Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (10 & 11 May 2017)

Date of Auction: 10th & 11th May 2017

Sold for £4,800

Estimate: £3,600 - £4,000

The outstanding Second War ‘Commando’ Landing Craft Coxswain’s D.S.M. group of six awarded to Leading Seaman E. Smith, Royal Navy, who operating from H.M.S. Princess Beatrix as part of the ‘Moonlight Squadron’, was mentioned in despatches for Operation Jubilee - the Dieppe Raid, 19 August 1942, and further distinguished himself during Operation Romeo - the French Commando raid on Cape Nègre, 14/15 August 1944 - when he safely landed his complement under heavy fire before being taken prisoner of war

Distinguished Service Medal, G.VI.R.; 1939-45 Star; Atlantic Star, 1 clasp, France and Germany; Africa Star, 1 clasp, North Africa 1942-43; Italy Star; War Medal 1939-45, M.I.D. Oak Leaf, generally good very fine (6) £3600-4000

Footnote

D.S.M. London Gazette 27 March 1945

Leading Seaman Edward Smith’s recommendation for the award of an ‘Immediate’ D.S.M. is recorded in ADM.116.5156 and this, combined with the attached postscript is used as an illustrative award in W. H. Fevyer’s The Distinguished Service Medal 1939-45:

‘Smith’s L.C.A. 220, had to land French Commandos on a rocky point at Cape Nègre Southern France 15 August 1944. Before touching down, opposition was experienced, flares being lighted and fire opened up from the Cape. Craft was immediately put on to the rocks to ensure landing of troops. Craft was damaged. After troops had disembarked, crew took cover. 25 minutes later, crew attempted to reload craft. Smith and Acting Leading Seaman (C.O.) George Thomas Chedzey Official Number D/JX 206279/00 went into the water to assist re-floating craft which by now had only one propeller. Fire was again opened up on them and when the craft was ultimately floated, only Chedzey was recovered. Smith was last heard to shout ‘Carry on, I can swim.’

I consider that Smith is deserving of an award for he has shown exemplary skill, courage and devotion to duty in all the operations in which he has participated.

This last act of his is worthy of the Service and it is regretted that he has been reported missing.’

A further report in the file adds the following postscript to the story:

Edward Smith, Acting Leading Seaman, C/JX176875, H.M.S. Princess Beatrix - Reported Missing from Operation Dragoon.

The above rating was reported missing from H.M.S. Princess Beatrix during Operation Dragoon in my report of proceedings dated 16th August 1944.

He was taken prisoner by the Germans during the afternoon of 15th August and subsequently, on the 16th, was imprisoned in Fortress of Toulon for 9 days, being liberated by the French when Toulon was captured.’

M.I.D. London Gazette 2 October 1942:

‘During the attack on Dieppe 19th August 1942 he handled his craft with skill and ability during a long day under heavy fire. (Coxswain of landing craft).’

Edward Smith served during the Second War as an Able Seaman, and Coxswain of landing craft, with the Royal Navy. Employed in a highly specialised role, he served with H.M.S. Princess Beatrix - the converted Dutch civilian passenger liner that became a British Commando Troopship. The Princess Beatrix, constructed in 1939, was a high speed vessel that made her perfectly suited to take part in ‘hit and run’ operations. She was converted so that she could carry six LCAs and two LCM(1)s, along with the capacity for 450 troops. During conversion she was armed with two 12-pounder guns, two 2-pounders, four Hotchkiss 20 mm machine guns, and four .303 cal. machine guns.

Smith was coxswain of one of her LCAs for Operation Jubilee, the Dieppe Raid, 19 August 1942. On the latter date the LCAs landed men of the South Saskatchewan Regiment on ‘Green Beach’ to the West of Dieppe at Pourville. Smith was Mentioned in Despatches for his gallantry in piloting his LCA under heavy fire. He was still serving in the same capacity, with the same vessel, two years later when he was engaged as part of Operation Dragoon. In the interim period the Princess Beatrix took part in Commando and Special Force elements of Operations Torch, Husky, Partridge and Romeo. The latter being for what Smith was awarded his D.S.M., as part of a preliminary operation undertaken the night before (14/15 August 1944) Operation Dragoon.

Operation Romeo was an attempt by a force of approximately 800 French Commandos to disable German artillery positions on the top the cliffs of Cap Nègre. It was one of several preliminary operations prior to Operation Dragoon which were intended to confuse the Germans in advance of the main landing in France, and move the defenders away from the more obvious landing sites. Smith, by now highly experienced in landing troops from his LCA, delivered his Commandos safely to the beach. However, his craft was damaged by enemy fire. Having re-floated the damaged craft and got her moving again he was separated from the LCA and eventually taken prisoner by the Germans. After 9 days of incarceration in Toulon, he was liberated by the French when they re-captured the city.