Exceptional Naval and Polar Awards from the Collection of RC Witte

Date of Auction: 13th December 2007

Sold for £600

Estimate: £400 - £500

The Great War group of four awarded to Commander B. G. Drake, Royal Naval Reserve, who, having served ashore in Gallipoli for several weeks, and received a special letter of thanks from General Birdwood, proceeded to lead a succession of highly successful cattle rustling operations on the Anatolian coast in 1916: following one such raid, he was prompted to report, ‘some of the bulls were very fierce and one went mad after being embarked - it was a novel sight’

1914-15 Star
(Lt. Couimr.(sic) B. G. Drake, R.N.R.); British War and Victory Medals (Commr. B. G. Drake, R.N.R.); Royal Naval Reserve Decoration, G.V.R., silver, silver-gilt, hallmarks for London 1920, in its fitted Garrard & Co. case of issue, generally extremely fine (4) £400-500


Bertram Gregory Drake, who was appointed a Midshipman in the Royal Naval Reserve in February 1896, was serving as a Lieutenant-Commander in the battleship Cornwallis on the outbreak of hostilities in August 1914, in which ship he served with distinction in the Dardanelles in 1915 - some 70 of her crew served in beach and boat parties in the landings at Suvla and Anzac, Drake actually receiving a special letter of thanks from General Birdwood for his deeds ashore at the latter place over several weeks.

Appointed to the command of the minesweeper Whitby Abbey in December 1915, he was actively employed off the Anatolian coast in the following year as part of Admiral de Robeck’s cattle-rustling plan - the British being convinced the Ottoman Government was commandeering livestock for shipment to Germany. And as part of Captain Frank Larken’s 6th Detached Squadron, it fell to Drake and the Whitby Abbey to embark Greek “Irregulars” on a spate of such raids, the first of them on 22 March 1916, in the Bay of Lebedos - towing six caiques with around 35 “Irregulars”, he clashed with a Turkish patrol, killing some and taking others prisoner, and returning in triumph with 600 livestock of various types. On the last day of April, with her consort Aster, and 150 “Irregulars”, the Whitby Abbey returned with a bag of 1900 head of cattle, but not before meeting further opposition - two of the Samians were killed. While on 12 May, in a raid on Makaronia, and this time in the company of the destroyer Chelmer, Whitby Abbey contributed to a bag of 230 head of cattle, the whole picked up by three ketches and a motor launch - it was on this occasion that Drake reported on the ferocious nature of the bulls, including the animal that went mad; see The Immortal Gamble, by Stewart and Peshall, for further details.