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John Arthur Osborn


Sub-Ltnt John Arthur Osborn - HMS Orion. Died 29th May 1941 aged 23. Grave Ref Panel 61 Column 3 Plymouth Naval Memorial. Son of Iver Dennis Osborn and Dora Sweetland Osborn, Bristol.

Above John Arthur Osborn, aged 12, (foreground), his brother Dennis Charles Osborn (Clifton College 1925-1929, Clifton RFC Captain 1934) (background) in 1930. Image courtesy of Mark Osborn.

HMS Orion was a Leander Class Light Cruiser. She was built by Devonport Dockyard. She was launched on 24 November 1932 and completed on 18th January 1934. HMS Orion was commissioned for service with the Home Fleet but she was transferred to the American and West Indian Station in 1937 where she was with the 8th Cruiser Squadron. In June 1940 she was transferred to the Mediterranean. She was with the 7th Cruiser Squadron as Flagship. She took part in the bombardement of Bardia and the engagment of Punto Stilo. During the rest of 1940 she escorted Malta convoys and transported troops to Greece. In the early part of 1941 she was in the Crete and Aegean areas and was also at the Battle of Cape Matapan in March. On May 29, 1941 she was badly damaged after being bombed. Many of her crew lost their lives. She was taken to Simonstown, South Africa where she had temporary repairs and was then sent to Mare Island in the USA for major repairs. HMS Orion returned to the Mediterranean in 1943. This time she was with the 15th Cruiser Squadron. She was involved in the invasion of Sicily. Orion spent the rest of of the war around the Mediterranean. She also took part in the Normandy Landings in June 1944 with 6 other cruisers and 13 destroyers. Targets were the Moulineaux battery, Ver-sur-Mer battery, Graye battery, Longues battery and the defences around Arromanches. There was a fierce struggle with two strongpoints, but the initial bombardment went off successfully; the only opposition came from the battery at Longues. HMS Orion was scrapped in August 1949.

He served as a Sub-Lieutenant on HMS Orion, which was badly damaged after being bombed on 29th May 1941 during the evacuation of Crete.

After evacuating people from Crete HMS Orion left Heraklion Bay, Orion headed for the Kaso Straits. Orion expected to be 5 miles south of the Straits by dawn on 29 May, however, the destroyer Imperial, had damaged steering gear and had to be sunk forcing Orion to reduce her speed by 14 knots, for 2 hours,  Instead of entering the Straits long before dawn she found herself in it at dawn.  She was soon found by enemy reconnaissance planes and shortly afterwards was bombed by Stuka’s. HMS Orion eventually limped back to Alexandria where the clean up began.

In total 262 people lost their lives during the Evacuation of Crete, of those 112, including Osborn, were the Ship’s Company.

Above HMS Orion the morning after on May 30th 1941.

Above the Plymouth Naval Memorial.

In the same action the Rev Christopher Champain Tanner, the Gloucester and England wing, lost his life on a sister ship HMS Fiji. Exhausted he drowned rescuing fellow sailors. He was awarded the posthumous Albert medal (now known as the George Cross) in 1942.

After repair HMS Orion was used by Winston Churchill and his staff from 30 Jan to 2nd Feb 1945 in Grand Harbour, Malta, holding talks in preparation for the Yalta conference

Above HMS Orion in Malta.

Above Winston Churchill and the crew of HMS Orion