Samuel Orr GC MM (EGM exchanger)

b. 1894 Londonderry, Northern Ireland. d. 04/04/1958 Eglinton, Northern Ireland.

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 1922 Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Samuel Orr (1894-1958) was born in Londonderry, Ireland in 1894, the son of Andrew and Catherine Orr. He was one of 15 children, only 5 of whom appear to have survived past the age of 12. His two sisters Margaret and Agnes and a brother Andrew lived to adulthood. The family were in the bakery business and relatively successful. It is believed that Sammy, after leaving school, became a rivetter in the Londonderry shipyard prior to the outbreak of the Great War, and possibly for a period of time afterwards.

Samuel Orr GC MM

During the First World War, Sammy joined the Highland Light Infantry and was awarded the Military Medal while attaining the rank of Sergeant No A/7937. Following the war he joined the Ulster “A” Special Constabulary, during which time he would be awarded the Empire Gallantry Medal. He married Matilda, known as “Tilly”, and the couple had no children, and she pre-deceased him.

In 1922, in Belfast, Sammy Orr effected the capture of an armed criminal, though he was unarmed himself. He was also involved in the capture of two armed robbers, one of whom he grappled with and arrested. In this action, he was severely wounded by the second robber. He suffered the loss of the use of his right arm in the action and was invalided out of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. On 30th May 1924, in the King’s Birthday Honours, Sammy and Constable Francis Morteshed were both awarded the Empire Gallantry Medal for their actions.

Sammy then decided to join the Harbour Police (possibly in 1928) and eventually rose to the rank of Sergeant. While serving in the Harbour Police he was awarded the Police Long Service and Good Conduct Medal in 1952. There is a family legend (not confirmed) that whilst in the Harbour Police he attempted to save the lives of some Merchant Seamen during the little known “Belfast Blitz” during World War II. Sammy appears to have been an immensely brave, but very modest man. He was a prominent member of the Masonic Order and was a Past Master of St Columba’s Masonic Lodge No 640 and a Past King of St Columba’s Royal Arch Chapter No 640.

In September 1940, like all his fellow living recipients of the EGM, his medal was exchanged for the newly created George Cross. He was invested with the GC at Buckingham Palace on the 25th November 1941. Sammy died on 4th April 1958 in Eglinton, and was buried in an unmarked grave in Faughanvale Burial Ground, which is 5 miles NE of Londonderry. Samuel’s medals including the GC, MM, 1914 Star,  British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, 1953 Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal and Police Long Service and Good Conduct Medal were originally set to be kept within the family, but they appeared at auction in May 2016. The medals went unsold and their present location is unknown.





Les Davidson – Images of the unmarked grave and picture of Samuel Orr GC MM.