Life Saving Awards from the Collection of John Wilson

Date of Auction: 25th March 2013


Estimate: £600 - £700

Royal Humane Society Medal in Silver, with scarce Second Award Clasp awarded to Acting Captain Humfrey Hopper, Royal Navy, who was awarded a D.S.O. in the Second World War

Royal Humane Society, small silver medal (successful) (Sub Lieut.H. G. Hopper, R.N.15 July 1918) with Second Award Clasp dated 8th Aug. 1922, with silver buckle on ribbon, good very fine £600-700


R.H.S. Silver Medal ‘Sub-Lieutenant Humfrey Hopper, R.N., H.M.S. Mallow.’ (Case No. 44,656) ‘On the night of the 14th July, 1918, the French steamship Djemnah, with troops on board, was torpedoed in the Mediterranean, and sank in two minutes. H.M.S. Mallow, which was in the vicinity, lowered and sent away all her boats to pick up survivors, there being nothing left in the ship in the early morning except the Carley rafts. These, when put overboard were found to be slow and unhandy in the choppy sea when picking up isolated survivors, and were finally abandoned.

Seeing this, Sub-Lieut. Hopper stripped and went overboard several times, swimming out to the men who were supporting themselves on small pieces of wreckage in the last stage of exhaustion and bringing them to the ship, where they were got on board. In this way at least six lives were saved whom it would otherwise have been impossible to reach.’

R.H.S. Silver Clasp ‘Lieutenant Humfrey G. Hopper, R.N., H.M.S. Raleigh’ (Case No. 46,560A) ‘About 3.30 p.m. on the 8th August, 1922, H.M.S. Raleigh stranded near Armour Point, Forteau Bay, on the coast of Labrador, a dense fog prevailing at the time. With a view to saving those on board, a cutter was lowered in order to get a line ashore and thus establish communication with the ship. Lieut. Hopper, went into the cutter, but seeing that they might be unable to get ashore owing to the reefs, over which heavy seas were breaking, he took a line, and leaping into the sea near the ship swam to the reefs and succeeded in getting through the breakers, and then made his way through the surf to the rocks and landing the line by which over 700 officers and men with the aid of rafts were safely landed. There was a strong wind with heavy sea and thick fog, the water being very cold.’

Humfrey Greenwood Hopper was born on 25 November 1898. He was appointed an Acting Sub-Lieutenant in the Royal Navy on 15 March 1917 and was confirmed in that rank in November 1917. He served on H.M.S. Glorious, October 1916-June 1917, after which he served on H.M.S. Mallow, June 1917-December 1918. He was on the latter ship when it went to the assistance of the French liner Djemnah which was in a convoy, carrying a large number of troops across the Mediterranean, when she was torpedoed by a German submarine on the night of 14/15 July 1917. The ship sank with the loss of 442 lives. Sub-Lieutenant Hopper was awarded the R.H.S. Medal in Silver for his brave actions in going to the aid of several exhausted French soldiers in the water.

Hopper was promoted to Lieutenant in November 1919 and Lieutenant Commander in November 1927. He was awarded a Clasp to the R.H.S. Medal in 1922 when his ship - H.M.S. Raleigh, ran aground in thick fog and became a total wreck off Point Armour, on the coast of Labrador. Hopper swam with a line to the shore, through dangerous breaking seas, and in doing so, was instrumental in preserving the lives of some 700 men of the ship’s complement. Ten lives were lost in the accident.

During the Second World War as Acting Captain of H.M.S. St. Tudno, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (London Gazette 19 December 1944) for his services in minesweeping in the Scheldt; mentioned in despatches (London Gazette 4 September 1945) for Operation Fireball - minesweeping work in clearing a passage to Rotterdam and Yjmuiden, thereby making possible a swift relief of Holland; he was also awarded the Belgian Order of Leopold and Croix de Guerre for services in the liberation of Belgium. Hopper was placed on the Retired List with the rank of Commander in 1948.

With a quantity of copied research including copied service papers and reports on the rescues. With a photograph of the stranded H.M.S. Raleigh.