Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (17 & 18 May 2016)

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Date of Auction: 17th & 18th May 2016

Sold for £5,500

Estimate: £6,000 - £7,000

‘On one patrol, he [Lieutenant J. C. Y. Roxburgh of the “United”] had to keep his submarine submerged for a day and a half and for 13 hours in that time was being continually depth charged. This happened after he had penetrated a very strong convoy escort and torpedoed a supply vessel under the nose of a zigzagging destroyer. The escorts immediately started to counter-attack and kept it up. In the first half hour the submarine’s lone crew heard the explosion of 40 depth charges. At one time the whole enemy force appeared over head but the submarine suffered no damage. All that night it moved to and fro over the same area while the enemy tried to locate her. After that Lieutenant Roxburgh was forced to stay submerged for a whole day to avoid being spotted by aircraft but in the end brought his submarine safely back to base.’

A wartime newspaper article recounts one of
United’s lucky escapes.
An outstanding Second World War submariner’s D.S.M. and Bar group of eight awarded to Petty Officer W. M. Hatherly, Royal Navy: having gained his first award for gallant services in the United in the “Fighting Tenth”, including the destruction of the Italian submarine Remo in the Gulf of Taranto in July 1943, he won a Bar for Tapir’s ‘snap attack’ on the U-486 off Bergen on 12 April 1945, on which occasion he brought the submarine torpedo tubes to readiness in just three minutes

His C.O. throughout was Lieutenant J. C. Y. Roxburgh, D.S.O., D.S.C.*, R.N., who later observed that just 18 British submarines fought ‘sub.-on-sub.’ actions with U-Boats, the closing score being 15-3 to the Royal Navy; the addition of the destruction of the Italian Remo likely constitutes a unique chapter in British submarine history, luckily a story saved for posterity by United’s No. 1 - John Wingate - the author of The Fighting Tenth

Distinguished Service Medal, G.VI.R., with Second Award Bar (JX. 138060 J. M. Hatherly, P.O.); 1939-45 Star; Atlantic Star; Africa Star, clasp, North Africa 1942-43; Pacific Star; Italy Star; War Medal 1939-45; Royal Fleet Reserve Long Service, E.II.R. (JX. 138060 J. M. Hatherly, D.S.M., PO. B. 28444, P.O., R.F.R.), official corrections to surname on the first and last, generally good very fine (8) £6000-7000

Footnote

Just 150 D.S.Ms with First Awards Bars were issued in the 1939-45 War.

D.S.M.
London Gazette 12 October 1943:

‘For courage, resolution and skill in successful patrols in H.M. submarines.’

The original recommendation states:

‘For continuous good services in charge of the Torpedo Department and for unfailing care and attention to routines both on tubes and torpedoes, resulting in the accurate running of all torpedoes fired in action. He has been on 17 consecutive patrols in the Mediterranean during which he has conducted himself with never failing cheerfulness and good humour which has greatly assisted in maintaining the morale of the ship’s company.’

Bar to D.S.M.
London Gazette 19 June 1945:

‘For exceptional skill, audacity and judgment whilst serving in one of H.M. submarines.’

The original recommendation states:

‘For outstanding efficiency as Torpedo Gunner’s Mate when a U-Boat was torpedoed and sunk. This was a snap attack and the tubes were brought to the ready in three minutes, thus enabling the attack to be carried out.

Hatherly has been consistently cheerful and keeps his department in a very high state of efficiency. In addition he has carried out 24 war patrols during which he has fired 73 action torpedoes.

Covering remarks of the Captain (S/M), Third Submarine Flotilla:

‘Forwarded, concurring. The time taken to bring 8 tubes to the ready showed coolness and efficiency of the highest order, and contributed in large measure to the sinking of the U-Boat.’


William Murray “Bill” Hatherly, who was born in September 1917, entered the Royal Navy in the mid-1930s and transferred to the Submarine Branch in the summer of 1940.

His first operational posting - having attained Petty Officer status - was to the P.
44 (a.k.a. United) in January 1942, then commanded by Lieutenant T. E. Barlow, R.N. Under the latter’s command, Hatherly undertook his first war patrols operating out of Gibraltar in May 1942, following which United transferred to Malta.

Early actions in “United”

In early August,
United fought a gun action with a merchantman but had to retire after gaining two hits. On the 18th, she torpedoed and sank the Italian transport Rosolino Pilo off Pantellaria. The results of her attack, as reported by Barlow, were ‘gratifying if unexpected’:

‘The explosion of the torpedo was followed instantaneously by another of gigantic proportions as the whole merchant ship exploded. As the Commanding Officer left the bridge a violent hot blast reached P.
44 and debris was already clattering on the casing and, before it was possible to dive, a report of the motor room was received of water coming in fast. P. 44 therefore remained on the surface as no escort seemed to be present and when the hailstorm of debris descended, it was found that the bridge was partially wrecked by a 12-foot length of one-inch frame embedded in the starboard side. The jumping wire had parted and the loop and main aerials were broken. In addition, the upper steering was wrecked. There was no sign of the merchant ship ... ’

Repairs having been undertaken back in Malta,
United departed on her 5th war patrol in mid-September. On the 17th, she attacked the Italian merchantman Rostro and the schooner Giovanna, as a consequence of which both vessels made for the shore west of Zliten in Libya. United attacked them again with gunfire that evening but, owing to poor visibility, Barlow withdrew to 800-900 yards before sending each to the bottom with single torpedoes.

In early October,
United damaged the Italian merchantman Ravenna, near Locri, Calabria, prior to engaging the tanker Cristiano with gunfire off Cape Colonne; the action had to be curtailed when enemy shire batteries opened up with accurate fire. Then in November, during her 9th war patrol, United was subjected to a depth charge attack after running into a well-defended enemy convoy north of Misurata.

In December 1942, command of the
United transferred to Lieutenant John Roxburgh, R.N., afterwards Vice-Admiral Sir John Roxburgh, K.C.B., C.B.E., D.S.O., D.S.C.*

“United” under Roxburgh - D.S.M.

As cited above, Hatherly’s first D.S.M. reflected gallant service in the course of 17 war patrols in United, so he must have been recommended for his D.S.M. after eight patrols under Roxburgh’s command. Another four would follow prior to United’s return for a refit in the U.K. in September 1943.

It was a highly successful period of command, witnessing the destruction of an armed merchant cruiser (the
Olbia), three merchantmen and three schooners, in addition to the probable destruction of the Italian destroyer Bombardiere and four further merchantmen. The Olbia took an hour to sink, so Roxburgh left the periscope up for United’s crew ‘to take a look at the results of their handiwork.’

Nor were such attacks free from retaliation, the above cited 36 hour period being a case in point; on another occasion, in June 1943, after attacking the
Ringulv, an escorting destroyer delivered a determined and accurate response, the resultant depth charges smashing thirty lights in the submarine. The entire episode had been witnessed from above - and filmed - by a P.R.U. Spitfire flying at 25,000 feet.

Most memorable of all of
United’s victories was, however, her ‘sub.-on-sub.’ encounter with the Italian Remo in the Gulf of Taranto on 17 July 1943, during her penultimate Mediterranean war patrol. Here ‘Jimmy the One’ John Wingate - and Roxburgh - take up the story in The Fighting Tenth:

‘On the afternoon of the 15th the long wait was over. The Officer of the Watch, having sighted a U-Boat, summoned Roxburgh to the control room. Roxburgh could hardly believe his luck as the U-Boat swanned in broad daylight across the surface towards him:

‘The range continued steadily to close and still the U-Boat foolishly remained on the same course. I could now count seven sunburnt figures on the conning tower. One, whom I assumed to be the commanding officer, since he was smartly dressed in white tropical uniform and cap, was sitting nonchalantly on the bridge rail with his back to me.’

The U-Boat was only 500 yards away. Roxburgh gave the order to fire. A full salvo of torpedoes sped towards the enemy.

‘The seconds ticked by. Surely we could not have missed such a sitting target from so short a range. It seemed an age, but it was in fact only some ten to fifteen seconds after firing when
United was shaken by a tremendous explosion, shortly followed by another. Up went the periscope, in time for me to see the U-Boat throw her stern high, her screws thrashing the air, and then sink without trace.

It was all over in a matter of seconds. Such a rapid end to one's own kind, after such a cold-blooded attack and viewed from so close, gave me no sense of elation, rather one of momentary awe.

This was no time for philosophising, however heads could be seen bobbing in the water and men were waving at our periscope ... As I discussed with my Number One, John Wingate, the pros and cons of surfacing in broad daylight so close to a major enemy naval base, I could not fail to overhear the broad Scots tones of the helmsman, Able Seaman Jock Barry, mumbled sotto voce from his corner in the control room: ‘Pick’em up, you cruel bugger!’

Barry, nearly forty years of age, was an old man to most of us in our twenties. A huge, tough man, far from being the best-looking member of the crew, he was a great favourite on board. Before being called up he was a Glasgow policeman, well used to dealing with the razor gangs of the Gorbals. Such tender feelings were therefore somewhat unexpected.’

But Roxburgh got his own back; on surfacing he sent Barry out onto the casing to haul the survivors on board, a vulnerable place to be if the boat was suddenly forced to dive. Barry could find only four, and minutes later United had dived.

‘The survivors turned out to be Italian: the U-Boat's commanding officer, Tenente di Vascello Salvatore Vassallo from Imperia, his navigating officer, and two ratings. They were clearly startled by my appearance when finally I interrogated them, my head being bound with a blood-stained and dirty bandage, covering a nasty gash I had sustained two nights earlier from fainting on my own bridge, shortly after leaving Malta, when I was suffering from a touch of sandfly fever.’

The prisoners were not at first very forthcoming, and it was only later that we learned their boat had been the
Remo. Roxburgh continues his account of this memorable patrol:

‘That night, whilst on the surface charging the batteries, we received a cryptic signal from Malta ... containing the one word ‘Grommet’. This announced the birth of my daughter. Had 'it' been a son, the signal would have read ‘Toggle’. It so happened that Lieutenant Vassallo's wife was also expecting a baby and one of his first requests during interrogation was whether or not she could be informed of his survival. Such a culmination to the day called for something special, in addition to the usual Jolly Roger which submarines hoisted on returning from a successful patrol. When, therefore,
United entered Malta harbour nine days later, she also proudly flew a ‘Stork flag’, specially constructed from Number One's ‘sarong’.

Remo’s survivors did not have an entirely uneventful nine days on board United. Apart from proving an enthusiastic cook and producing excellent spaghetti, the Italian Commanding Officer was treated to a demonstration of an attack on an Italian cruiser, some two days after his rescue. He remained a quiet, though very interested and somewhat anxious spectator in the corner of the control room, as I endeavoured to manoeuvre the submarine for a shot at a Regolo-class cruiser which flashed past at some 36 knots. With a range of 8000 yards and from an unfavourable position, we did not complete the attack.’

Roxburgh goes on to add:

‘Vassallo and I became quite friendly during his time on board, cooped up as we were in our tiny wardroom, a box some eight feet square, which we shared with four other officers. Our only common language was French.  I was, however, careful to bid him a friendly farewell and to wish him luck whilst we were below in the submarine, away from prying eyes after we got back to Malta.’

There were many who did not understand that friendship could arise even between dedicated opponents.’

In common with her consorts in the “Fighting Tenth”,
United also carried out her fair share of ‘special operations’, a case in point being the delivery of two C.O.P.P. teams to recce. a beach at Gela on the south coast of Sicily. The first Folbot was disembarked, with Lieutenant Philip Smith, R.N., and Lieutenant David Brand, R.N.V.R., who noted ‘soundings, bearings and distances’ over a period of two hours before returning to their rendezvous with United; alas, the submarine was nowhere to be seen. In the interim, while hanging around to pick-up the second C.O.P.P. team, a surfaced U-Boat had appeared on the scene: Roxburgh, unable to attack his foe for fear of compromising the C.O.P.P. teams, had to dive and make for base. As it transpired, the gallant Smith and Brand made it back to Malta, having paddled frantically for an entire day and night, prior to being picked up by an M.T.B.

In September 1943, after completing her 21st war patrol,
United was ordered home for a refit: Roxburgh, Hatherly and fellow decorated members of crew duly attended a Buckingham Palace investiture on 9 November 1943.

“Tapir” - ‘snap attack’ - Bar to D.S.M.

In the interim having served in the
Sealion in July-September 1944, Hatherly removed to John Roxburgh’s new command, the Tapir. After undergoing trials and a working-up period at Holy Loch, the newly launched Tapir undertook her first war patrol in early April 1945: what followed has been described as one of the finest ‘sub.-on-sub.’ encounters of the war, a model ‘snap attack’ ending in the destruction of the U-486 off Bergen at 0755 hours on the 12th.

A full account of this memorable encounter is to be found in
Submarines versus U-Boats, by Geoff Jones, but for the purposes of closing this chapter in Hatherly’s remarkable wartime career, the following Admiralty summary is quoted:

‘Eleven minutes after the Asdic Operator had reported diesel engines, during which time nothing could be seen through the periscope, the noises altered to those of a submarine’s main motors and it became apparent that a U-Boat was making, submerged, for the entrance of Fejeosen Fjord. Both H.M. submarine
Tapir and the U-Boat were too close to the entrance of the fjord to enable an attack from submerged to be carried out so the Commanding Officer rightly decided to remain at periscope depth in the hope that the U-Boat would surface before getting too far through the entrance. Nineteen minutes after the first report the Asdic Operator reported the U-Boat surfacing and, simultaneously, she was seen to do so. The Director Angle was almost on but some alteration had to be made before the torpedo tubes were brought to the ready, and three minutes after sighting a salvo was fired. One torpedo was seen to hit the target and the U-Boat literally exploded, bits being clearly observed flying through the air. This was a model attack in which the Commanding Officer, recently employed on the training of new Submarine Commanding Officers, put into effect the approved methods of submarine attack procedure which he had been endeavouring to impart to other ... ’

Hatherly - whose lightening work with the torpedo tubes was largely responsible for the the success of the attack - was awarded a Bar to his D.S.M. He remained in
Tapir until August 1946, including a stint of duty in the Pacific before V.J. Day., prior to departing the submarine service in the following year. he subsequently enrolled in the Royal Fleet Reserve.

Sold with two impressive photographs albums, covering the period 1935-45, the earliest images covering the recipient’s appointment in H.M.S.
Valiant and the Foxhound, the latter seeing service off Spain during the Civil War (a total of approximately 400 images); together with some 60 or so loose-leaf photographs, and a large quantity of photographic postcards, many of naval - and submarine - interest.