Exceptional Naval and Polar Awards from the Collection of RC Witte
Date of Auction: 13th December 2007
Sold for £7,500
Estimate: £5,000 - £6,000
Distinguished Service Order, G.V.R., with Second Award Bar, silver-gilt and enamel; 1914-15 Star (Lieut. F. A. P. Williams-Freeman, D.S.O., R.N.); British War Medal 1914-20 (Lieut. F. A. P. Williams-Freeman, R.N.); Victory Medal, M.I.D. oak leaf, erased naming; French Croix de Guerre 1914-1917, with bronze palm, the first with loose obverse centre-piece and enamel chipped in places, and the last with dented reverse centre, otherwise generally good very fine (5) £5000-6000
FootnoteD.S.O. London Gazette 23 October 1914:
‘In recognition of services mentioned in the foregoing despatches’; from Commodore R. J. B. Keyes, C.B., M.V.O., dated 17 October 1914.
Bar to D.S.O. London Gazette 14 January 1921:
‘Honours for services in Asia Minor, 1920.’
French Croix de Guerre London Gazette 24 May 1919.
Frederick Arthur Peere Williams-Freeman was born in Fleetwood, Lancashire in July 1889, and entered the Royal Navy as a Naval Cadet in Britannia in September 1904 and was appointed Midshipman in January 1906. Advanced to Sub. Lieutenant in March 1909 and to Lieutenant in December 1910, he joined Mercury ‘for instruction in submarines’ in April of the following year, and quickly proved himself a capable officer, the C.O. of Dolphin reporting on his graduation that he possessed ‘great strength of character, energy and ability’. Meanwhile, Williams-Freeman added to his accolades by obtaining a Royal Aero Club Aviator’s Certificate with the Naval Wing of the fledgling Royal Flying Corps in April 1912 (No. 202).
The outbreak of hostilities found him serving as First Lieutenant in the submarine E-6, in which capacity he was awarded his D.S.O., for, having been present at the action in the Heligoland Bight on 28 August 1914 - when E-6 surfaced to try and lure the enemy to the West - he released a mine that had caught itself between E-6’s hydroplane and its guard on 28 September. Assisted in this gallant endeavour by Able Seaman E. R. Cremer, who was awarded the C.G.M., it took the pair of them half an hour of hair-raising boat-hook work to dislodge the deadly cargo; his subsequent award of the D.S.O. was inside the first ten to be gazetted for the War.
Transferring to the A-5 in January 1915, he assumed command of the H-9 that June, in which capacity he served until May 1917, a period that witnessed him patrolling the Eastern Approaches at the time of an attempted German High Seas Fleet incursion in August 1916. Next appointed to the command of the E-12, he sailed for the Mediterranean, where he became embroiled in the Goeben and Breslau saga, on one occasion volunteering to attack the Goeben, which had run aground off the Narrows in the Dardanelles, even though he only had one engine still available for the battery recharging purposes - his spirited request was denied. March 1918 witnessed E-12’s arrival off Brindisi, and on 5 August Williams-Freeman attacked an enemy submarine - his “fish” were set at a depth of 8 feet, but one ran under the enemy boat and the other missed ahead - ‘The U-boat [then] turned towards E-12 in an attempt to ram the British boat, but Williams-Freeman turned to port under full helm and fired her starboard beam torpedo which also missed, and the U-boat was not seen again.’
Advanced to Lieutenant-Commander in December 1918, he was next employed on “Special Service” in the Mediterranean under Admiral E. C. T. Troubridge, an interesting chapter of his career that lasted until July 1919, and a chapter that encompassed service in the British Danube Flotilla as part of the Allied effort to ensure free navigation on the river, work that added several favourable reports to his already distinguished service record. By March 1919, he was in command of several Motor Launches of the Inter-Allied Disarmament Commission, and on the night of the 22nd, when the Bolsheviks seized power in Budapest, he was lucky to survive a visitation from a Red Guard boarding party in M.L. 228 - indeed he and his men only got away after a daring cutting-out sortie mounted by a mixture of British, French and Austrian seamen manning ex-Austrian river gunboats. Eventually, however, he was able to return to Budapest under the auspices of the British Mission, and for his subsequent work in organising the withdrawal of numerous Allied civilians ‘under the most difficult circumstances’, he won the high approbation of his seniors, the Foreign Office and our Allies.
Following a period of leave back in the U.K., Williams-Freeman joined the battleship Ramillies in January 1920, an appointment that would lead to him winning a Bar to his D.S.O. for services ashore in Asia Minor. One of his contemporaries, Midshipman J. E. Hewitt (who would later rise to high rank in the R.A.F.), later recalled the period in question in his memoirs, The Black One, a period that witnessed Ramillies visiting the trouble spots of Ismid and Mudania during operations in the Turko-Greek War in the summer of 1920. At the former place, Williams-Freeman commanded the ship’s shore party - ‘four strong companies of seaman, and all the Marines, with the usual complement of machine-guns’ - and an observation post set up on a hill overlooking enemy positions, a post that spotted for Ramillies as she unleashed 15-inch shells against nationalist and anti-nationalist Kemel troops alike (the two Midshipmen who helped him man this position, W. J. Melrose and N. V. Dickinson, were awarded D.S.Cs); and in July 1920, he negotiated with the Governor of Deridga in respect of the ultimatum given to the troops who were engaging British ships from an advantageous position at the local lighthouse.
Advanced to Commander in June 1923, Williams-Feeman’s final appointment was in the Plans Division at the Admiralty, and he was placed on the Retired List in September 1927.