WWII soldier honored for four ships sunk; medal auctioned

June 15, 2013 at 3:23 PM

LONDON, June 15 (UPI) -- A service medal given to a British sailor who survived four sunken vessels during World War II is being auctioned off, an auctioneer said.

Cmdr. Ian Forbes served on several vessels during the war -- all of which were sunk. He was also part of the naval battle that saw the Allies' worst loss at sea, serving on a boat alongside the HMS Hood, which was sunk by the Bismarck, killing 1,400 men. Following his final ship's sinking in the Pacific theater Forbes was taken prisoner by the Japanese and tortured for three years, the Daily Telegraph said Friday.

At one point he was marooned on a deserted island and swam to another nearby island only to run into angry natives who nearly executed him.

Forbes, who died in 1992 at age 73, was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his work on two of the ships.

The British auction house Dix, Noonan and Webb will sell off Forbes' medal, which is estimated at 5,000 pounds ($7,800). Spokesman David Erskine-Hill said one of the most remarkable things about Forbes' story is that he wasn't recognized more for his heroism.

"[With] over 30 years as a specialist in medals, I have never heard of a man who survived the loss of four ships in such horrific circumstances -- not to mention a close encounter with the Bismarck and the shocking trauma of three years as a prisoner of the Japanese," Erskine-Hill said. "Today the accolade of 'hero' is a much abused one -- it is to men such as Ian Forbes that it should be applied."

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