Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (16 April 2020)

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Date of Auction: 16th April 2020

Sold for £2,400

Estimate: £2,400 - £2,800

A rare Great War D.S.M. and Second Award Bar awarded to Leading Signalman I. Overton, Royal Navy: having been decorated for his part in H.M.S. Wear’s gallant rescue of the survivors of mined consorts in the Dardanelles in March 1915 - under a heavy fire - he became the first man to win a Bar to the D.S.M. for his deeds as a member of a boarding party a little over two months later
Distinguished Service Medal, G.V.R., with Second Award Bar, the reverse of this original Bar unofficially engraved with the date ‘30 May 1915’ (225837 I. Overton, Sign., H.M.S. Wear), very fine £2,400-£2,800

Footnote

Provenance: Glendinings, June 1930 and Dix Noonan Webb, December 2006.

D.S.M. London Gazette 16 August 1916:
‘For services on 18 March 1915.’


D.S.M. Second Award Bar London Gazette 6 September 1916:
‘The undermentioned has been awarded a Bar to his Distinguished Service Medal for a subsequent act of gallantry.’


Just 67 Second Award Bars to the D.S.M. for the Great War.

Isaac Overton was born in Newark in January 1888 and entered the Royal Navy as a Boy 2nd Class in April 1903. A Signalman by the outbreak of hostilities in August 1914 , he joined the destroyer H.M.S. Wear in the following month, aboard which ship he would witness extensive action in the Dardanelles and win a brace of D.S.Ms, in addition to advancement to Leading Signalman.

His first D.S.M. was awarded in respect of the Wear’s part in the rescue of around 600 officers and ratings during a combined Anglo-French attempt to force the Dardanelles on 18 March 1915, an episode recounted by “Taffrail” in Endless Story:

‘The large grey hulls of the bombarding battleships wreathed themselves in orange flashes and billowing clouds of tawny cordite smoke as they wheeled and circled amid forests of dazzling white spray fountains flung up by the enemy shell.

So far everything had gone well. Though various ships had been badly knocked about, the Gaulois having been forced to discontinue the action with much damage forward, and the Bouvet having been heavily hit, the injury was no more than had been expected and the casualties in personnel were comparatively light.

And just before 2 o’clock, as the French battleship Bouvet was following the Suffren out of the Straits, onlookers were appalled to see a great spout of flame and smoke and spray rise up at her side. Her magazine had exploded. In two minutes she rolled over and disappeared in a cloud of smoke and steam.

The River-class destroyer Wear, Captain Christopher P. Metcalfe, which had been in attendance on the Queen Elizabeth throughout the operation, and frequently under heavy fire, at once dashed at full speed to the Bouvet’s assistance. By the time she reached the spot the battleship had sunk, but, lowering her whaler under a storm of dropping shell, she succeeded in rescuing 66 men.

At 4.14 p.m. the battleship Irresistible also struck a mine, and at once took up a heavy list and was unable to move. The old vessel was slowly sinking, and obviously could not last long. Seeing her stopped and heeling over, the enemy reopened their fire, but within a few minutes Captain Metcalfe was alongside with the Wear. At 4.50 he was back alongside the Queen Elizabeth with his decks crowded with 28 officers and 582 men of the Irresistible’s crew, the remainder having elected to remain on board their ship, in case the unexpected happened and she remained afloat.

While the retirement was in progress, the Ocean, standing by the stricken Irresistible, struck another mine, and was seriously damaged. The time was 6.05 p.m., but, in spite of the very heavy fire which was being poured upon her from both sides of the Straits, destroyers went to her assistance. The names of these destroyers were ... the Wear, Captain Christopher P. Metcalfe.

The enemy gunfire at this period has been described as “terrific,” and it is surprising that none of the rescuing destroyers was sunk, and that they sustained comparatively few casualties ... ’

In point of fact as the destroyers circled the stricken Ocean, it was rather a nasty situation, as she was under fire from a battery of fairly big guns and was turning slowly round and round in the current, while salvos of five or six heavy shells, about 8 or 10-inch, arrived frequently. So ended the Wear’s memorable part in the action of 18 March 1915, Captain C. P. Metcalfe being awarded the D.S.O., and Overton, among others, the D.S.M.

The Bar to his award was granted in respect of his services as a volunteer at the cutting out of a Turkish caique off Eleos Island on 30 May 1915, when the Wear’s guns went into action. On this occasion, eight crew, including Overton, went off in the whaler and there was a ‘fierce scrap’, for there were many hands on the Turkish vessel:

‘The tars had only rifles, with penetrating bullets, which were employed with such good effect, that before long they were able to use hatchet’s, until the Turks surrendered, when they towed the enemy ship to one of the isles by the Gulf of Smyrna. The British had used mine piercing ammunition, and despite resistance, they won the day. Overton was not then aware that this would mean any extra honour for him, nor did he know until some months afterwards, when he was informed that his name had gone in for further recognition.’ (Newark Herald 12 May 1917 refers).

Although the award was not gazetted until September 1916, it was, in fact, the first Bar ever earned (The first gazetted to Leading Seaman Alfred Button actually related to another action in 1916).

Overton returned to the U.K. with an appointment in Pembroke in April 1916 and was invalided in January 1917.