Exceptional Naval and Polar Awards from the Collection of RC Witte

Date of Auction: 13th December 2007

Sold for £6,000

Estimate: £2,500 - £3,000

The Great War D.S.M. group of five awarded to Shipwright 1st Class W. Shepherd, Royal Navy, who was decorated for his gallant deeds in the monitor Severn during her famous clashes with the Konigsberg in the Rufugi Delta in July 1915

Distinguished Service Medal
, G.V.R. (346098 W. Sheppherd, Shpt. 2 Cl., H.M.S. Severn), note erroneous surname spelling; 1914-15 Star (346098 W. Shepherd, D.S.M., Shpt. 2, R.N.); British War and Victory Medals (346098 W. Shepherd, Shpt. 1, R.N.); Royal Navy L.S. & G.C., G.V.R., 1st issue (346098 William Shepherd, Shpt. 1 Cl., H.M.S. Vernon), mounted as worn, contact marks, edge bruising and somewhat polished, nearly very fine (5) £2500-3000


D.S.M. London Gazette 8 December 1915:
‘For services on the occasion of the operations against the

The original recommendation states:
‘William Shepherd, who was working on the forecastle letting go the anchor. In an exposed position, he was cool and did his work well on both occasions.’

William Shepherd was born in Chichester, Sussex in September 1883 and entered the Royal Navy as Carpenter’s Crew in May 1903. By the outbreak of hostilities in August 1914, he was serving as a Shipwright 2nd Class in the recently launched monitor
Severn, in which ship he quickly saw action off the Belgian coast, when in October her guns were called upon to slow the German advance. But it was her subsequent commission off the coast of East Africa that Severn, and her sister ship Mersey, won fame, both ships being ideally suited to coastal waters with a draught of just over four feet when fully loaded - indeed it was just such credentials that convinced the Admiralty to send them to East Africa in the first place.

Thus ensued two spectacular clashes with the Konigsberg, both of them fought in the Rufugi Delta in July 1915, and the second of them ending in the enemy cruiser’s demise. After the first engagement on the 6th, during which the Severn had to continue alone with the enemy’s salvoes straddling her, both monitors retired to assess their situation - but in the sure knowledge that Severn had certainly gained some hits, as well as knocking out an enemy observation party hiding in a tree on the bank. What followed in the second attack on the 11th was far more convincing, the fire of the monitors being well-directed by the spotting instructions of Flight Commander Cull, R.N.A.S. Corbett’s History of the Great War (Naval Operations) takes up the story:

‘One salvo was fired at the Mersey but after that the Konisberg concentrated on the Severn. For a mile she steamed on under a rain of salvoes, untouched until about 12.30 she was securely anchored and could open fire [largely thanks to Shepherd working the anchor from his exposed position]. By this time Flight Commander Cull was again ready to spot for her. Seven salvoes were fired before he got her on, but the eighth was a hit. After that “Hit” came in almost continuously. In ten minutes the Konigsberg was firing only three guns ... The Severn’s guns were trained further aft to get the target amidships and at 12.52 a large explosion was seen, followed by thick clouds of smoke. Amidst the cheers that greeted the success ... the doomed ship was now clearly blazing from stem to stern. The monitors were recalled by the Admiral at 2.30 and so ended the last of the German cruisers on the high seas.’

Subsequent Honours and Awards included five D.S.Ms to the Severn, including Shepherd’s award (his surname was erroneously listed as ‘Sheppherd’ in the relevant London Gazette announcement), and four D.S.Ms to the Mersey.

Having remained employed in the Severn until the end of 1917, when he returned home to an appointment in Vernon, Shepherd next went to sea in the cruiser Castor, in which ship he served in the Black Sea 1919-20. He was advanced to Shipwright 1st Class in July 1921 and was pensioned ashore in June 1922, having been awarded his L.S. & G.C. Medal back in May 1918.