Lot Archive


№ 296


17 September 2004

Hammer Price:

A well-documented post-war B.E.M. group of four awarded to Steward W. A. R. Dart, Merchant Navy: he was taken P.O.W. off Norway in June 1940, when his ship was sunk by the “Admiral Hipper”

British Empire Medal
, (Civil) E.II.R. (William Arthur Redvers Dart), in its Royal Mint case of issue; 1939-45 Star; Atlantic Star; War Medal 1939-45, extremely fine (4) £300-350

B.E.M. London Gazette 13 June 1970.

William Arthur Redvers Dart, who was born in Victoria, British Columbia in March 1913, joined the Orient Steam Navigation Company as an Assistant Steward in early 1935.

The outbreak of hostilities found him serving aboard the liner
Orama, which ship was requisitioned by the Admiralty as an auxiliary transport for the Norwegian campaign in 1940, and, on 8 June, in a position some 300 miles west of Narvik, she was sunk by gunfire and torpedoes from the heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper - nineteen of her crew were killed, and around 280 picked up and taken P.O.W., Dart among the latter. It was on this day, too, that the aircraft carrier Glorious, and the destroyers Acasta and Ardent were sunk. Dart’s original diary account of that fateful day is included:

‘June 8 1940: A seaplane was sighted and reported to the bridge as an enemy one. But the lookout man was told he was wrong. I was working in the office at the time and later, about 10 a.m., I was on the main deck changing the Chief Steward’s linen and talking to the linen-keepers, when we heard three terrific crashes. We wondered what had happened and I dashed up to the office, grabbed my lifebelt and ran to ‘E’ deck square, where I was told that we were being attacked by a battleship (“von Hipper”) and four light destroyers. Crashes were coming now continuously and as I got on ‘D’ deck square the lights went out. There was no panic. I made my way up to the lounge and was proceeding to the dance square when a crash took place and I found a shell had just taken a piece of the smoking-room away. I made then for boat No. 9 but it was holed so I went to No. 11. There, with A.B. Morris, we moved the deck sail and got into the boat, and at that moment we shot down to the water and by the time we left the ship we were pretty well full-up. The ship by this time was still being continually shelled and had taken a list to port. The Bosun was throwing raft and lifebuoys over the side. He was one of the coolest men on board.

Paddy Flynn was our Coxswain. We picked up the Third Officer, Boatswain’s Mate, Second Storekeeper, two deck boys and one engineer (Moore, N.). As we were rowing away from the ship, we heard a terrific explosion and saw bits of boat and everything going up. It was a torpedo which had hit one of the lifeboats - containing ten men (who were killed at once) - and the after end of the ship.

We rowed to the “Hipper” and were pulled on board and taken down below, where the sailors treated us well, giving blankets to the wet ones and also towels. We were taken along to the officers’ quarters and given goulash, jam, bread, butter, sausage and cigarettes ... after a while the “von Hipper” moved off and soon we were speeding towards Trondheim at about 40 knots, and later the captain came in and told us everything would be alright as long as we didn’t run into any of the Birtish Navy and, if we did, we would be given a fighting chance to survive. We were told that H.M.S. “Glorious” had been sunk.’

Dart returned to sea after the War, and finally retired from P. & O. after a career spanning some 40 years. His B.E.M. was presented to him by the Lord Lieutenant of Devon, Lord Roborough, the award having been gazetted to him while serving as a linen-keeper in the S.S.

Sold with a large quantity of original documentation, including further handwritten diary extracts detailing the recipient’s journey into captivity, together with assorted P.O.W. camp memorabilia, a metalled Ilag Tost 875 disc and what would appear to be Dart’s personal file, presumably removed from the camp’s record office on liberation; three wartime telegrams, the first, dated 8 December 1939, ordering Dart to report to his ship urgently, the second, dated 11 June 1940, informing his mother that he had been posted missing, and the last, dated 3 August 1940, reporting that he was almost certainly safe and a P.O.W.; his Continuous Certificate of Discharge, with entries dating from 1935-57; and Downing Street letter announcing his award of the B.E.M., dated 9 June 1970.