Lot Archive


№ 302


28 July 1993

Hammer Price:

A rare D.S.M. group of four for the celebrated action between the Armed Merchant Cruisers 'Carmania' and 'Cap Trafalgar' off Trinidad in 1914, awarded to Chief Steward Matthew Green, Merchant Navy

DISTINGUISHED SERVICE MEDAL, G.V.R. (Ch. Std., H.M.S. Carmania); 1914-15 STAR TRIO (Ch.Std., M.F.A.) extremely fine (4)

D.S.M., London Gazette, 10 April, 1915: 'For services in the action between the Carmania and the Cap Trafalgar, 14th September, 1914'

At the outbreak of the First World War the Cap Trafalgar was lying in the River Plate awaiting an opportunity to slip out and meet the German gunboat Eber. The liner was a most suitable ship for commerce-raiding and on September 1st, somewhere off Bahia Blanca, she took onboard from the gunboat a number of naval ratings and two 4.1 in. guns and six pom-poms. On the morning of September 14th, 1914, off the western end of the island of Trinidad, she was surprised in the act of coaling by the British auxiliary cruiser Carmania, 19, 524 tons, Capt. N. Grant, R.N. At first she made off at high speed, but later turned about and prepared to engage. Both ships began firing at 7, 500 yards, the 4.7 in. guns of the Carmania doing great damage to the hull of the enemy. The fire from the Cap Trafalgar was at first too high, but as the ships closed she began to score, setting theCarmania on fire under the forebridge and cutting her main water pipe so that the fire could not be got under control.After an engagement lasting one hour and forty minutes the Cap Trafalgar was heavily on fire and sinking. Towards the end of the action she had attempted to escape but her engines were not equal to the strain and she finally capsized to port and sank by the head. Five boats crowded with survivors were picked up by the German colliers, the Carmania being still on fire and too badly mauled to render assistance.The fierceness of the fight may be judged from the fact that the Carmania was hit by 79 projectiles. All her navigational instruments and communicating gear were destroyed and she was escorted to port in a very battered condition by the cruiser Cornwall.The casualties were nine killed and 26 wounded on the Carrnania, while only 279 of the Cap Trafalgar's company reached Buenos Aires, where they were interned. Among the 12 recipients of the D.S.M. for this action were Chief Steward Matthew Green and Officers Steward (3rd class) Thomas Adams. These two men displayed the utmost courage under heavy fire during the action. Though running considerable risk from shells which burst about the upper works of the ship, they went from one guns s crew to another with buckets of limejuice and water for the refreshment of the men who were working in the sweltering heat of a tropical sun. For further details see 'Deeds That Thrill The Empire' pp 132-138. The lot is sold with three original postcards and two cigarette cards relating to the action, and extracts from several publications.