Commanding Officer PEGASUS: 1961 - 1964
Commander R. M. J. (Reg) O’Connor, DSC, VRD, RNZNVR
Commander Reginald Michael John O’Connor was born in Timaru on 14 September 1914, and educated at Waimitaitai Primary School and Timaru Boys High School (1929-1933).
A few months before the outbreak or WWII, Cdr O’Connor joined the Territorial Army, there being no Naval Reserve in Timaru, and was posted to ‘D’ Support Group of the 1st battalion Canterbury Regiment. He quickly rose through the ranks to Company Quartermaster Sergeant. In June 1940 he applied to join the Navy for service in Scheme ‘B’, and in his application he clearly indicated his attraction to the sea, giving examples of work carried out on coastal and island ships during his annual holidays to gain sea training. His application was successful and he transferred to the Navy, as an Ordinary Seaman, on 16 January 1941, and proceeded immediately to the UK by sea.
Following periods of training at HM Ships GANGES and PEMBROKE, he was drafted to the very fast minelayer HMS MANXMAN and served in the Mediterranean. Having completed his training as a seaman, he was promoted to the rank of Temporary Sub Lieutenant, and posted to HMS KING ALFRED to complete his officer training.
His first appointment as a seagoing officer came on 21 February 1942 when he was drafted to HMS WINDSOR, a V & W Class destroyer. This ship was engaged in the onerous and very dangerous work of Russian bound convoy escort. He remained in WINDSOR until 4 July 1943 when he was posted to HM Ships PEMBROKE and OSPREY for further courses before his promotion to Lieutenant RNZNVR. His next posting was to HMS WHITEHALL, a destroyer escorting Russian bound Convoys. He served on this destroyer from August 1943 to October 1944 and took part in the D-day landings on the Normandy Coast. His service in WHITEHALL earned him the Distinguished Service Cross.
Returning to NZ, the then Lieutenant O’Connor joined HMNZS GAMBIA, then serving with the British Pacific Fleet. He was still serving on GAMBIA on V-J day (15 August 1945). As the war ended, he was offered a short term commission in the RNZN and remained serving until demobilised on 14 October 1946.
In September 1950 he joined the Canterbury Division of the RNZNVR as a Lieutenant RNZNVR. Promotion to Lieutenant Commander came in March 1955, and he was appointed Executive Officer, HMNZS PEGASUS, on 23 September 1957. Whilst serving as Executive Officer, he was appointed Honourary Aide-de- Camp to the then Governor-General, the Right Honourable Charles John Lyttelton, 10th Vicount Cobham, GCMG, KStJ, TD (later KG, GCVO, PC). On 31 December 1959 he was promoted to Commander and appointed in command of HMNZS PEGASUS, and in September 1960 he was awarded the Volunteer Reserve Decoration (VRD). He remained in command of PEGASUS until his retirement on 15 December 1964.
Reg spent all his civilian working life with the Canterbury Stock and Station Company of Pyne Gould Guinness Ltd, a firm his father was also employed by as a stock auctioneer in Timaru. It was at Pyne Gould Guinness Ltd Christchurch Branch that he met his wife, Dorothy. Forty five years after joining Pyne Gould Guinness Ltd, Reg retired in December 1978. In 1977 he had been elected Treasurer of the Canterbury Agriculture and Paastoral Association, and remained in this office until 1986. Commander O’Connor died in Christchurch on 6 September 1991.
For his service, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the 1939-45 Star, the Atlantic Star, the Africa Star, the Pacific Star, the France and Germany Clasp, the Defence Medal, the War Medal, The NZ War Service Medal, and the Volunteer Reserve Decoration.