Orders, Decorations and Medals (7 April 1994)

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Date of Auction: 7th April 1994

Sold for £2,000

Estimate: £1,400 - £1,600

A particularly fine Great War D.S.C. group awarded to Captain H. McClelland, Royal Air Force, late Royal Naval Air Service, for the Handley Page bomber attack on the ‘Goeben’ in July 1917

DISTINGUISHED SERVICE CROSS, G.V.R.; BRITISH WAR AND VICTORY MEDALS (Capt., R.A.F.), the first in case of issue and the others in card forwarding boxes,good very fine and better (3)


D.S.C., London Gazette, 29 August, 1917; joint citation with Lieutenant Percy Rawlings: 'In recognition of their services on the night of 9 July, 1917, when a successful attack was carried out against the Turkish-German fleet lying off Constantinople. When the ‘Goeben’, surrounded by warships (including submarines), had been located, the attack was made from a height of 800 feet. Direct hits were obtained on the ‘Goeben’ and on other enemy ships near her. Big explosions took place on board them, followed by a heavy conflagration. The War Office in Constantinople was also attacked and a direct hit obtained.'

The extraordinary flight of Handley Page 3124, from England to Mudros (within striking distance of Constantinople), a journey of some 2,000 miles, took from 23 May to 8 June, 1917. The crew, captained by Squadron-Commander Kenneth Savory, comprised Lieutenant McClelland as ‘Bomb-dropper’ and 2nd Pilot, and Lieutenant Rawlings as Observer, with the able gunnery and mechanical support of Chief Petty Officer Adams and Leading Mechanic Cromack. The journey was completed in several legs, from Hendon to Paris, thence to Lyons, Frejus, Genoa, Rome (where the crew were horrified by the publicity their flight had attracted, in fear of the element of surprise being lost), Naples, Otranto and Mudros. It would not be until nearly a month after their arrival that the attack on the ‘Goeben’ actually got underway. Beset by poor weather or mechanical failure, the crew had to experience three failed attempts. Even so, on two of these occasions they were able to attack alternative targets, useful practice for the real thing which took place on 9 July.

Squadron-Commander Savory brought HP 3124 over the target area shortly before midnight, setting course for Stenia Bay where the ‘Goeben’ lay at anchor with other enemy ships and submarines. The element of surprise seemed total, three runs around the bay going unchallenged while captain and crew assured themselves of the target. Then Savory swept in at 900 feet and at the appointed moment McClelland released a salvo of 4 1121b bombs, all of which fell just amidships of the ""Goeben"", damaging surrounding enemy shipping. The second salvo of 41121b bombs, released a few minutes later, appeared to hit her in the centre of her forward deck.

Now the fireworks had started, an appreciable amount of A.A. fire started to light up the night sky. Unperturbed, the gallant crew of HP 3124 set off West to attack the ‘General’, a ship which was thought to house a German H.Q. It was 1220am when McClelland dropped a pair of 1 121b bombs bang on to her stern from 1,300 feet. Final port of call was the Turkish War Office where from 900 feet McLelland appeared to score two direct hits in the centre of the building. Well content with the night's work, Savory turned the giant Handley Page for home, having, by twentieth century standards, accomplished a feat no less outstanding than that achieved by the Vulcan bomber raid on Port Stanley airfield during the Falklands War. The success of the raid will never be fully known, there being so many conflicting accounts. It would seem, however, that damage to the ‘Goeben' was minimal, although one of our agents claimed 29 had been killed. The enemy did admit the loss of one of the submarines which had been tied up alongside the battleship, in addition to other damage. Whatever the physical cost to the Turks and Germans, one thing was clear. Squadron-Commander Savory and his crew had completed an epic raid which must have hit at the very heart of enemy morale. Indeed the Admiralty were quick to release a glowing communiqué describing their accomplishment and in August the London Gazette announced the award of the D.S.O. to Savory, the D.S.C. to McClelland and Rawlings, and the D.S.M. to Adams and Cromack.