Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (22 July 2015)

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Date of Auction: 22nd July 2015

Sold for £2,600

Estimate: £2,400 - £2,800

‘This is the plain unvarnished tale of a retired Admiral, living a happy, contented life and wanting nothing more, who, to his own amazement, became a cabin boy in one fell swoop. I hasten to add that the cabin was in a prison, and that the prison was on Brixton Hill. Some ill-natured people would call this cabin a cell, but if it is all the same to you, cabin sounds nicer, and gives this book a better title. So there you are.’

From the preface to Admiral Sir Barry Domvile’s From Admiral to Cabin Boy (1947).
‘This is the plain unvarnished tale of a retired Admiral, living a happy, contented life and wanting nothing more, who, to his own amazement, became a cabin boy in one fell swoop. I hasten to add that the cabin was in a prison, and that the prison was on Brixton Hill. Some ill-natured people would call this cabin a cell, but if it is all the same to you, cabin sounds nicer, and gives this book a better title. So there you are.’

From the preface to Admiral Sir Barry Domvile’s From Admiral to Cabin Boy (1947).


The inter-war K.B.E., C.B., Great War C.M.G. group of nine awarded to Admiral Sir Barry Domvile, Royal Navy, who saw action in command of destroyers and cruisers of the Harwich Force and was one time Director of the Naval Intelligence Department: following his retirement, he became better known as the founder of the Anglo-German organisation “The Link”, in which capacity he was a guest of the German Ambassador von Ribbentrop at the famous Nuremberg Rally of 1936 - activities that ultimately led to his imprisonment under ‘Defence Regulation 18B’ in 1940


The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, K.B.E. (Military) Knight Commander’s 1st type set of insignia, comprising neck badge, silver-gilt and enamel, and breast star, silver, with gilt and enamel centre; The Most Honourable Order of the Bath, C.B. (Military) Companion’s neck badge, silver-gilt and enamel; The Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael & St. George, C.M.G. Companion’s neck badge, silver-gilt and enamel; 1914-15 Star (Commr. B. E. Domvile, R.N.); British War and Victory Medals (Capt. B. E. Domvile, R.N.); Coronation 1911; Jubilee 1935, together with a set of related miniature dress medals, generally good very fine (17) £2400-2800

Footnote

K.B.E. London Gazette 4 June 1934.

C.B. London Gazette 3 June 1922.

C.M.G. London Gazette 4 June 1917. The original recommendation states:

‘He has served in various capacities in the Harwich Force throughout the War. He has been present at several engagements and has on several occasions commanded half flotillas on active service.’

Barry Edward Domvile was born in September 1878, the son of Admiral Sir Compton Edward Domvile, G.C.B., G.C.V.O., and entered Britannia as a cadet in July 1892. Enjoying several seagoing appointments as a Midshipman in the period 1894-97, he was advanced, by special promotion, to Lieutenant in December 1898. Subsequently specialising in gunnery, he won a string of favourable captains’ reports, his skills as a gunnery officer being regularly described as ‘remarkable’ and ‘exceptional’. In December 1909, after being awarded the Beaufort Testimonial, Ryder Prize and Goodenough Gold Medal, he was advanced to Commander.

The outbreak of hostilities in August 1914 found him employed as Naval Assistant Secretary to the Committee of Imperial Defence, but he quickly returned to sea with command of the destroyer H.M.S. Miranda. He subsequently held several other commands in the Harwich Force, commencing with the Tipperary, another destroyer, in the period May-September 1915. Removing to the cruiser Arethusa in November 1915, his command came to an abrupt end on 11 February 1916, when she was mined off Felixstowe and drifted ashore and broke her back before rescuing vessels could reach her; six of her company were killed by the mine’s explosion.

Command of the Carysfort having followed in the period April-July 1916, when he was advanced to substantive Captain, Domvile removed to the cruiser Centaur in July 1916 and remained in command of her until January 1918, in which period he was involved in several actions, among them the sinking of the German torpedo boat S. 20 near the Schouwen Bank, off Zeebrugge, on 5 June 1917. He was awarded the C.M.G. Finally, in respect of the Great War period, he commanded the Curacoa from January 1918 until April 1919.

Following the Great War, Domvile served as Director of Plans at the Admiralty 1920-22, in which capacity he attended a number of international conferences, not least the Washington Conference in 1921. He was highly commended by Rear-Admiral Chatfield and awarded the C.B.:

‘I would specially mention Captain Domvile, who, as my Chief Assistant, has been invaluable. In pressing our claims, as well as refuting those of other nations, his adroitness, knowledge and quickness in conference have shown up in a notable manner.’

Having then served as Chief of Staff, Mediterranean 1922-25, in the rank of Commodore 2nd Class, he returned to sea with command of the Royal Sovereign 1925-26. Advanced to Rear-Admiral, he next served as Director of Naval Intelligence 1927-30, but he returned to sea once more as a Vice-Admiral commanding the 3rd Cruiser Squadron in the Mediterranean 1931-32.

Domvile’s final appointments were as President of the R.N.C. Greenwich and Vice-Admiral commanding the War College, in which capacity he was awarded his K.B.E. in the Birthday Honours of 1934, and he was placed on the Retired List - at his own request - as an Admiral in January 1936.

“The Link” - visits to Germany - Prison

Of subsequent events in the Admiral’s life, much is to be found via printed and internet sources; so, too, in the Admiral’s own books, Look to Your Moat (1937), a critical assessment of Britain’s naval weakness in the Far East, and From Admiral to Cabin Boy (1947). The latter publication serves as a robust defence for his activities in the mid-to-late 1930s and describes his subsequent years of imprisonment in Brixton (1940-43).

Following several visits to Germany in the mid-1930s, Domvile found common ground in certain aspects of the Nazi regime, attended the Nuremberg Rally of 1936 at the invitation of the German Ambassador Joachim von Ribbentrop, and became a council member of the Anglo-German Fellowship. However, not content with the Fellowship, which in his view was ‘largely supported by big business firms’, Domvile founded his own Anglo-German organisation - “The Link” - in July 1937; according to him, membership of his new organisation was ‘open to all’ and by the summer of 1939 it had amassed 4,300 members, the more notable recruits including Lord Redesdale, Major-General John Fuller, Lord Semphill, C. E. Carroll and A. P. Laurie.

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph on 7 September 1939, Domvile explained:

‘The Link is closed down and the organisation dissolved. Naturally, we closed down on the declaration of war. That was essential. The King’s enemies became our enemies. We had done our best for better Anglo-German relations, and with the outbreak of hostilities there was no more to be done. All the branches are closed.’

However, in common with other prominent members of “The Link”, Domvile was arrested after the passing of ‘Defence Regulation 18B’ in May 1940, legislation which gave the Home Secretary the right to imprison without trial anybody he believed likely to ‘endanger the safety of the realm.’ He remained in Brixton Prison until his release in July 1943:

‘I went into ‘C’ Wing to join the other post-graduates of English Justice in the twentieth century. This was a much more comfortable proposition than ‘F’ Wing; I had a bed complete with springs, and quite a large portion of the window opened to admit fresh air. The floor was tiled. Altogether a very Ritzy affair. I found myself next door to Sir Oswald Mosley on the first floor, or C2 landing in prison reckoning. Our windows overlooked the exercise yard for Remand prisoners; we could thus inspect the daily bag, having their morning constitutional before setting out for the various courts and assizes. This was my home for nearly three years.’

Domvile, who largely faded from public view in the post-war period, died in August 1971; his son, Lieutenant Barry Domvile, R.A., was killed in action in Greece in May 1941.

In October 2010, The National Archives (T.N.A.) released a number of Home Office and Ministry of Home Security files relevant to the Domvile case (T.N.A. HO 283/31), including transcripts of interviews with the Admiral and his wife, Lady Domvile, and copies of personal letters.

Sold with the Admiral’s books, Look to Your Moat (The National Book Association, London, 1937), and two editions of From Admiral to Cabin Boy (both Boswell Publishing Co. Ltd., London, 1947), one of these a presentation copy to ‘The Gittenses with the Author’s Best Wishes,’ signed and dated 1965, and the other with considerable annotation in red ink.