Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (10 November 2021)
Date of Auction: 10th November 2021
Sold for £130
Estimate: £100 - £140
1914-15 Star (J. 25982 T. H. Griffiths, Boy 1, R.N.); British War and Victory Medals (J. 25982 T. H. Griffiths, Ord., R.N.) edge bruising, polished and worn, therefore fine (3) £100-£140
FootnoteThomas Harold Griffiths was born in Edmonton, Middlesex, on 26 April 1898 and entered the Royal Navy as a Boy Second Class in July 1912. By the outbreak of the Great War in August 1914, he was serving in the cruiser H.M.S. Hermione but, at the year's end, he transferred to the battleship H.M.S. Irresistible.
On 18 March 1915, Irresistible was involved in a bombardment of the Ottoman forts on the Dardanelles. Shortly after 4:00 p.m. she struck a mine that caused extensive damage and disabled her engines. Unable to manoeuvre, with a list of 7 degrees to starboard, and down by the stern, Irresistible became a sitting duck for the Ottoman gunners. She drifted helplessly into range of Turkish guns, which laid down a heavy fire on her. Attempts to tow her failed, but the destroyer H.M.S. Wear came alongside and rescued most of the crew - 28 officers and 582 men - despite the punishing Ottoman shelling. The Ottomans later reported that the derelict Irresistible had drifted closer to shore and suffered further severe damage from their shore batteries before sinking shortly after 7:30 p.m. Total losses were approximately 150 officers and ratings killed.
Griffiths was amongst the survivors, and spent the rest of the Great War in a variety of ships and shore based establishments. He remained in service between the wars, and was serving as an Able Seaman in the destroyer H.M.S. Express on the outbreak of the Second World War.
H.M.S. Express played a key role during the Dunkirk evacuations, and was one of the last ships to leave Dunkirk with troops on 4 June when the evacuation ended. She brought out 3,419 troops over the course of Operation Dynamo. For the rest of the year she spent her time laying defensive minefields in British waters and offensive minefields off enemy coasts.
The Texel Disaster
On the evening of 31 August 1940, H.M. Ships Express, Esk, Icarus, Intrepid, and Ivanhoe departed Immingham to lay an offensive minefield off Texel, with cover provided by three destroyers of the 5th Destroyer Flotilla. At 2307 hours, it became clear that the ships of the 20th Flotilla had entered a German minefield when Express struck a mine abreast ‘B’ gun, losing her entire bow up to the bridge. The detonation killed four officers and 54 ratings; one officer and seven ratings were later rescued by the Germans.
Esk and Ivanhoe, the closest ships to Express, closed to render assistance, while the other two destroyers turned hard to starboard and retraced their route to exit the minefield, according to standing orders. Five minutes after the first mine detonated, Esk's bow struck a mine and she came to a stop. Five minutes later Ivanhoe struck another mine that badly damaged her bow. At about 2320, Esk struck another mine amidships that detonated her magazines. By 0140, Express had managed to raise steam again and went astern to minimise the pressure of the water on her shored-up bulkheads. The Admiralty dispatched nine M.T.B.s to go to the assistance of Express and Ivanhoe. Express finally arrived at Hull in the early evening of 2 September 1940.
Griffiths was among the wounded, and was finally shore released in September 1945; he did not qualify for the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal.