Decorated by the Enemy?
Military establishments have complex regulations governing the award of decorations. Normally, these involve recommendations of one’s seniors or comrades, usually for outstanding courage and selflessness.
But in a very few instances some countries have apparently awarded decorations on the recommendation of the enemy, or, at least, the voice of the enemy was heard in the decision making process.
Three examples from World War II are of interest.
- Lt-Cdr Gerard Broadmead Roope, R.N. On April 8, 1940, Lt-Cdr Roope (1905-1940), was commanding the destroyer, HMS Glowworm off the Norwegian coast, when he fell in with and engaged the German destroyers Bernd von Arnim (Z-11) and Hans Lüdemann (Z-18). Soon afterwards, the greatly superior German heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper came up. Roope took on the Hipper, making a torpedo attack, which missed, and then, with his ship taking heavy damage, actually rammed the cruiser, before pulling away, all the while maintaining a steady fire. But by then Glowworm was heeling badly, and Roope ordered the crew to abandon ship. She shortly capsized on her starboard side. Of 149 crew members, 118 were lost, including Roope. In 1945 Roope was awarded the Victoria Cross, partially on the recommendation of Captain Hellmuth Heye of the Admiral Hipper, who had sent a letter to the Admiralty through Red Cross channels commending Roope’s gallantry.
- Sergeant Thomas Frank Durrant, Royal Engineers. During the famous British naval raid on St. Nazaire, France, on the night of March 27-28, 1942, Sgt. Durrant (1918-1942) was serving with No. 1 Commando, manning a dual-mounted Lewis gun on HM Motor Launch 306. Proceeding up the Loire River, the boat came under heavy fire from the German destroyer Jaguar, which greatly outclassed her. She was hit repeatedly, and Durrant was wounded several times. Twice the Germans summoned the boat to surrender and were refused. Finally the launch was boarded and those who were still alive were taken prisoner, among them Sgt Durrant, who had been wounded 16 times. He died of his wounds on the 29th. Speaking with the prisoners, Kapitänleutnant F.K Paul, commander of the Jaguar, commended them for their gallant fight, and singled out Durrant for special praise. Acting with Paul’s comment in mind, Durrant’s commanding officer, Lieutenant R. O. C. Swayne, initiated the process that led to the award of the V.C. to Sgt. Durrant. Durrant also has the distinction of being the only British soldier to have won the V.C. while serving with the Royal Navy.
- Flying Officer Lloyd Allan Trigg, R.N.Z.A.F. On August 11, 1943, FO Trigg (1914-1943), was commanding a B-24 Liberator of the R.A.F.’s` 200 Squadron, on patrol off Dakar, in Senegal, West Africa. Spotting a German submarine on the surface, Trigg attacked. The Germans responded with accurate anti-aircraft fire that damaged the Liberator. Trigg nevertheless continued his attack and dropped six depth charges from only 50 feet, damaging the submarine. Rather than attempt to make for safety, Trigg came around for another pass, though his plane was now so damaged the Germans scored repeated hits. The bomber crashed into the sea, killing all eight aboard. The submarine, U-468, sank shortly afterwards, and her surviving crewmen were rescued by British ships the following day. When U-468’s skipper, Klemens Schamong, told the story of how his boat came to be sunk, Trigg was recommended for a V.C., which was awarded in 1944. This is apparently the only V.C. ever awarded solely on the evidence of the enemy.
These examples may not exhaust the occasions on which a recommendation by the enemy led to someone being awarded a decoration.* There is one interesting aspect to these three cases, and that is that they all occurred in World War II, and in each instance involved a German naval officer
With thanks to Albert Linsenmeyer
Readers are encouraged to send details of any similar cases they might run across to anofi at nymas.org.
“O, That’s Different”
Even before Britain and the other Commonwealth nations had declared war on Germany on September 3, 1939, the Australian light cruiser Perth had taken up station in the Caribbean. Thus, by late October, she had already steamed thousands of miles in the Caribbean and the Atlantic, escorting convoys, intercepting enemy merchant ships, and keeping an eye out for German raiders. So when she put in at Halifax, in Nova Scotia, on October 25th, her crew had raised a mighty thirst.
As they set foot in ashore, however, many of the men were surprised to discover that Nova Scotia was “dry.” But some of her crew knew that, as had been the case with the American experiment with prohibition, there was plenty of booze to be had, if one knew where to look for it. And soon Perth’s crewmen were happily ensconced in several of the town’s speakeasies.
Now just as had been the case in the U.S., illegal drinking establishments were subject to police attention. And so one group of Perth’s crew found themselves in the midst of a raid by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Not to worry though, for no sooner did the Mounties realize whom they were arresting than they decided that supporting the war effort was more important than enforcing prohibition, and promptly joined their Commonwealth brethren in reducing the local liquor supply.
: Those interested in the life and adventures of H.M.A.S. Perth
, are advised to have a look at the excellent, The Australian Cruiser Perth: 1939-1942
, by Ian Pfenningweth (Kenthurst, N.S.W.: Rosenberg Publishing/Portland, Ore: ISBS, 2007)