Orders, Decorations and Medals (22 June 1999)

Date of Auction: 22nd June 1999

Sold for £9,500

Estimate: £4,000 - £5,000

The magnificent Great War C.G.M. group of nine awarded to Sergeant J. F. McLaughlin, Royal Marine Light Infantry, for the capture of Salif in June 1917

Conspicuous Gallantry Medal, G.V.R. (P.O.8873 Sergt. J. F. McLaughlin, R.M.L.I. H.M.S. Topaz. Salif. 12 June 1917); China 1900, 1 clasp, Relief of Pekin (Pte., R.M., Nav. Depot. Wei-Hai-Wei); Naval General Service 1915-62, 1 clasp, Persian Gulf 1909-1914 (Corpl., R.M.L.I. H.M.S. Proserpine); Naval Good Shooting Medal, E.VII.R. (Cpl., H.M.S. Hermione. 1910. 6 In. Q.F.); Royal Navy L.S. & G.C., G.V.R., 1st issue (Corporal R.M.L.I.); 1914-15 Star Trio (Sgt., R.M.L.I.); French Medaille Militaire, mounted on two wearing bars in the order listed, together with two parchment Certificates of Service, another on paper, Certificate of Discharge, Character Certificate on Demobilisation, Pension Certificate for Conspicuous Gallantry, and a postcard photograph of McLaughlin and other Royal Marines aboard H.M.S. Topaz in 1917, light contact marks but generally very fine and very rare (9) £4000-5000


See colour illustration on inside back cover.

C.G.M. London Gazette 11 August 1917: ‘For conspicuous gallantry at the capture of Salif on the 12th June, 1917. Just before the surrender he came across 11 unwounded and 1 wounded Turkish soldiers. Followed by one petty officer, Sergt. McLaughlin jumped among them, shot one, and made seven surrender.’

Throughout the war, the Navy blockaded the coast of Arabia in the Red Sea, and at the end of 1916, there was great activity to prevent arms reaching the Turkish troops, who were besieging Aden, and operations were directed also to help King Hussein of the Hedjaz and the Arabs who were in revolt against the Turks. The British were in occupation of the island of Kamaran, opposite Salif on the mainland of Yemen. The island of Kamaran was a quarantine station for pilgrims on their way to Mecca, and at Salif there were large rock salt works belonging to the Turkish Government. Work to improve the pier there was in hand when war broke out, and a lot of valuable plant had been left by the contractors, Sir John Jackson and Company. The Naval Commander-in-Chief learnt that the garrison was only 100 men, and decided to attempt to recover the contractors plant.

The orders to Captain Boyle, the Senior Naval Officer, were that he was to hold the enemy whilst the plant was being removed or destroyed, and that he was to be guided by circumstances as to the capture of the garrison. The squadron consisting of HM Ships
Topaze, Odin, and Espiegle, and RIM Ships Northbrook and Minto left Aden on 10th January, 1917.

Salif lies on a peninsula, the north end of which is a mud flat covered at high tide by the sea. On the east side of the village is a hill with a hollow depression in its face, in which the garrison took up their position, when the ships approached at dawn on the 12th; here they were well screened from the fire of the ships. The Espiegle entered the inlet between the peninsula and the mainland, so as to bring a cross fire on the place. The Northbrook went close inshore at the south end of the peninsula, Minto, Topaze and Odin made a line to the north of her, as near the shore as possible. The Topaze and Odin ran in so close that the enemy could not depress their guns sufficiently to reach them. The Turks had two Krupp mountain guns and three one-inch Nordenfeldts; their shells did no harm as they had to be laid so that their line of fire would clear the crater.

The Northbrook’s men landed at the south end of the peninsula, and took up a position on the right of the town, the others all landed at the pier and extended behind a ridge, which was flanked by a salt mine on the south, and by houses on the north. The Royal Marines were in the centre of the line. The Odin’s seamen entered the village and took possession of the condensing plant and the telegraph office.

Commander A. R. Woods, D.S.O., R.N., of the Topaze, was in command, with Commander Salmond second in command; there was no Royal Marine officer present. The ships’ guns fired a barrage on the hill, and under cover of this the parties advanced and gained the foot of the hill. The attack was directed against three sides, the fourth being closed by the Espiegle. At a given signal, the hill was rushed and they completely surrounded the Turks, who made a good fight; the affair being over in three hours. Sergeant J. F. McLoughlin, Portsmouth R.M.L.I., encountered 12 Turkish soldiers and went for them single handed, followed by one Petty Officer, and between the pair they shot one, took seven prisoners and the rest bolted. Commander Woods was awarded a Bar to his D.S.O., and the C.G.M. was given to Sergeant McLaughlin, Private Bartlett, and Able Seaman Noble.

James Francis McLaughlin was born at Gibraltar on 6 January 1878, and enlisted for the Royal Marines at Eastney on 18 January 1897. He landed with the North China Field Force in July 1900, and took part in the Peking Relief Expedition the following month, for which he received the China medal with clasp. He was promoted to Corporal in February 1902, to 2nd Captain of Gun in October 1903, to paid Lance-Sergeant in February 1904, and was passed for Gunlayer in April 1905. Whilst serving in Hermione in 1910, he won the Naval Good Shooting, or ‘Gunnery’ Medal with the 6-Inch Quick Firing gun. Shortly afterwards he was appointed to Proserpine, in which ship he took part in the Persian Gulf operations, receiving the N.G.S. medal with clasp, and, in August 1912, the medal for Long Service. Promoted to Sergeant in June 1913, McLoughlin spent the early part of the War aboard H.M.S. Queen, until February 1916, when he joined Topaze and subsequently took part in the Red Sea operations for which he was awarded the C.G.M. and French Medaille Militaire.

McLaughlin was the only Royal Marine recipient of both the C.G.M. and the Naval ‘Gunnery’ medal and, although there was also a naval recipient of these two awards, the remainder of McLaughlin’s medals combine to produce an impressive and unique group, all of which are fully confirmed in his Certificate of Service.