Exceptional Naval and Polar Awards from the Collection of RC Witte

Date of Auction: 13th December 2007

Sold for £350

Estimate: £350 - £400

The Messina Earthquake and Great War group of five awarded to Petty Officer 1st Class B.M. Lock, Royal Navy

1914-15 Star
(179180 B. M. Lock, P.O. 1, R.N.); British War and Victory Medals (179180 B. M. Lock, P.O. 1, R.N.); Royal Navy L.S. & G.C., G.V.R., 1st issue (179180 B. M. Lock, P.O. 1 Cl., H.M.S. Duke of Edinburgh); Italian Messina Earthquake 1908, generally good very fine (5) £350-400


Benjamin Matthew Lock was born in Devonshire in January 1877 and entered the Royal Navy as a Boy 2nd Class in July 1894. Advanced to Petty Officer 2nd Class in July 1906, he was present in the Messina earthquake relief operations in the armoured cruiser and training ship Sutlej in 1908 - the ship was one of the first to arrive on the scene and spent several days ferrying hundreds of casualties to Siracusa. Given her crew largely comprised boy seamen, we may be sure Lock was to the fore in organising and leading the rescue parties who went ashore, in addition to assisting the many hundreds of unfortunates who were brought aboard for transferral to Siracusa; see Angels in Blue Jackets, by John Wilson and Roger Perkins, for eye-witness statements from her crew, in addition to much further information about Sutlej’s important role in this famous incident.

By the outbreak of hostilities in August 1914, Lock was serving as a Petty Officer 1st Class in the cruiser Duke of Edinburgh, from which ship he came ashore to take up an appointment in Vivid in July 1915 - he had been awarded his L.S. & G.C. Medal in February of the latter year. He was invalided as a result of deafness in May 1919.