Exceptional Naval and Polar Awards from the Collection of RC Witte

Date of Auction: 13th December 2007

Sold for £1,400

Estimate: £1,400 - £1,600

The Great War D.S.M. awarded to Petty Officer C. Reid, Royal Navy, who was decorated for his services in the armed steam yacht James Fletcher, which vessel claimed at least one U-Boat by ramming

Distinguished Service Medal
, G.V.R. (116282 C. Reid, P.O. 1 Cl., James Fletcher, Aux. Pat., 1915-6); 1914-15 Star (116282 C. Reid, P.O. 1, R.N.); British War and Victory Medals (116282 C. Reid, P.O. 1, R.N.); Royal Navy L.S. & G.C., V.R., narrow suspension (Charles Reid, P.O. 1cl., H.M.S. Pembroke), this last with officially re-impressed naming, generally good very fine (5) £1400-1600

Footnote

D.S.M. London Gazette 14 July 1916:

‘The Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty have received with much satisfaction from the officers in charge of the Auxiliary Patrol areas at home and abroad reports on the services performed by officers and men serving under their orders during the period 1 January 1915 to 31 January 1916. These reports show that the officers and men serving in Armed Yachts, Trawlers and Drifters of the Auxiliary Patrol during the period in question have carried out their duties under extremely hazardous conditions of weather and exposure to enemy attack and mines with marked zeal, gallantry and success.’

Charles Reid was born at Mittit, Fermanagh in March 1866 and entered the Royal Navy as a Boy 2nd Class in May 1881. He subsequently attained the rank of Petty Officer 1st Class, was awarded his L.S. & G.C. Medal in September 1894 and transferred to the Royal Fleet Reserve in March 1904.

Recalled on the outbreak of hostilities in August 1914, he served aboard the armed steam yacht James Fletcher from January 1915 until the end of the War, a period that witnessed a good deal of work alongside our monitors and drifters in bombardments off Dunkirk and Zeebrugge, particularly in the autumn of 1915, but it was for her U-Boat claim in early 1916 that Reid most likely received his D.S.M., so, too, in the capacity of coxswain - certainly his skipper, Commander E. L. B. Boothby, received a D.S.O. on the same occasion:

‘Early in January 1916, the James Fletcher had a stroke of good luck. When patrolling at night off the South Goodwin she rammed an enemy submarine, which was travelling at a good speed on the surface, apparently steering about west. She struck her two distinct blows separated by a grating noise along the side of the ship of about two seconds’ duration. The submarine was first struck a slanting blow just abaft her conning-tower, fairly hard. The second blow struck her very hard on her tail frame, practically stopping all the way on the James Fletcher. The James Fletcher claimed that the enemy vessel must have been filled and sunk, as her hatches were open and men were on the deck; the officer of the watch reported that he distinctly heard voices talking, and saw the submarine was only about ten yards off on his starboard bow, and when hit she heeled over to a considerable angle. The James Fletcher was examined on the mud subsequent to this, and various indications of a recent collision were found below the waterline. The James Fletcher received the usual reward for the destruction of this submarine.’

Reid was present at another serious U-Boat encounter off Dover in August 1918, when the James Fletcher and the drifter J. Burn delivered a devastating depth-charge attack against famous ace Kapitain-Leutnant Hundius in UB-103 - it has been written that he was so badly shaken by the impact of these wasser boms that it caused him to sail into a minefield in the following month, rather than risk another depth-charging from some circling drifters.