The Douglas-Morris Collection of Naval Medals

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Date of Auction: 12th February 1997

Sold for £300

Estimate: £300 - £400

Five: Distinguished Service Medal, G.V.R. (237371 H. F. A. Shelton, Lg. Sea. R.N. Siege Guns. Flanders 1917); 1914-15 Star Trio (237371 H. F. A. Shelton, A.B./L.S., R.N.); Royal Navy L.S. & G.C., G.V.R., Admiral’s bust, 2nd issue (237371 H. F. A. Shelton, P.O., H.M.S. Curacoa) contact marks and polished, therefore good fine and better (5)

Footnote

D.S.M. London Gazette 16 March 1918 ‘The following awards have been approved for services with the Royal Navy Siege Guns in France.’

The first Naval Siege guns, a 9.2-inch and two 6-inch, where landed in France in 1914, and served under Commander H. C. Halahan, R.N., who was later killed at Zeebrugge. In the summer of 1915 four short 9.2's MARK VI were landed from the monitors which, due to their relatively short range had been found unsuited for coastal bombardment, and were mounted well up at the front near Nieuport Bails. Two of the guns known as ‘Eastney’ and ‘Barbara’ were mounted in concrete pits, the other two, mounted at first in the open, were afterwards similarly protected and became ‘Carnac Battery’. ‘Barbara’ and ‘Carnac’ were manned by the Royal Navy; ‘Eastney’ was manned by the R.M.A. under Captain J. H. Hollingsworth.The whole unit formed the Royal Naval Siege Guns.

The bombardment of Ostend by the monitors on 7 September 1915, proved that no further results could be gained by this method of attack so long as the German guns in Ostend known as ‘Tirpitz’ Battery was allowed to remain active. This battery consisted of four 11-inch guns of a new type, with an effective range of 30,000 yards. It was located in the south western suburbs of Ostend, over half a mile inland, and fired both seaward and along the shore.

In an attempt to counteract this problem Admiral Bacon, then Commanding the Dover Patrol, landed a 12-inch Mark X gun at Dunkirk. The gun and the mounting, each weighing 50 tons, was taken sixteen miles inland, by road rather than by rail in order to avoid being observed by the enemy, who at that time had superiority in the air. In moving them the R.M.A. tractors were borrowed from the howitzers as opportunity offered. The 12-inch gun, when mounted, was screened by building over it a barn exactly similar in appearance to other outbuildings of the farm. The gun was christened ‘Dominion’, and from the gun the name was transferred also to the farm, which afterwards became the headquarters of the Naval Siege guns.

Captain T. W. P. Dyer, R.M.A., with sixteen N.C.O.'s and men who had received a special training at the Coventry Works, where the gun mounting had been designed and made, were sent to Flanders in April 1916 and quartered in the farm. A trial round was fired on 1 July 1916 but it was not until the 8th that the weather allowed observation of fire. On that day, and on the 9th, the gun had a good shoot at the ‘Tirpitz’ Battery, every precaution having been taken to avoid its position being known, and on each day ‘Tirpitz’s’ return fire was directed at another target.

The Admiralty had in the meanwhile approved the manufacture of two more sets of 12 inch mountings, one of which was erected near the St Joseph position. The second gun was mounted six miles to the rear. The Crew of a 12-inch gun thus mounted, in addition to officers, was thirty four N.C.O's and men. The 9.2-inch crew numbered twenty.

During August 1916 the R.N. officers and men manning the Naval Guns began to be withdrawn. This was brought about by the demands of the anti-submarine war which caused such a great demand for the services of all regular Naval officers and men afloat as to make it imperative that none should be employed on shore on work for which efficient substitutes could be found. As officers and men of the R.M.A. became available they were sent to the siege guns.

In addition to these large calibre guns, eight 7.5-inch guns from H.M.S. SWIFTSURE were landed and mounted, on ship’s pivot mountings, well forward near Oost Dunkerke to assist in counter battery work. The R.N. Siege Guns continued during 1917 as a separate unit under Captain Halahan, R.N., but their personnel was gradually replaced by Marines until, in February 1918, they were entirely Marine manned, and were absorbed into the R.M.A. Heavy Siege Train.