A rare medal, awarded to a tragic Northampton war hero after he bravely destroyed an enemy torpedo off the French Coast during the Second World War, sold for £960 at an auction yesterday (Thursday). The silver Distinguished Service Medal was awarded “for bravery and resource under fire” to Able Seaman Donald Edward Halladay after he and a colleague attached a rope to a floating German torpedo and then carefully towed it out of a harbour for about a mile before blowing it up with gunfire.
The D.S.M. was presented to Mr Halladay, of Horse Market Gardens, Northampton, at Buckingham Palace on November 6, 1945, six months after the end of the Second World War.
Tragically, eight years later, on September 23, 1953, Mr Halladay was found dead on a railway line at Rugby. He was 29.
According to auctioneers Spink: “Able Seaman Halladay, a native of Northampton, served during the Second World War in Landing Craft (Large) No 1, armed with two 4.7 –inch guns, manned by Royal Marines and several 20mm Oerkikons(cannons).
One of Halladay’s shipmates, Richard Blyth, wrote an account of No 1’s part in the Normandy Operations, which also makes direct reference to the recovery and destruction of the enemy torpedo: ‘When we got
to Sword Beach (on D-Day), it seemed as though every gun ever made was firing at the same time. You could hear the 15-inch warship shells going overhead, which sounded like a steam train. I could hear the Belfast’s 6-inch guns fired in anger ........I was firing at the gun emplacements that were attacking our forces going ashore. Having a flat bottom and shallow draught we were able to get quite close ashore, so we could see more where the firing was coming from.
“We were firing for nearly four days continuously, until the beachhead was well established. We would re-arm our craft, then go along the beach where we were needed and then started firing again, sometimes 5 or 6 miles inland.
“As we progressed we came to Le Havre,where the Germans were hauled up of a night time ......at night, ’Jerry’ came out to cause havoc on one man torpedoes; they also had high explosive remote controlled motor boats, with which they tried to get us.
“One day we had been doing an indirect shoot for the Army and as we arrived back at the harbour of Arromanches(correct), our look-out saw a spent German torpedo floating in the harbour – towards the end the Germans adapted the torpedoes to float instead of sink, so that it acted like a mine. A Marine Officer and two sailors (Northampton’s Donald Halladay and another) got in a small boat and went out to it.
One of the sailors went over the side with a rope, dived down and secured it and swam back to the small boat and then back to our craft and towed it out of the harbour for about a mile, then blew it up with gun fire.
The sailors were recommended for the Distinguished Service Medal. When we got back in the harbour all the ships and craft saluted us with sirens and klaxons blaring.”
Donald Halladay’s Distinguished Service Medal was sold yesterday morning (Thursday) at Spink in Bloomsbury, London.