PART of a First World War shell that killed a Royal Navy officer is coming up for sale in Salisbury later this year.

The lump of heavy steel, weighing half a kilo, hit and killed Lieutenant-Commander Arthur Gerald “Jerry” Onslow on June 1, 1916.

Lt Cdr Onslow was commanding the HMS Onslaught, an M-class destroyer, during the Battle of Jutland.

During a night engagement, at about 2.30am, the ship was involved in an attack on an enemy formation, firing four torpedoes and becoming the only vessel to sink an enemy ship at Jutland.

But the ship was hit by gunfire from SMS Schleswig-Holstein and seven men were killed, including Lt Cdr Onslow.

Military historian Richard Pursehouse has been researching the ship, and said Lt Cdr Onslow was treated for his injuries on the crew’s mess table.

As he lay dying, Mr Pursehouse reports, Lt Cdr Onslow asked if the ship was alright, and when he heard it was he said: “Good, I’ll sleep a little now then.”

Lt Cdr Onslow, born in India in May 1885, was one of only eight people to be awarded the Conspicuous Service Cross (for hand to hand combat against Somali pirates in 1904) and he is buried at the Queensferry Cemetery near Edinburgh, alongside 38 other naval personnel who died at Jutland.

The shell fragment was recovered from Lt Cdr Onslow’s body by Midshipman Reginald Arnot, who later became a captain. In his recollections of the battle, Cpt Arnot said: “It [the shell] came out of his back when I was attending him on the fore messdeck.

“Somewhat grissley [sic] but there it is.”

When Cpt Arnot retired in 1948 he gave the shard to the commander of the next generation HMS Onslaught, which had fought in the Second World War and, following the sale of the ship to the Pakistani Navy in 1951, the fragment was transferred to the Navy trophy room in Portsmouth.

The vendor, a private collector who has owned the shard for the last 40 years, has now put the war relic up for sale.

It will be auctioned with a guide price of £200 by Woolley & Wallis in May. Ned Cowell, specialising in militaria at the firm said: “Enthusiasts view medals as a tangible link to the life and career of the man or woman who received them, and they are right to do so.

“Occasionally however, one encounters a link to such a life that is far more intimate and arresting.

“It reminds us to cherish those incomparable men and women who, to this very day, place themselves between us and the shell fragments.”