squadron Reconnaissance Officer, was commanding a troop when his tank hit a mine at 593432. Trooper Johnston got down and in spite of M.G. fire made a full investigation and report. The suspected M.G. position was then engaged and many attempts were made to restart work. Eventually the W. Gunners surrendered. Trooper Johnston then proceeded to work on the track in the middle of a German minefield and after doing the final work in the dark it was mended by 2130 hours. The tank was then driven out of the minefield but broke down again 300 yards further on with final drive trouble. Trooper Johnston again gave every possible assistance to prepare the tank for fitters by breaking the track and stripping down as much as possible. The work was carried out under shell fire and on the following morning under long range M.G. fire. Trooper Johnston displayed throughout the utmost coolness while under fire and by his devotion to duty and skill he helped very materially to get the tank back into harbour by 26 April. Trooper Johnston had no thought for his personal safety and his only aim was to help to recover his tank at all costs. His conduct was exemplary in every way.

Trooper Johnston was recommended by me for the M.M. on 9 March 1943 for evacuating under fire his Squadron Leader out of a tank that had been hit by an 88mm. anti-tank gun. Up to the present this award has not been granted and I would like this second recommendation to be taken in conjunction with the first if it has been turned down.’

Samuel Johnson arrived in North Africa with the North Irish Horse, Royal Armoured Corps (R.A.C.), towards the end of the desert campaign in February 1943 and, remarkably, won a brace of M.Ms over the next eight weeks, the latter during the celebrated tank action at Longstop Hill.

And he would have witnessed a good deal more action following the regiment’s arrival in Italy in January 1944, commencing with the assault on the Hitler Line near Cassino. In this battle, the North Irish Horse, still equipped with Churchill tanks, faced one of the strongest defensive lines ever constructed, but, aided by the gallant 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade, the line was taken after some of the bitterest fighting on record, the regiment losing 35 tanks in the process: by way of recognition, The Canadian C.-in-C. awarded the North Irish the unique distinction of wearing the Maple Leaf; see
The North Irish Battle Report - North Africa - Italy 1943-45 (W. & G. Baird, Belfast, 1946) for full details, a copy of which is included.