Distinguished Service Medal, G.VI.R. (P/MX.69704 T. C. Gordon, A/Ch. Mtr. Mechanic) impressed naming, nearly extremely fine
D.S.M. London Gazette 21 October 1941 “For courage and skill in an attack on an enemy convoy in the English Channel in which one supply ship was sunk and three other enemy ships were damaged.”
On the night of 8th/9th September, 1941, a German convoy consisting of two heavily laden merchant ships with an escort of trawlers and E or R boats, attempted the passage of the Straits of Dover. Coastal Forces were still sadly short of boats and only three were available to intercept the convoy - M.T.B. 35 (Lt. Cdr. E. N. Pumphrey, R.N., commanding the force), M.T.B. 218 (Lt. C. E. Bonnell, R.C.N.V.R.) and a Norwegian boat M.T.B. 54 (Lt. P. E. Danielsen, R. Nor. N.). It was also known that M.G.B.’s 43 (Lt. P. F. S. Gould, R.N.) and 52 (Lt. W. G. B. Leith, R.N.V.R.) were at sea in the Varne area and would probably make contact with the enemy and shadow and report them.
Contact was made at 11.30 pm and in the ensuing exchange M.T.B. 35 was hit three or four times after releasing an unsuccessful salvo of torpedoes. The action was furious but the enemy had so far escaped with little damage. M.T.B. 218 having expended her torpedoes returned to Dover. Shortly after midnight M.T.B. 35 joined up with M.T.B. 54 and started on what proved to be a long, stern chase.
Meanwhile the M.G.B.’s of Gould and Leith had found the convoy and engaged it with guns and depth charges. Gould set about the merchant ship as well as the trawler, and it is evident that the enemy was becoming rapidly demoralised by his determination. The escort were firing in all directions and it appeared that at times the trawlers were engaging their own E /R boats. The two M.G.B.’s finally broke off the engagement at 2.55 a.m. and set off towards home.
The M.G.B.’s had provided a good distraction which allowed Pumphrey and Danielsen to press home their torpedo attack. At two o'clock M.T.B. 54 turned northward to an attacking course and fired her torpedoes at about 1,200 yards. She then made smoke and disengaged to port. ln the words of Lt.Cdr. Pumphrey in M.T.B. 35: “We ran on through the smoke and emerged to find four E boats converging on our starboard bow. However our blood was now well up and we were going to make certain of it. At 600 yards the merchantman was sitting across tiIe sights like a row of houses and the E boats were far too close and hitting us hard and often. The time had come to fire and as I pulled the levers I saw the target obliterated by a great black column of water and wreckage. 54's torpedo had hit square amidships and mine was wasted.”
“I turned sharp to port away from the E boats and found myself almost on top of a trawler. At 100 yards she was hitting us altogether too hard. Both wing engines coughed, spluttered and stopped. Then a 3-inch shell blew half the stern off and a big petrol fire started amidships. The steering was shot to pieces by the aft hit and only the centre engine remained running. Out of control, we were circling slowly to starboard towards the trawler which was Iying stopped. We tried steering with buckets but without success, so I had to stop. There didn't seem to be a lot of future.”
Adrift without power and steering, with 700 gallons of petrol loose in the bilge and burning, M.T.B. 35 came under attack from the Trawlers guns and an E boat. These were repulsed by A.B. Carruthers at the point-fives who was firing beautifully, with precision and economy. The petrol fire had now been extinguished and the Cox'n, Hadley, was labouring to repair the steering.
“Meanwhile another complication had entered our life.”, continues Pumphrey. “In flooding the tank spaces with methyl bromide an error had been made and the engine-room had also been filled with the poisonous gas, and now the engine-room staff were tumbling up on deck gasping and retching, almost unconscious. Lt. Tate organised artificial respiration for them and had a good deal of success. After a very few minutes Gordon, the motor mechanic, was able to stagger back to his engines, and the stokers were not far behind him. Constantly vomiting and on the verge of unconsciousness, these men laboured away at the engines to such good effect that they were soon able to report that, in addition to the centre engine, I could have the port when I wanted it. This, however was no use without steering-gear and, as we awaited the results of Hadley’s labours, our darkest moment came. The four E boats which had first engaged us had, for some obscure reason, lain off at about 800 yards, stopped. They now started engines, formed up and steered slowly down our starboard side. I reckoned the time had come when all hope must be abandoned and the boat destroyed. The life-boat was cleared away and floated alongside, and I gave orders to abandon ship as soon as the E boats opened fire. I was to remain to restart the petrol fire. But to our amazement the E boats cruised past us at a range of 400 yards without firing a shot!”
“Then everything went right. Hadley reported that we could steer after a fashion, the third engine was got going and, with Gillings and Jakes Iying on their tummies and holding the tiller on to a flat one-eighth of an inch deep, we swerved off into the night on a most erratic course for home.” (Ref. The Battle of The Narrow Seas by Lt. Cdr. Peter Scott, R.N.)
One D.S.C., two D.S.M.’s and two M.I.D.’s were awarded to the crew of M.T.B. 35 for this, the first great M.T.B. action in the Dover Strait.