Awards to the Medical Services from the Collection of the late Tony Sabell

Date of Auction: 19th June 2013

Sold for £370

Estimate: £300 - £400

Three: Surgeon Septimus Hibbert, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, killed in action on H.M.S. Formidable, 1 January 1915

1914-15 Star (Surg., R.N.V.R.); British War and Victory Medals (Surg., R.N.V.R.) nearly extremely fine (3) £300-400


Septimus Hibbert was born in Brasted, near Sevenoaks, Kent, on 31 July 1886. He was educated at Tonbridge School, University College, Oxford and St. George’s Hospital, London - gaining a M.A., M.B. and B.Ch. He was an active athlete in middle distance running and played hockey and football for his college and hockey for St. George’s. Employed as a House Surgeon and House Physician at St. George’s Hospital before the war; he joined the R.N.V.R. in April 1914. With the onset of war he was mobilised and was posted to the pre-dreadnought battleship H.M.S. Formidable.

Surgeon Hibbert was amongst those lost on 1 January 1915 when the Formidable was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-24.

H.M.S. Formidable was a ‘Formidable’ Class battleship of 15,000 tons, built at Portsmouth Dockyard and launched on 17 November 1898. From the outbreak of war until her loss she formed part of the 5th Battle Squadron of the Channel Fleet based variously at Sheerness and Portland. The Channel Fleet was responsible for patrolling the English Channel and ensuring the safe passage of men and supplies to the continent.

The 5th B.S. sailed from Sheerness, Kent on 30 December 1914, making for Portland where the vessels would undergo firing exercises. The Formidable was the rear ship of the squadron (known as the “coffin position”) which had as an anti-submarine escort the light cruisers Topaz and Diamond.

The squadron was heading east, to the S.W. of Portland Bill, after completing the first day’s exercise, when at 2.20 a.m. on 1 January 1915, as the squadron was passing through a number of fishing smacks, Formidable was struck by a torpedo on the starboard side abreast her foremost funnel. She swung out of the line and began to lower her boats at the same time beginning to list to starboard. The weather had been growing steadily worse and the ship was soon listing so badly that her engines stopped and she lay helpless with her head to the sea.

The night was now very dark and the launching of the boats, without the assistance of steam, was a difficult operation. In all, four were got out, but of these one barge capsized, but the other, containing 43 men, was picked up by the Topaz. The pinnace, with 60 men, managed to reach Lyme Regis, and the cutter, with 71 men, was later picked up by the Brixham smack Provident, skipper William Pillar, who by splendid seamanship gybed his small craft, despite the danger, and came alongside the cutter. This boat was overloaded and in a bad way, but all the men were safely transferred before she sank, though the Provident only carried a crew of three men and a boy. Diamond also picked up 37 officers and men.

Meanwhile the bulk of the ship’s company were still on board the battleship when, about 3.05 a.m., she was struck by another torpedo, this time on the port side, abreast the after funnel. All hope of saving her had now vanished and the men were sent to break up woodwork to cling on to in the sea. During this time a large liner with lights burning passed close to the scene, but although Topaz made a signal to her to stand by, which she acknowledged, she did not comply and steamed out of sight. Topaz was then ordered by Captain Loxley to steam away as the submarine was still in the vicinity. With great reluctance Commander W. J. B. Law obeyed, endeavouring to stop another steamship on his way. At 4.45 a.m., about two and a half hours after she was first struck, Formidable turned over to starboard and sank.

Of the 780 persons on board, 35 officers and 512 men were lost. Amongst the dead was Captain Loxley, who was last seen calmly awaiting his fate on the sinking ship, his faithful terrier Bruce at his side.

With copied research.