A Collection of Medals to Second World War Casualties
Date of Auction: 18th July 2018
Sold for £300
Estimate: £240 - £280
1939-45 Star; Atlantic Star; War Medal 1939-45, with named Admiralty enclosure, in card box of issue, addressed to ‘Mrs. F. V. Rothwell, 7 Belstone Avenue, West Park, St. Budeaux, Plymouth’; together with the recipient’s Memorial Scroll (Able Seaman E. Rothwell Royal Navy), extremely fine (3) £240-280
FootnoteErnest Rothwell served during the Second World War as an Able Seaman in the H-class destroyer H.M.S. Hunter, and was was present during the Battle of Narvik, 10 April 1940. Hunter was one of a flotilla of five ships, led by H.M.S. Hardy under the command of Captain B. A. W. Warburton-Lee, that were operating off Narvik in connection with sowing minefields in Norwegian waters to prevent there continued use by German shipping. On 9 April 1940 it was known to the world that Germany was attacking Norway and that as part of her plan eleven large destroyers, each transporting 300 soldiers and accompanied by several merchantmen had steamed into Ofot Fjord on their way to Narvik. This news had been transmitted to the Admiralty by Captain Warburton-Lee, who was at once informed that the odds against the small British force were so heavy that it would be left to his own judgement to attack immediately or to await reinforcements. Captain Warburton-Lee elected to attack before the Germans had time to complete their landing or consolidate their position, so at three o’clock on 10 April 1940 the five British destroyers entered Ofot Fjord. The British steamed down the long fjord without incident and appeared before Narvik harbour at about four-thirty p.m. H.M.S. Hardy at once steamed in to reconnoitre, leaving her four consorts, H.M.S. Havock, Hostile, Hotspur, and Hunter, outside. She made a full circuit of the harbour, which was full of shipping and engaged a 1625-ton destroyer with gunfire and torpedo. Two torpedoes were discharged and the German was hit and blew up. Before leaving H.M.S. Hardy engaged another two of the enemy as well as the shore batteries but was not hit. Captain Warburton-Lee then ordered his four consorts to circle the harbour in turn, his own ship following. This was repeated a second time and on withdrawing a fresh force of three enemy destroyers were sighted emerging from the Rombaks Fjord which opens into Ofot Fjord above Narvik. This force was immediately engaged and reinforced by two other destroyers from the same direction. The fight that ensued was extremely fierce. H.M.S. Hunter was sunk but due to the intensity of the German gunfire none of the other flotilla destroyers could come to her aid. At first it was thought that she had gone down with her entire crew of 145, but it was later discovered that 2 officers and 44 ratings had been picked up by the German destroyer Erich Giese; this party was landed at Narvik and held as prisoners of war until 13 April, when they were released by the Germans and sent to Sweden, from where they returned home. For his gallantry that day the mortally wounded Captain Warburton-Lee was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross, the first V.C. to be Gazetted in the Second Word War.
Rothwell was amongst those killed, aged 23. He is commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial. His medals were sent to his widow Faith Rothwell.
Sold together with two Naval Cap Tallies, for H.M.S. Defiance and H.M.S. Drake, and a portrait photograph of the recipient.