Exceptional Naval and Polar Awards from the Collection of RC Witte
Date of Auction: 13th December 2007
Sold for £15,000
Estimate: £15,000 - £20,000
Conspicuous Gallantry Medal, G.V.R. (F. 813 G. C. P. Rumming, P.O. Mech., R.N. Air Service), in an old leather case, the lid gilt inscribed, ‘C.G.M.’; French Medaille Militaire, silver, gilt and enamel, in its case of issue, this last with slightly chipped obverse enamel work, otherwise nearly extremely fine (2) £15000-20000
C.G.M. London Gazette 16 August 1915. The recommendation - contained in Vice-Admiral de Robeck’s despatch - states:
‘For assisting Commander Unwin of the River Clyde in rescuing wounded men.’
In point of fact, Rumming was originally recommended for a V.C., the evidence for which is to be found in the following extract taken from a letter sent by his C.O., Lieutenant-Commander J. C. Wedgewood, M.P., to Winston Churchill:
‘The wounded were still crying and drowning on that awful spit. Lieutenant Tidsdale (sic), R.N.D., took a boat, one of the Clyde’s sailors, and one of my men, Rumming. They got four men aboard before Tidsdale and the sailor were shot and wounded. Hiding behind the side of the boat they walked and swam it back. I saw one of the wounded stretch out his hand, stroke Rumming as he hung on to the side, the most pathetic thing I have ever seen. Rumming volunteered to go ashore again with me in the dark and stood (on the dead) for another three hours on the horrible spit under occasional fire. I have officially recommended both him and J. H. Russell for the V.C.’
FootnoteGeoffrey Charlton Paine Rumming was born at Purton, Wiltshire in December 1888, but later moved with his family to Calne, Wiltshire, where he worked as an assistant and runner for a local mill. Entering the Royal Naval Air Service in October 1914, he was immediately rated as Petty Officer Mechanic for service in armoured cars, in which capacity he was embarked for the Dardanelles. There, with fellow members of No. 3 Armoured Car Squadron, he was allocated to the River Clyde for the ‘V’ beach landings in Gallipoli on 25-26 April 1915. The Official History of the War in the Air takes up the story:
‘At ‘V’ beach the direct landing from the tows was attempted at 6.53 a.m. and, about the same hour, the River Clyde was run aground. When the tows were within twenty yards of the shore the sea began to hiss with Turkish bullets. Few boats survived this twenty yards, and then but a handful of their occupants got through the unbroken entanglements under a murderous fire to the shelter of a low sandy escarpment which backed the foreshore. The rest, dead or wounded, drifted helplessly in their open boats ... Commander Unwin at once took a party into the water and toiled in the bullet swept sea in an attempt to get the lighters into some sort of position. Meanwhile, the armoured car machine-gun detachment in the bows of the collier averted a complete disaster. They raked the Turkish trenches and machine-gun posts with such accuracy and persistence that the naval party in the water were able to continue their work for a full hour until, once again, they had got the hopper into position.
Their fire prevented any attempts to rush the few survivors who were hanging on to their position on shore. At eight o’clock, with the hopper once more in place, a party of the Munsters was led out from the River Clyde, but the whole Turkish fire was concentrated on them and all the fire of the maxims proved insufficient to cover their journey to the beach ... All day the machine-gunners in the River Clyde kept up their duel with the enemy marksmen; not a gun went out of action although in at least one casemate every man of the gun’s crew was wounded. Commander Unwin, suffering from slight wounds and exposure as a result of two long sojourns in the water, had pushed off alone from the collier in a lifeboat at 9.30 a.m. to bring in wounded who were lying on a spit of rock near the beach ... At half-past ten a further attempt to bring in the wounded was made in a boat manned by three men, including Petty Officer G. C. P. Rumming of the armoured car squadron. By the time the boat was loaded up with its wounded, Rumming’s two companions had been hit, and the tow-line to the boat had been cut in half. Undaunted, Petty Officer Rumming took the line and manoeuvred the boat back to the ship ... When at last the sun dipped on that flawless Sunday evening, the bridge to the beach was finally completed and the surviving soldiers in the River Clyde were able to get ashore. The machine-gunners remained on board the collier for the time being, but could do little in the dark to help the infantry who fought all night. They refused to accept a rest. For three hours Lieutenant-Commander Wedgewood and Petty Officer Rumming worked waist deep in water to assist the wounded back to safety.’
In addition to his C.G.M., Rumming was also awarded the French Medaille Militaire, by a warrant dated in Paris in April 1918.
Meanwhile, back on Gallipoli, he participated in Sir Ian Hamilton’s attack in the Helles area on 4 June 1915, serving as a spare driver and second maxim hand in Lieutenant Hon. Francis McLaren’s car:
‘It was in this attack that the Air Service armoured cars were used for the first time on Gallipoli. Four cars had been landed on 26 May and four more on 3 June, and were housed in specially prepared deep dug-outs. The cars were manned by two sections of Numbers 3 and 4 Squadrons.
The eight armoured cars moved off along the three roads under heavy shellfire as the infantry assaulted. On the left track the two cars were held up at the firing line by an unbridged trench and eventually returned to the main road. On this road, it proved impossible to get across the bridge over the front line. Two of the cars in attempting to do so were partly ditched and were at once shelled. It was only on the right road that the cars reached the Turkish front line, but here again they were held by a high stone-faced parapet. When it became clear that the cars could do nothing to help the advance, they were withdrawn. Three officers, including Lieutenant-Commander Colmore, and a Petty Officer [Rummings] had been wounded, and the cars had suffered minor damage from shellfire. They had done what they could, but the conditions were against them, and Sir Ian Hamilton decided that as long as trench warfare persisted there could be no further use for armoured cars on the peninsula.’
The rest of Rumming’s story is best summarised by a local newspaper article which appeared in November 1917:
‘It was in this attack that Chief Petty Officer Rumming was badly wounded, a piece of shrapnel passing though the top of his skull. He was carried by a brother officer into another car and taken to the dressing station, and was, we understand, the first wounded man to enter the operating theatre. He was afterwards sent to England and underwent treatment at Chatham. Owing to the wound he was eventually discharged from the service. He felt this very much indeed, as he was most anxious to be helping his country in her hour of peril. He could not rest contented in civilian life, and tried again to enter the forces, being eventually accepted as a cadet at Gales, Ayrshire, on 2 July 1916. However the strain of training proved too much for this gallant fellow and he was again discharged at the end of June 1917. He never really recovered from the effects of his wounds, and passed away, as stated, on Sunday week.’
Sold with the original warrant for the recipient’s French Medaille Militaire, dated 28 August 1918; together with an interesting scrapbook containing old carbon copies of letters written by Lieutenant-Commander Josiah Wedgewood, M.P., a pair of wartime portrait photographs, postcard format, and assorted newspaper cuttings.