Arnhem/Paras medal group to Harold Roy Couling of the Royal Army Medical Corps, £43,000 at Drake’s.

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The Arnhem-linked medal group awarded to Brigadier Sir Mark ‘Honker’ Henniker that sold recently at Noonans for £100,000 hammer underlined the demand for Second World War airborne honours.

They had been awarded to one of the founder members of the 1st Airborne Division, who also played a crucial role in British operations that followed including Operation Market Garden (see ATG No 2637).

At Devon saleroom Drake’s (20% buyer’s premium) on April 15, however, a Paras/Arnhem medal showed that the collector demand is not just for the ‘big guns’ in command.

Estimated at £1500-3000, a group with nine medals included a Distinguished Conduct Medal given to a corporal: Harold Roy Couling of the Royal Army Medical Corps who took part in Market Garden serving with 16 Parachute Field Ambulance.

Coming down to a bidding battle between two phones, the lot hammered at £43,000 in the Tavistock auction, with the buyer thought to be a UK private collector.

Couling was parachute jump trained on Course 12 at RAF Ringway, which consisted of seven descents. This course was made up of men from 1st Para Brigade and 1st RE Para Sqn.

According to the DCM citation, on September 19, 1944, during Operation Market Garden, Couling was the NCO in charge of a building housing 100 patients of a main dressing station run by 181 Air Landing Field Ambulance. Over the next six days the site was the centre of heavy fighting and frequent shelling.

Couling played a vital role, ranging from performing minor operations under local anaesthetics when medical officers could not attend, organising an emergency water supply in a rubber dinghy and supervising rations to carrying in wounded (both friend and foe). When he was himself wounded by a shell on September 23 he used an inverted floor brush as a crutch and continued to care for his patients.

Couling was captured but rejoined his patients to continue his work in a prison hospital.

His DCM award is noted in a supplement to the London Gazette, September 20, 1945, in which he is listed as Corporal (acting) Harold Roy COULING, Royal Army Medical Corps (Plymouth).

The lot also included press cuttings related to him, ribbons (not attached) and a mentioned in dispatches oak leaf, and Second World War medals awarded to a William Henry G[sic]ouling.

A newspaper report on the DCM award said Harold Couling, of Plymouth, had been mentioned in dispatches twice and as well as Arnhem, took part in parachute operations in Africa, Sicily, Italy and Normandy. It added: “At Arnhem he remained with the wounded and was captured a second time, being a prisoner for seven months.”