Exceptional Naval and Polar Awards from the Collection of RC Witte

Date of Auction: 13th December 2007

Sold for £380

Estimate: £400 - £500

The S.G.M. awarded to Able Seaman A. W. Stratton, Royal Navy, for his part in the famous Delhi incident of December 1911

Sea Gallantry Medal,
G.V.R., bronze (Austin W. Stratton, “Delhi”, 13 Dec. 1911), in its fitted case of issue, polished, thus nearly very fine £400-500


‘The liner Delhi with 85 first class passengers, among whom were the Duke and Duchess of Fife (the Princess Royal) and their two daughters, Princess Alexandra and Princess Maud, was bound from London to Bombay via Marseilles. At about 2 o’clock on the morning of 11 December 1911, the ship ran ashore in very rough weather some two miles from Cape Spartel. There was a strong westerly wind and very heavy rain. A wireless call was immediately sent out and was picked up by the station at Cadiz and within a short time several men-of-war were speeding to the wreck. The first to arrive was the French cruiser Friant, which at once sent away her boats in an effort to take off the shipwrecked people. Unfortunately her steam launch was swamped and with the fire out became unmanageable and capsized, three seamen being drowned.

The next ships to arrive were the British battleship London, and the cruiser Duke of Edinbugh. At about 11 a.m. Rear-Admiral Sir C. Cradock brought a boat from the Duke of Edinburgh alongside and with great difficulty took off the royal party from the Delhi. On her way back the boat was swamped not far from shore and everyone thrown into the water, the Princess Alexandra having a narrow escape from drowning. Eventually all came safely to land, and in their somewhat exhausted condition had to walk four miles to the lighthouse at Cape Spartel.

The conduct of the Moorish authorities was not helpful. No assistance was given to the shipwrecked people and no mules or conveyances provided for the journey to Tangier, 10 miles away.

The Delhi at the time of her loss was carrying £295,000 in gold and silver bullion, all of which was ultimately saved, as was the case with most of the cargo’ (The Dictionary of Disasters at Sea refers).