Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (9 & 10 May 2018)

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Date of Auction: 9th & 10th May 2018

Sold for £6,000

Estimate: £4,000 - £5,000

A fine Second World War ‘sinking of the Bismarck’ D.S.O. group of seven awarded to Commander (E) A. D. Merriman, Royal Navy, Engineer Officer of H.M.S. Suffolk during this classic action

Distinguished Service Order, G.VI.R., 1st issue, reverse of the lower suspension bar officially dated ‘1941’, complete with top suspension brooch; British War and Victory Medals (Mid. A. D. Merriman. R.N.); 1939-45 Star; Atlantic Star, clasp, France and Germany; Italy Star; War Medal, mounted as worn, nearly extremely fine (7) £4000-5000

Footnote

D.S.O. London Gazette 14 October 1941: ‘For mastery, determination and skill in action against the German Battleship Bismarck.’

A total of 15 D.S.Os. and one Second Bar awarded to officers of the Royal Navy and Fleet Air Arm for the Bismarck action. It is notable that no fewer than 7 of these went to the Engineer Officers of the various ships for the very important part that they played in bringing the Bismarck to action.

The official recommendation states:

‘H.M.S. Suffolk - Commander (E) Arthur Duncan Merriman, R.N. Engineer Officer - steamed the ship economically and efficiently at high speed throughout the operations, overcoming a number of material difficulties which were the legacy of damage done to the ship during the bombardment last year and her long subsequent period lying awaiting repair.’

Suffolk’s commanding officer, Captain Robert Merrick Ellis, was also awarded the D.S.O. on this occasion, his recommendation stating: ‘I wish in particular to recommend Captain R. M. Ellis, R.N., H.M.S. Suffolk. The work of his ship was incomparable and not only was he responsible for the first sighting but she remained in touch continuously until the engagement with the Battle Cruiser Force. The way in which touch was maintained under extremely difficult conditions of low and varying visibility was beyond praise.’

The moment it became known that the Bismarck and Prinz Eugen had put to sea from Bergen, dispositions were at once made to prevent the enemy from breaking into the Atlantic to execute Admiral Lutjens’s ‘Good hunting and good bag.’

Sent to patrol the Denmark Straits, the cruisers H.M.S. Suffolk and H.M.S. Norfolk set out to track down the enemy, poor weather with fog and ice floes making their brief all the more difficult. On the evening of 23 May 1941, however, lookouts aboard the Suffolk, followed by those in the Norfolk, sighted the German ships sailing at high speed on a south-westerly course. Admiral Wake-Walker immediately reported this intelligence to the surrounding British forces.

Throughout the night the two cruisers continued to shadow the enemy force and, on the following morning, witnessed the attack carried out by the Prince of Wales and the Hood, the ultimate result of which was the terrible loss of the latter battleship. Hits, however, were observed on the Bismarck, and soon afterwards a successful torpedo strike was delivered by a Fleet Air Arm aircraft from the Victorious.

On the evening of 25 May contact was lost and it was not until a Coastal Command aircraft re-sighted the Bismarck 550 miles west of Land’s End that the Royal Navy moved in for the kill, a victory that prompted Churchill to state to the House of Commons on 27 May:

‘Great as is our loss in the Hood, the Bismarck must be regarded as the most powerful as she is newest battleship in the world, and the striking of her from the German Navy is a very definitive simplification of the task of maintaining the effective mastery of the Northern Sea and the maintenance of the Northern Blockade.’

Arthur Duncan Merriman was born in Kingston-upon-Thames on 23 May 1901. He entered the Royal Navy on 15 January 1915, being appointed Midshipman aboard the battleship Erin on 26 September 1917, for the remainder of the war. His subsequent appointments were to H.M.S. Resolution, November 1919, and to Engine Room training, December 1920; H.M.S. Queen Elizabeth, for Engine Room duty, July 1921; Sub Lieutenant, 15 May 1921; H.M.S. President additional for Engineer training, September 1921; Keyham Engineering College, May 1922; H.M.S. Resolution for Engine Room duty, September 1923; and H.M.S. Valiant for Engine Room duty, November 1923, having been promoted Acting Lieutenant (E), 15 May 1923.

Granted a temporary commission as Flying Officer to train as a pilot, Merriman was on attachment to the R.A.F. for 4 years from 16 June 1924. He was appointed to H.M.S. Eagle for pilot duties with 440 Flight in September 1925, and to H.M.S. Argus for Flight Reconnaissance duties with 422 Flight and deck landing training, and to H.M.S. Columbine for 422 Flight in October 1925. He was involved in an aircraft accident on 2 June 1926, resulting in a head injury, bruised legs and three weeks in Haslar Hospital. Returning to flying duties for a short period, he was appointed to H.M.S. Cambria, the stokers training school, in 1928. Promoted Lieutenant-Commander (E) on 15 May 1931, and Commander (E) on 31 December 1935, he was appointed to H.M.S. Suffolk on 14 December 1940. Suffolk had been recently re-commissioned after being severely damaged during seven hours of air attack by German aircraft off Norway on 14 April 1940. He afterwards served in H.M.S. Resolution from March 1943, and the battleship Ramillies from November 1943, which ship saw service on D-Day. In August 1945 he was posted to Victory for duty in the Commodore’s Office, and in August 1948 took up his final appointment in H.M.S. Adamant, a submarine tender in Fremantle, Australia. He was placed on the retired list on 23 May 1951, and died at Haslar R.N. Hospital, Gosport, on 8 June 1968.

Sold with R.N. bullion cap badge and rank epaulettes, together with a comprehensive file of detailed research, including copied action reports, record of service, various ship photographs and postcards, and a copy of the Battle of the Denmark Strait by Robert J. Winklareth.