Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (24 & 25 February 2016)

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Date of Auction: 24th & 25th February 2016

Sold for £4,200

Estimate: £700 - £900

A fine Great War O.B.E. group of eight awarded to Paymaster Lieutenant H. M. Fitch, Royal Navy, a recipient of the Orders of St. Sava and the White Eagle for his services with the Naval Mission to Serbia, services that included work as an Observer in aerial reconnaissance of the Danube in 1915

The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, O.B.E. (Military) Officer’s 1st type breast badge, silver-gilt, hallmarks for London 1919; 1914-15 Star (Asst. Payr. H. M. Fitch, R.N.); British War and Victory Medals (Payr. Lt. H. M. Fitch, R.N.); Defence Medal 1939-45; Serbia, Order of St. Sava, Commander’s neck badge, silver-gilt and enamel; Serbia, Order of the White Eagle, 5th Class breast badge, with swords, silver-gilt and enamel; France, Croix de Guerre 1914-1917, with silver star riband fitment, minor enamel damage to the White Eagle badge, otherwise good very fine (8) £700-900

Footnote

O.B.E. London Gazette 17 October 1919.

Henry Maldon Fitch was appointed a Clerk in the Royal Navy in July 1910. Advanced to Assistant Paymaster in July 1912, he was serving in the cruiser H.M.S.
Defence on the outbreak of hostilities in August 1914.

It was however his subsequent appointment as an Admiral’s secretary in H.M.S.
Egmont in Malta in early 1915 that led to his joining the Naval Mission to Serbia. His subsequent services were recognised by the awards of the French Croix de Guerre (accompanying Admiralty letter, dated 27 September 1918, refers); 5th Class Serbian Order of the White Eagle and, ultimately, 3rd Class of the Serbian Order of St. Sava. The citation for the latter distinction, which actually extends into operations in 1916-17, reads in part:

‘He took part as an Observer in many aeroplane reconnaissances over the Danube during March and April 1915; was aboard the English patrol boat in the attack in April 1915, the boat being hold by a shell and nearly sunk; served in the Marine Division at Belgrade during the battle of 4 October 1915.’

A good account of these operations in 1915 may be found in Blumberg’s
Sea Soldiers, for the Royal Marines were very much to the fore in the fighting ashore; so, too, it seems, Fitch, who arrived at Belgrade with Rear-Admiral Troubridge on 22 February 1915.

Having then been employed as an Admiral’s Secretary back in London - and served in the battleship
Marlborough - Fitch returned to his old post in Malta. Here, then, a period of service that saw him survive two hours in the water after the steamer Brindisi, with around 500 Montenegrins embarked, was torpedoed in the Adriatic. As verified by the citation for his Serbian Order of St. Sava, he subsequently participated in the operations against Monastir in 1917-18. He had meanwhile been advanced to Paymaster Lieutenant.

In the summer of 1919, Fitch was drafted for ‘special services’ to the Petershead base
Crescent II, following which, in early 1920, he joined the re-commissioned gunboat Glowworm for services as Paymaster in Command of the Danube Flotilla. He was finally placed on the Retired List in April 1921 and died in April 1969; sold with the recipient’s original O.B.E. warrant and permission to wear warrant for the Serbian White Eagle, this last dated 20 November 1915.