Orders, Decorations and Medals (25 September 2008)
Date of Auction: 25th September 2008
Sold for £5,500
Estimate: £6,000 - £8,000
Distinguished Service Order, G.V.R., silver-gilt and enamels; 1914-15 Star (S. Lt., R.N.); British War and Victory Medals (Lieut., R.N.); 1939-45 Star; Atlantic Star; Africa Star; Burma Star, clasp, Pacific; Defence and War Medals, M.I.D.; Norwegian Order of St. Olav, Officer’s breast badge, silver-gilt and enamel; French Croix de Guerre 1914-1917, with bronze palm; Roumanian Medal for Valour and Fidelity, mounted court-style as worn excepting the last, the first with slightly chipped enamel wreaths, otherwise good very fine and better (13) £6000-8000
FootnoteD.S.O. London Gazette 23 July 1918. The orginal recommendation states:
‘This officer was in command of C.M.B. 22B. Lieutenant Welman reports that Lieutenant Annesley showed great bravery when under heavy machine-gun fire at short range, continuing to lay smoke floats, and only withdrawing when he himself and all his crew had been wounded. He then continued to make an exhaust smoke screen to replace the smoke from those floats, most of which had almost immediately been sunk by enemy machine-gun fire.’
Mention in despatches London Gazette 26 September 1940:
‘For services in or near Narvik.’
Norwegian Order of St Olav London Gazette 29 June 1943:
‘For good services in bringing the gold from the Bank of Norway to England and for taking King Haakon and his Government from Molde.’
French Croix de Guerre London Gazette 21 June 1919:
‘For distinguished services rendered during the War.’
John Campbell Annesley was born in Kensington, London in August 1895 and entered the Royal Navy as a cadet May 1908 after attending Eastman’s, Southsea, and, having been appointed Midshipman in early 1912, was serving in that rank in the battle cruiser New Zealand on the outbreak of hostilities. Quickly seeing action at Heligoland in August 1914, and again at Dogger Bank in January 1915, he was advanced to Sub. Lieutenant in September of the latter year.
In September 1916 he commenced his career in Coastal Motor Boats (C.M.Bs), gaining advancement to Lieutenant in March 1917 and command of C.M.B. 22B in the famous Zeebrugge Raid in April 1918, on which occasion he was assigned to the Inshore Flotilla. Charged with laying a smoke screen to blind the enemy gunners on the Mole, alongside C.M.B 23B, he brought his own boat to within a few yards of the Mole - so near in fact that Germans could be heard shouting orders: in the words of Carpenter, V.C., it was ‘remarkable that these Coastal Motor Boats should have escaped’, but less so, perhaps, that Annesley and his entire crew were wounded by the resultant machine-gun fire.
Between the Wars, he added the Roumanian Medal for Valour & Fidelity to his accolades, ‘for services in a fire at Constanza on 7 September 1925 - Medal not to be worn’ (his service record refers), and enjoyed several seagoing appointments in the Mediterranean. Gaining his first command - the sloop H.M.S. Cyclamen - in early 1931, Annesley was promoted to Captain in December 1938 and was serving as the S.N.O., Red Sea on the renewal of hostilities, but returned home to take command of the cruiser Enterprise in March 1940.
Quickly ordered to Norwegian waters, Enterprise supported the military ashore by bombardments in and around Narvik, and was lucky to escape destruction at the hands of the U-65 on 19 April as a result of faulty torpedoes. And, as cited above, Annesley was awarded the Norwegian Order of St. Olav for his part in saving 19 tons of the Norwegian Bank’s Gold Reserve, and members of the Government, from Tromso in late May - which insignia he received at an investiture in July 1943. And it was a thoroughly deserved distinction, for the Germans were aware of the Gold Reserve and Enterprise’s orders to save it:
‘The moment had arrived when Norway’s gold had once again to be evacuated ... Enterprise had been despatched at full speed to Tromso in answer to a dramatic request from the Government to save the gold. And right until the end the Germans were determined that the remaining 19 tons would not reach safety. As the cruiser went alongside waves of German bombers launched an attack. Bombs fell on either side of the ship, sending up great geysers of water; one landed less than 50 feet from the hull. But blithely oblivious to danger, some British sailors lowered a boat and began scooping up the fish killed by the underwater explosions. The welcome change in diet was too precious to be ignored. Enterprise arrived in Scapa the same day she had broken radio silence, and within a short time of tying up alongside the gold was on special trains and heading for the Bank of England in London’ (Operation Fish, The Race to Save Europe’s Wealth 1939-1945, by Alfred Draper, refers).
In June 1940, after undergoing repairs, the Enterprise joined Force H in the Mediterranean, and in the following month, once negotiations had broken down, participated in “Operation Catapult”, the destruction of the French Fleet at Mers-el-Kebir, near Oran, Algeria. Enterprise next became the flagship for operations off South America, and between September 1940 and February 1941 was employed in unsuccessful searches for Admiral Scheer and the raider Thor, following which she was re-deployed to the Indian Ocean, and afterwards to Basra to assist in quelling a pro-German revolt.
At the end of 1941, with the advent of hostilities with Japan, Enterprise was ordered to the Far East, where she escorted troop ships off Singapore and Burma before joining Admiral Sir James Somerville’s Eastern Fleet, and it was in this latter capacity, on 6 April 1942, in company with the Paladin and Panther, that Annesley’s skilful seamanship led to the rescue of 576 survivors from the Cornwall and Devonshire, an incident later described by the latter ship’s captain, Augustus Agar, V.C., in Footprints in the Sea - indeed he was delighted to be re-united with his ‘old friend Jumbo Annesley (of C.M.B. days).’
Annesley remained in command of the Enterprise until being invalided ashore in the summer of 1942, following which he was appointed Chief Staff Officer to the Flag Officer, Gibraltar and Mediterranean Approaches, in April 1943, but returned to sea as Captain of the aircraft carrier Victorious at the War’s end. He was placed on the Retired List in January 1948 and died in April 1964, quite possibly in Australia, his intended place of residence on leaving the R.N.
Sold with Enterprise’s original “Line Book”, a fascinating and unique record covering the ship’s activities in the period 4 May 1940 to 4 September 1942, with numerous message transcripts, newspaper cuttings and photographs, as assembled by Paymaster Lieutenant J. W. Devonshire, R.N., and including extensive coverage of the Norwegian campaign in 1940, and the Enterprise’s subsequent pursuit of the Admiral Scheer, among the latter documentation being a report on the Jervis Bay action and an order to respond to a distress call from the freighter Canadian Cruiser, in addition to a memorandum discussing tactics against the enemy pocket battleship, in conjunction with the cruisers Cumberland and Newcastle.