Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (23 June 2021)

Date of Auction: 23rd June 2021

Sold for £1,700

Estimate: £1,800 - £2,200

A rare Second War ‘cloak and dagger’ D.S.M. group of six awarded to Leading Telegraphist W. H. Diggins, Royal Navy, for his gallantry aboard H.M. Submarine Regent during her daring enterprise in entering into the port of Kotor to try and embark His Britannic Majesty’s Envoy-Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary accredited to the Government of Yugoslavia, and in remaining there for nine hours though surrounded by large forces of the Italian army and subjected to attacks from the air; he was subsequently Mentioned in Despatches, having been recommended for a Second Award Bar to his D.S.M., for his services in H.M. Submarine Ultor in the Mediterranean War Patrols of 1943

Distinguished Service Medal, G.VI.R. (JX.137576 W. H. Diggins. L.Tel. H.M.S. Regent.); 1939-45 Star; Atlantic Star; Africa Star; Defence and War Medals 1939-45, with M.I.D. oak leaf, good very fine (6) £1,800-£2,200

Footnote

Provenance: Captain K. J. Douglas-Morris Collection, Dix Noonan Webb, October 1996.

D.S.M. London Gazette 30 September 1941:
‘For daring, enterprise and coolness in taking H.M. Submarine
Regent into the port of Kotor to try and embark His Britannic Majesty’s Envoy-Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary accredited to the Government of Yugoslavia and in keeping her there for nine hours though surrounded by large forces of the Italian army.’

M.I.D. London Gazette 8 February 1944.
The Recommendation, originally for a Second Award Bar to his DS.M., states: ‘As Petty Officer Telegraphist he has maintained not only the wireless equipment but the Radar set and has displayed energy and initiative in so doing, materially assisting the Commanding Officer in three night attacks. By his cheerfulness he has set a good example to the Ship’s Company.’


A most unusual award of the D.S.M. for a ‘cloak and dagger’ action, and especially interesting as it was an attempt to rescue a British Senior Diplomat from falling into enemy hands. The Diplomat concerned was Ronald Ian Campbell (later Sir, K.C.M.G., C.B.), the British Minister to Yugoslavia. When the Germans and Italians were overwhelming Yugoslavia in the Spring of 1941, Mr Campbell and his staff were cut off and unable to get away. It was decided to try to embark them in a British submarine and, accordingly Lieutenant-Commander H. C. Browne took H.M. Submarine Regent into the Adriatic. Having passed through two minefields which the Italians regarded as impassable, he steamed boldly into the harbour of Kotor, better known as Cattaro, to bring off the British Minister and his staff.

Moving into port just after dawn, the Captain soon learned that the Italian army had reached the coast and were already in occupation of the town. This unexpected move by the Italians placed the Regent in jeopardy, but the Captain did not waver. Having been sent to effect the rescue of Mr Campbell, he was determined to do everything possible to bring him off, so he detailed an officer to go ashore. With the utmost coolness this officer went to the Senior Italian naval officer in charge of the port and explained that the Regent had come to evacuate the British Diplomatic Staff, whereupon he was permitted to go off in search of Mr Campbell while an Italian Army Staff officer went on board the Regent to act as hostage until he returned.

Throughout the morning the Regent lay in harbour flying her biggest White Ensign. Around her was the Italian army with enough gun-power to blot her out of existence. For hour after hour the Regent lay there, flying the flag in the face of her enemies, while the officer strove to find Mr Campbell and conduct him back to the boat; unhappily he failed to make contact.

The afternoon was advanced when two Italian dive bombers suddenly swooped down on the Regent and dropped several bombs which all missed. As they flew over, they opened fire on the conning-tower with their machine-guns wounding the Captain, the First Lieutenant and a Petty Officer. Captain Browne wasted no time. Diving without delay and carrying his Italian hostage with him, he escaped from the harbour, after remaining in the midst of the enemy for nine hours, picked his way safely through the minefields again and returned to his base. Awards for this episode included a D.S.O. for Captain Browne, two D.S.C.’s, three D.S.M.’s and one Bar to the D.S.M.

The Submarine Regent was sunk by a mine off Monopoli in the South Adriatic on 18 April 1943. Diggins was obviously not aboard as he later served as a Petty Officer Telegraphist aboard the Submarine Ultor and was Mentioned in Despatches for her Mediterranean War Patrols, during which she bombarded Salina Island in the Liparis on 13 June 1943, and sank the Italian Torpedo Boat Lince, near the Gulf of Taranto on 28 August 1943.

Sold together with an H.M. Submarines Naval Cap Tally; cloth insignia; and copied research.