Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (8 December 2016)

Date of Auction: 8th December 2016

Sold for £2,800

Estimate: £1,400 - £1,600

A Great War D.S.C. group of four awarded to Lieutenant-Commander M. R. Cole, Royal Navy, for services whilst Gunner of H.M.S. Thrasher at the destruction of UC-39 off Flamborough Head in February 1917

Distinguished Service Cross, G.V.R., the reverse hallmarked London 1916 and additionally inscribed ‘Presented to Morris R. Cole, D.S.C., R.N., by H.M. the King April 4th, 1917’; 1914-15 Star (Gnr. M. R. Cole, R.N.); British War and Victory Medals (Mte. M. R. Cole. R.N.) mounted as worn, very fine (4) £1400-1600


D.S.C. London Gazette 23 March 1917.

Morris Roseman Cole was serving as a Gunner in H.M.S. Thrasher, a Torpedo Boat Destroyer, when he was awarded the D.S.C. for the destruction of the German submarine UC-39 near Flamborough Head on 8 February 1917. The ship’s Captain, Lieutenant E. M. Hawkins, received the D.S.O. for the same action, both awards being gazetted on the same date.

On 8 February 1917, UC-39 was sighted by Lieutenant Ernest M. Hawkins, R.N.R., of H,M.S. Thrasher. UC-39, on her maiden voyage, was caught red-handed off Flamborough Head while attacking the collier Hornsey with gunfire. The submarine immediately dove but the Thrasher, approaching the spot at full speed, dropped her single depth charge with such accuracy that the charge burst in UC-39’s conning tower and flooded it and the control room. With his crew in a state of panic the German captain, Oberleutnant Ehrentrant was forced to surrender and surfaced the submarine. The moment the conning tower appeared the Thrasher opened a heavy, close range fire with her twelve pounder gun and six pounders. The submarine’s captain was killed as were eight other crewmen. UC-39’s crew seemed stunned by the loss of their skipper. Finally a British prisoner on the submarine, the captain of the Hanna Larsen, braved the shells and waved his white pocket handkerchief as a flag of surrender.

Of UC-39’s crew 17 were saved as were two British prisoners of war. It is probable that the UC-39 would have sunk outright but the vessel later sank while in tow from another British destroyer.

Cole joined H.M.S. Inconstant on 29 October 1917, in the rank of Acting Mate. He joined H.M.S. Carysfort on 22 May 1919, and was promoted to Acting Lieutenant in January 1920. He retired in the rank of Lieutenant-Commander in July 1922. Sold with a contemporary Post Card of the sinking of UC-39 and other research.