Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (17 & 18 July 2019)

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Date of Auction: 17th & 18th July 2019

Sold for £7,000

Estimate: £4,000 - £5,000

A scarce Second War 1941 ‘Sinking of the Bismarck’ D.S.M. group of four awarded to Swordfish Air Gunner, Leading Airman H. F. Huxley, 810 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm, who, operating from H.M.S. Ark Royal, was in one of two aircraft to spot and hold the German battleship under almost continual surveillance until a Strike Force could be mustered to sink her. Huxley was killed after 810 Squadron’s raid on Alghero Airfield, Sardinia, 1 August 1941

Distinguished Service Medal, G.VI.R. (FAA/SFX.899 H. F. Huxley. L. Airman. H.M.S. Ark Royal.) with case of issue; 1939-45 Star; Atlantic Star; War Medal 1939-45, with card box of issue addressed to ‘Mrs E. M. Huxley, 147 Denewood Crescent, Aspley, Nottingham’, nearly extremely fine (4) £4,000-£5,000


D.S.M. London Gazette 16 September 1941:

‘For gallantry, daring and skill in operations in which the German Battleship Bismarck was destroyed.’

The recommendation states:

‘This Leading Airman maintained the W/T communication of his aircraft for long periods when shadowing Bismarck during the early stages of the operation. Later, as Air Gunner of a Striking Force aircraft, without an observer, he showed great presence of mind and initiative in warning his pilot and thereby preventing an attack being made on one of our own ships in low visibility after the aircraft had dived to the attack.’

Harold Francis Huxley was a native of Nottingham, and initially served during the Second War as a Naval Airman 1st Class with the Fleet Air Arm. He was posted for service with 810 Squadron (Swordfish) on H.M.S. Ark Royal for the outbreak of the war. Flying with Sub-Lieutenant A. M. Dixon as his pilot, Huxley took part in operations over Norway after the German invasion in April 1940. He took part in bombing raids on Vaernes aerodrome, 28 April 1940, and an attack on trains and bridges in the Narvik area, 9 May 1940.

Huxley joined the hunt for the German battleship Bismarck in the Atlantic on 26 May 1941. Contact with the German ship had been lost after action against the Prince of Wales and the Hood, the ultimate result of which was the terrible loss of the latter battleship. The dawn of 26 May saw Coastal Command renew it’s search for the battleship, and 0835 the Ark Royal launched 10 Swordfish to aid in the search. A Catalina Z of 209 Squadron re-sighted the Bismarck 550 miles west of Land’s End. The pilot, Pilot Officer D. A. Briggs, reported her position as 690 miles to the west-northwest of Brest which gave the Royal Navy less than 24 hours in which to intercept her, after which she would reach an area that fell under the protection of the Luftwaffe. The only carrier within striking distance was the Ark Royal, and of the 10 Swordfish launched, the two closest altered course to intercept.

Huxley’s aircraft 2H, also crewed by Sub-Lieutenant J. V. Hartley and Acting Sub-Lieutenant P. R. Elias, sighted what they believed to be a German cruiser at 11.14am. Seven minutes later 2F, piloted by Lieutenant J. R. C. Callander, joined 2H and identified the Bismarck. Meanwhile, Ark Royal fitted two ASV-equipped Swordfish with long range tanks and sent them off at 1200hrs to maintain contact until relieved. At 11.54am the Bismarck broke her radio silence and reported that she was being shadowed by enemy aircraft. Thereafter, and until 2320 that night, the Swordfish, working in pairs, kept her under continual surveillance. The Ark Royal’s search planes started to return to her shortly after noon, with Huxley and Callander’s aircraft being the last two to touch down at 13.24.

Huxley took to the air again later that afternoon as part of the Strike Force led by Lieutenant-Commander J. A. Stewart-Moore. Due to a combination of appalling weather, and believing that the Bismarck was the only target in the area, the Swordfish mistakenly dived to attack H.M.S. Sheffield. Fortunately none of the 11 aircraft who released their torpedoes found the target, and Huxley managed to warn his pilot in time to pull off his attack. The weather worsened and as a result three of the Swordfish crash-landed on the deck of the Ark Royal during their return.

Huxley’s gallantry was recognised after the eventual sinking of the Bismarck, and he was awarded 1 of 5 D.S.M.s to the Fleet Air Arm for the operations. A few days later H.M.S. Ark Royal returned to Gibraltar to continue her duties as escort for the Malta Convoys. Huxley was killed after 810 Squadron had delivered an attack on Alghero Airfield, Sardinia, 1 August 1941. One of the returning Swordfish crashed whilst landing on the Ark Royal and detonated a 40lb bomb hung up in its rack.

Leading Airman Huxley in commemorated on the Lee-on-Solent Memorial.

Sold with copied research.