Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (30 March 2011)

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Date of Auction: 30th March 2011

Sold for £7,500

Estimate: £5,000 - £6,000

A particularly fine and rare Second World War submariner’s D.S.M. and Bar group of eight awarded to Chief Petty Officer W. J. Booty, Royal Navy: having been decorated for his services as Coxswain in the Unbending while attached to the famous “Fighting Tenth” Flotilla 1942-43, he added a Bar to his decoration for like services in the Truculent in Far Eastern waters in 1944 - both commissions witnessing clandestine operations and hair-raising depth charge attacks

Distinguished Service Medal, G.VI.R., with Second Award Bar (J. 113514 W. J. Booty, A./C.P.O.); Naval General Service 1915-62, 1 clasp, Palestine 1936-1939 (J. 113514 W. J. Booty, A.B., R.N.); 1939-45 Star; Atlantic Star; Africa Star, clasp, North Africa 1942-43; Burma Star; War Medal 1939-45; Royal Navy L.S. & G.C., G.VI.R., 1st issue (J. 113514 W. J. Booty, P.O., H.M.S. Talbot), minor contact wear, generally good very fine (8) £5000-6000

Footnote

Approximately 150 Bars were awarded to the D.S.M. during the 1939-45 War, together with 3 second Bars and one third Bar.

D.S.M. London Gazette 27 July 1943. The original recommendation states:

‘Acting Chief Petty Officer Booty has exerted an excellent influence on the ship’s company to keep up their enthusiasm. He has handled the after planes most efficiently in action and thereby contributed considerably to the success of the submarine.’

Bar to D.S.M. London Gazette 19 September 1944. The original recommendation states:

‘For great skill, devotion to duty and fine bearing which has been an inspiration to all. He has shown cheerfulness and initiative on all occasions and has been an exemplary Coxswain.’

William John Booty, who was born in August 1909 and from Ipswich, Suffolk, entered the Royal Navy as a Boy Seaman in 1925. Appointed an Able Seaman in December 1928, he served in the destroyers in the Mediterranean before transferring to the Submarine Branch in January 1935, his subsequent pre-war appointments including the submarines Thames and Otway, the former incorporating his service off Palestine.

The renewal of hostilities found Booty attending a course at
Dolphin, but in March 1940 he joined the Porpoise, in which submarine he remained actively employed until August 1941 and gained advancement to Temporary Petty Officer. Originally under the command of Lieutenant-Commander P. Q. Roberts, R.N., and from August 1940 Lieutenant-Commander J. G. Hopkins, R.N., the Porpoise was largely employed on mine-laying duties off Norway during this period, an early success being the resultant sinking of the German minesweeper M. 5; but her engagements with the U-3 off Egersund on 16 April 1940, and another U-Boat in the North Atlantic on 7 March 1941, proved unsuccessful.

Unbending

Having then attended further courses and been rated as Senior Coxswain in June 1942, Booty joined the P. 37 (afterwards Unbending) that August, and remained similarly employed until September 1943, which period witnessed his appointment to the acting rank of Chief Petty Officer and the award of his D.S.M. - he was recommended by his skipper, Lieutenant Edward “Otto” Stanley, D.S.C., R.N., on 12 April 1943.

During this period Unbending carried out at least nine war patrols in the Mediterranean while attached to the famous “Fighting Tenth” Flotilla, and was credited with sinking one destroyer, six merchant vessels totalling 11,850 tons, and probably sinking a further brace of merchant vessels totalling 10,500 tons, in addition to destroying one schooner and carrying out clandestine Combined Operations Pilotage Parties (C.O.P.P.) missions - the schooner was boarded in the Gulf of Sfax and set alight by a resourceful officer using shale oil.

Excellent accounts of some of Unbending’s patrols appear in John Wingate’s definitive history The Fighting Tenth, from which the following extracts have been taken:

On enemy retaliation:

‘The single U-class submarine not in Tunisian waters at this time was P. 37/Unbending (Lieutenant E. T. Stanley). She was in the southern approaches to the Strait of Messina when, at dawn on 23 January [1943], she sighted two tugs towing an 8,000-ton ship, escorted by two E-Boats and a torpedo boat. She was the Viminale (8,500 tons), the charioteers’ victim at Palermo, patched up and on her way to the repair yards at Messina. Stanley fired three torpedoes, scoring two hits, but the counter-attack was immediate and accurate. The depth-charges having caused considerable damage in the submarine, including thirteen cracked batteries, she was forced to return to base ... ’

On a clandestine mission:


‘In mid-March Unbending sailed with a train-wrecking party, three Commandos led by Lieutenant Lee, Dorset Regiment, whose target was ‘a railway tunnel close to the beach’ on the east coast of Calabria. Lieutenant “Otto” Stanley remembers the infectious enthusiasm these men exuded, a welcome antidote to the gloom the ship’s company had been feeling since the loss of their C.O.P.P. crews earlier in the month.

Stanley writes of ‘the usual anxious moments’ before surfacing, ‘until the bridge has been manned and a search of the horizon had confirmed no ships were in sight’. But ‘reason quickly prevailed over nerves’. The Folbots and their occupants were slipped over the side and Unbending withdrew while the raiders paddled off in the dark. Stanley goes on:

‘Lee reached the shore in the planned position, but unfortunately tore the skin of his Folbot against a rock on beaching. He and his companion carried out a reconnaissance and completed their plans for entering the tunnel. Exact details of what happened at the other end of the tunnel have never been obtained; it appears that both men landed safely but the moment was too great for one of them, who lost his head and opened fire with his Sten gun, effectively alerting the guards at both ends of the tunnel. To proceed with the operation became impossible and Lee and his companion had to beat a hasty retreat ... They set out to search for a boat and were fortunate, around dawn, to find a small fishing boat which its owner was about to launch. Both were immediately commandeered. The boat put to sea, pulled by the reluctant Italian, and headed for the line 180 degrees from the west end of the tunnel, which had been agreed as the rendezvous.’

On board the submarine everyone was fearing the worst.

‘We dived at dawn and Lee’s hammock was sadly taken down from its position in the gangway, where it had been so roundly cursed by every sailor for the past three days. A diving patrol was established up and down the rendezvous line ‘just in case’. Sleep proved elusive.

It was a couple of hours after dawn when the welcome summons was passed forward: ‘Captain in the control room.’ An excited Officer of the Watch pointed out a smudge of smoke to the eastward, just visible through the high power periscope ... The convoy steamed steadily on, hugging the coast, and was soon seen to consist of three cargo ships and a small destroyer. An E-boat could also be heard.

A fresh breeze was blowing, which would satisfactorily hide torpedo tracks and any feather the periscope might make through careless handling. Altogether, attack conditions were perfect and by the time the submarine was abeam of the convoy, and within 2,000 yards range, two ships were conveniently overlapping, so that the four torpedoes fired could be spread over both targets.’

That morning of 14 March, Unbending sank both Citta di Bergamo (2,163 tons) and Cosenza (1,471 tons). It was some consolation both to the submarine, and to Lieutenant Lee who had been a witness from a distance. According to Stanley, the two soldiers and their Italian companion, after many vicissitudes, finally landed in Sicily:

‘There, unfortunately, the Italian fisherman proved a liability and, before they could put to sea again, they were captured. Lee did not remain a prisoner of war for very long, and it was a great day, some four months later, when he sought me out in a shore establishment in England and told me his side of the story.’ ’

In addition to Booty’s D.S.M., five other ratings were similarly honoured, and eight mentioned in despatches, while Stanley added a D.S.O. to his accolades and his “Jimmy the One” a D.S.C.

Truculent

Joining the Truculent in October 1943, Booty undertook at least four war patrols in Far Eastern waters in the period February-July 1944, his submarine being credited with sinking a transport of 4000 tons, two coasters and five junks, in addition to laying mines and carrying out three special operations. Of her victims, the most notable proved to be the merchant cargo ship Harugiku Maru, sunk south-east of Medan on 26 June 1944, for unbeknown to skipper and crew, she was carrying over 700 Allied P.O.Ws - of whom 50 or more perished:

‘At 0958 hours,
Truculent sighted smoke bearing 266. Two minutes later it was noticed that an aircraft was circling in the same direction. Truculent closed for an attack. Later it became clear that Truculent was closing a Japanese convoy made up of one merchant of about 4000 tons, three merchants of about 1500 tons, escorted by two submarine chasers and a motor launch. Overhead a twin-engined aircraft was circling.

At 1112 hours, four torpedoes were fired against the 4000-tons merchant vessel from 3500 yards. Two hits were obtained. Truculent went deep but hit the bottom at 58 feet.

At 1116 hours, the first depth-charges were dropped, a pattern of six, but these were not close. At 1124 hours two more depth charges were dropped, this time much closer. At 1159 more depth charges (at least three) were dropped, also close aboard. After these no more depth charges were dropped and Truculent was able to slip away.’

Booty was recommended for a Bar to his D.S.M. by his skipper, Lieutenant Robert Alexander, D.S.O., R.N., on 21 July 1944, and remained actively employed in the Far East until November 1944. Alexander and his Engineering Officer won D.S.Cs and another rating, in addition to Booty, a D.S.M., while eight others received “mentions”.

Remaining a submariner post-war, his final appointment was as an instructor at Dolphin, and he came ashore for a final time in June 1949. The gallant Booty died in July 1982; sold with a fine array of original career photographs, some 28 images, many of wartime interest, together with a file of research.