A RARE group of 12 medals awarded to a Minehead-born war hero who saved thousands of British lives are expected to fetch up to £80,000 at auction.

Brigadier Sir Mark 'Honker' Henniker, of the Royal Engineers, was one of the founders of the 1st Airborne Division.

His finest hour came during Operation Berlin in the Second World War, the night-time evacuation of 2,400 members of the division trapped in German-occupied territory west of Arnhem.

He personally directed the rescue of the men in boats and rafts from his position on the riverbank, all under heavy fire, in September 1944.

Brigadier Sir Mark Henniker was a member of 'The Dungeon Party' - the original command staff accommodated two floors below ground level in Whitehall.

He previously escaped with his men from the beaches of Dunkirk in a rowing boat in 1940 and took part in the Bruneval Raid on a German coastal radar installation and also the attempted destruction of the heavy water production plant at Telemark, Norway, both in 1942. He flew in by glider during the airborne invasion of Sicily, in 1943.

His family are selling the medals at the Noonans Mayfair auction of orders, decorations, medals and militaria on Wednesday, February 14, when they2024. It is being sold by his family and expected to fetch £60,000-80,000.

Mark Quayle, Noonans medal specialist and associate director, said: “This is an outstanding group of medals, and of particular importance.

"Brigadier Sir Mark Henniker’s involvement in all things airborne during the Second World War must be without parallel.

"A key strategist, planner and an undoubted man of action, he came to the fore time and time again, often ‘swathed in bandages’.

"His finest hour came when he masterminded the daring night-time rescue of the beleaguered remnants of the British 1st Airborne Division from Arnhem in September 1944."

A family member said: "It is important to us that the heroics displayed by the British Airborne Forces during the Second World War, and the sacrifices made by them, continue to live on in the public conscious for generations to come.

"By selling these medals now we hope to highlight their story, and at the same time secure the safekeeping of Sir Mark’s medals for the long-term future.”

After a long military career, he died in October 1991, aged 85, and is buried in Abergavenny.