A “staggering” price of £110,000 was paid for the medals of a bomb disposal expert who lived in Whitnash and was killed in Afghanistan.
Warrant Officer Gary O’Donnell became one of Britain’s most highly decorated soldiers, having had a bar posthumously added to the George Medal he received in 2006 for his service in Iraq.
It meant he was awarded the George Medal twice, the first person to be honoured like this in nearly 30 years.
Aged 40 and a munitions expert with the Royal Logistics Corps’ 11 Explosive Ordinance Disposal Regiment, he was killed by a bomb in Helmand Province in September 2008.
He and his team were trying to make the device safe and clear a path for their comrades.
He was married to Toni and had two children Ben and Aidan. Ben was just two months old when his dad was killed.
He hailed from Edinburgh and had two other children from a previous marriage, who are believed to live in Scotland.
Toni, who declined to speak to the Courier, put the medals up for auction to help provide for her children.
Speaking on behalf of her, Christopher Wilson, of specialist London medal auctioneers Dix Noonan Webb, said: “Mrs O’Donnell is a widow and needs to provide for her young children.”
He said auctioneers were expecting between £75,000 to £80,000 for the nine medals and bar, which Warrant Officer O’Donnell was honoured for service in a number of countries.
“We were pleasantly surprised to have the extra interest. It was staggering,” said Mr Wilson.
“It reflects the great deeds he did and a great reflection on his gallantry.
“It’s one thing being brave under fire and carrying out acts of bravery, but doing it in cold blood and doing it on a regular basis and knowing that you could be killed at any time - that is another thing.”
Mr Wilson said three people acting on behalf of clients took part in the bidding, and although Toni did not attend, she followed it online.
And he said he had it on “good authority” that the medals would stay in Britain and was hopeful that they would go on public display at some time.
Mr Wilson added: “I don’t like to represent his bravery in monetary terms, but the auction price represented the stature of his gallantry.
“He is your modern-day hero and he lived the dream. He was a lion.”
And that is the sentiment with the words “As brave as a lion” inscribed on the memorial to Warrant Officer O’Donnell at Chapel Green, on the corner of Whitnash Road.
Made of Scottish granite, it was unveiled in 2009 with military honours.
Toni said at the time: “This will be somewhere we can physically go to remember him. He is always with us.
“I am so proud of what Gary did and achieved and who he was.”