Auction Catalogue

13 October 2021

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Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria

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№ 21


13 October 2021

Hammer Price:

Sold by Order of the Family

‘Ohio, being the only tanker, was marked for particular attention, and during the course of her voyage suffered a direct hit from a torpedo, direct bomb hits, any number of near-misses, and was struck by two Luftwaffe aircraft shot down while attacking her. Despite her engines being dead and her hull practically broken in two, she was towed into Grand Harbour by three destroyers and a minesweeper with her cargo virtually intact.’ (The Ohio and Malta - the Legendary Tanker that Refused to Die by Michael Pearson)

‘H.M. Ships were handled throughout with skill and daring, particularly during the final stages when, in the face of concentrated attack from air, submarine and surface forces, it became necessary to tow one of the most important and unwieldy vessels in the convoy, the S.S. Ohio, which had been seriously damaged.’ (Introduction to recommendations for awards to officers and men for Operation Pedestal - Honours and Awards Committee)

The important Second War 1942 ‘Operation Pedestal’ D.S.O. group of twelve awarded to Commander H. J. A. S. Jerome, Royal Navy, who, as Commanding Officer of the 17th Minesweeping Flotilla, Malta Force, took operational command during the later stages of Operation Pedestal - the allies final effort to relieve the beleaguered island of Malta - and, under the most trying of circumstances, successfully co-ordinated the safe passage of the vital yet crippled tanker, Ohio, to the safe berth of Valetta’s Grand Harbour.

Having arrived in H.M.S. Speedy following the departure of the main convoy escort, Jerome set about organising repeated efforts to stabilise the slowly sinking Ohio even as she remained the object of relentless air attack and under continuous threat from enemy submarines and E-boats. Finally, with a destroyer on either side, another destroyer secured astern to act as rudder and a minesweeper positioned for towing, he succeeded in slowly manoeuvring the fragile tanker through the heavily mined approach towards her ultimately tumultuous reception from the Maltese.

A young Midshipman in the battle cruiser H.M.S. Courageous during the Great War, Jerome had served in submarines between the wars and went on to end his distinguished naval career as Commander in Chief of the Irish Navy.

Sold with a substantial archive of related original material

Distinguished Service Order, G.VI.R., silver-gilt and enamel, reverse officially dated 1942, with integral top riband bar; British War and Victory Medals (Mid. H. J. A. S. Jerome. R.N.); 1939-45 Star; Atlantic Star, 1 clasp, France and Germany; Africa Star, 1 clasp, North Africa 1942-43; Italy Star; Defence and War Medals 1939-45; Naval General Service 1915-62, 1 clasp, Minesweeping 1945-51 (Cdr/ H. J. A. S. Jerome. D.S.O. R.N.); Spain, Franco Period, Cross of Naval Merit with White Decoration; Italy, Republic, Order of Merit of the Italian Republic, Commander’s neck badge, silver gilt and enamel, the Great War pair very fine, otherwise nearly extremely fine (12) £8,000-£12,000

D.S.O. London Gazette 10 November 1942:
‘For bravery and dauntless resolution while serving in H.M. Ships when an important Convoy was fought through to Malta in the face of relentless attacks by day and night from enemy submarines, aircraft and surface forces.’

The original recommendation states:
‘For the brilliantly successful feat of saving the tanker Ohio after she had been severely damaged and immobilised I consider the following officers worthy of immediate awards. Acting Commander H. J. A. S. Jerome (Commander Minesweepers Malta) who was in charge of operations during the last day and night on board Speedy.’

Henry Joseph Alexander Savile Jerome was born on 3 June 1900 in Mexico City, the son of the diplomat Lucien Joseph James Robertson Jerome, then British Vice-Consul in Mexico, and his Australian wife Vivien Fane (Savill). He was admitted as an Officer Cadet to the Royal Naval College, Osborne in January 1914 and proceeded to the Royal Naval College Dartmouth before joining the battlecruiser H.M.S. Courageous as a Midshipman in April 1917, remaining in her until the conclusion of the war.

Jerome was promoted Lieutenant in September 1921 and went up to Caius College, Cambridge two months later, winning the Oxford and Cambridge Universities Welterweight 1st prize medal in March 1922 (medal with lot) - an artist’s depiction of his victory over P. I. Bell (Queen’s, Oxford) subsequently appeared as a full page feature in the Christmas 1922 edition of The Field magazine (copy with lot).

Returning to sea, Jerome joined the Submarine L 56 in September 1922 and served mostly in submarines until August 1927 when he joined the destroyer H.M.S. Sesame. His advancement to Lieutenant-Commander in 1929 was followed by service in a succession of surface ships until 1935 at which time he joined the Royal Marines in Egypt for a year. In 1936, he transferred to an Officer Instructor role with the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (South Africa) and was still serving in this capacity when war broke out in 1939. Recalled to home waters, Lieutenant-Commander Jerome served in the Minesweeper Trawler H.M.S. Wardour from January 1941 until his appointment as Commander Minesweepers at Her Majesty’s Naval Base Clyde in March of that year. Then, in June of 1942, with the war in the Mediterranean - and Malta’s prolonged siege in particular - reaching a critical stage, Jerome was sent to Valetta as Commander Minesweepers Malta, his arrival coming as immediate relief to the submariners of the 10th Submarine Flotilla who had been required to leave Malta on account of mines and the temporary supremacy of enemy aircraft:

‘The one small success of the two failed convoy operations [Harpoon and Vigorous] had been the arrival in Malta of Commander Jerome in Speedy. He had led his three up-to-date fleet minesweepers round Cape Bon during the night of 14/15 June, unnoticed by the enemy who were concentrating on ‘Harpoon’ and the supply ships. The sweepers slipped safely into harbour. Their hard work and courage in the face of constant danger meant that the Tenth’s submarines could now return to their home base.’ (The Fighting Tenth - The Tenth Submarine Flotilla and the Siege of Malta by John Wingate D.S.C.)

Operation Pedestal
With Operations Harpoon and Vigourous having failed to revictualise the stricken island of Malta, the War Cabinet decided to make one last all out effort. Planning for Operation Pedestal began immediately and Churchill’s assertion that the ‘The Navy would never abandon Malta’ would be put to the test. As Leonard MacDonald, a Royal Marine in H.M.S. Manchester on Pedestal later put it:
‘What other convoy during the war had an escort of 54 men o’ war, including 2 battleships, both 16 inch, four carriers, twelve cruisers and 40 destroyers plus the smaller stuff? We were warned that if we got one ship through and lost half the escort it would be classed as a success.’

Having left the Clyde on 3 August, the convoy passed through the straits of Gibraltar on 9/10 August and, together with its various escort formations, was then subjected to relentless attack from U-Boats and Italian submarines, the Luftwaffe and Regio Aeronautica, and from Axis surface vessels. This story of continuous violence needs no retelling here, but suffice it to say that by the afternoon 13 August, as the now depleted force neared the end of its epic journey, of the 14 merchantmen that originally set out, nine were sunk and three damaged, while the senior service had sustained losses of an aircraft carrier, a cruiser and a destroyer, as well as having another half a dozen ships damaged.

Nearing Malta, the remnants of the convoy - Melbourne Star, Port Chalmers and Rochester Castle (torpedoed but progressing under her own steam) - steamed defiantly on to meet the four minesweepers and seven motor minesweepers of the 17th Minesweeper Flotilla of the Malta Escort Force under Jerome’s command. Conducting operations from H.M.S. Speedy, Jerome had been charged with responsibility for ‘Operation Statue’ - the final phase of Pedestal - and had ordered the channel swept clear of mines on the 12th; his force was now able to shepherd this trio of merchantmen into Grand Harbour at Valletta at 4.30pm on 13 August.

Meanwhile, another merchant ship, Brisbane Star, was still missing, having had her bow nearly torn off by an aerial torpedo off Cap Bon, and a fifth participating vessel, the Ohio, whose fate also hung in the balance, was the most important of all - her cargo of fuel would be absolutely necessary if Malta was to continue her grim defence. The tanker had fallen victim to a torpedo amidships from the Italian submarine Axum on 12 August and nearing Pantelleria, she was marked out for the special attention of 60 Stukas, bombs and machine-gun fire raking her decks. Gunners broke up some of the approaching formations and downed at least one enemy aircraft - the wreckage of which crashed into Ohio’s starboard side, half of one wing smashing into the upper work of the bridge. Such was the onslaught that Captain Mason (later to receive the G.C.), when telephoned from aft by the chief officer, who told him that the Ju 87 had crashed into the sea and then bounced onto the ship, famously replied: ‘Oh that's nothing. We've had a Junkers 88 on the foredeck for nearly half an hour.’

Commander Jerome, now the senior officer on Operation Pedestal, received intercepted signals outlining the mounting problems facing Ohio (and the merchant ship Dorset which ultimately sank), and despatched Rye and two Motor Launches to the assistance of Ohio which he recognised as ‘Vital to Malta’.

Ohio had been torpedoed and hit by two aircraft, she had taken a bomb in the engine room, her funnel sat crooked and her rudder was jammed and still the enemy aircraft kept coming. Two sticks of bombs now straddled the tanker, lifting her clean out of the water and others stopped her engines on two occasions - the resultant periods of “restarting” leaving her a sitting duck. At one stage, most of the crew were taken off by H.M.S. Penn, only to be returned when it was decided to take the stricken tanker in tow. Yet again, however, the Ohio was hit, a bomb falling near the original damage caused her by the Axum’s torpedo strike - a preliminary damage report revealed that she had almost certainly broken her back. The three destroyers with Ohio - Ledbury, Penn and Bramham - together with the minesweeper Rye, then set about attempting to tug and push the fragile tanker towards Malta.

The surprise arrival of the previously torpedoed Brisbane Star on the approaches to Malta early on 14 August required Jerome to despatch the minesweepers Hythe and Hebe plus two MLs to its assistance before he himself set off for Ohio in Speedy also with the company of two Motor Launches. He located the group at 08.30 on the 14th as the three warships were disentangling themselves from the jumbled mass of towing gear connected to Ohio and took command of the operation. Captain Mason went back on board Ohio to make an inspection of his battered ship and informed Jerome ‘I think with luck we’ll last twelve hours.’
At 10.50 on the 14th, one final air attack took place against the crippled tanker: five Stukas of the Italian 102 Gruppo escorted by 20 Mc202s attempted to finish her off. Despite the attentions of Spitfires and Beaufighters, one Stuka managed to land a 1000lb bomb close alongside the tanker, bursting hard in her wake and flinging the Ohio forward with its concussion. She was holed in the stern and her screws knocked out of alignment. Mason made another report to Jerome who wasted no time in getting another tow organised, ordering Bramham and Penn made fast to port and starboard respectively, the Ledbury secured astern to act as a rudder, and the Rye positioned for towing. Around the mass of ships, the minesweepers formed a protective circle. With Ohio taking in water, however, more complications arose and soon after the tow had commenced it became apparent that the Ohio, as stubborn as ever, was not responding as she should and that Ledbury was slowly but surely being dragged round with her. Peter C. Smith picks up events in Pedestal, the Convoy that saved Malta:

‘Commander Jerome now organised a further effort and with both destroyers going slow ahead on either side of the tanker she finally began to move ahead on a straight course. They worked up to five knots before Captain Mason warned that his ship would not hold together with any further increase. At this snail’s pace they continued towards Malta, but with every tortuous mile the level of the water in the flooded engine-rooms increased. At noon yet another setback was suffered when one of Bramham’s wire parted under the increasing strain. Under the direction of her First Lieutenant, the Marquess of Milford Haven, O.B.E., the tow was cast off and a new wire secured and the wearisome journey was resumed...’

Under the blazing Mediterranean sun the small flotilla pressed on but by late afternoon, even with the distant outline of Malta coming slowly into sight, Jerome remained very much on the alert:
‘The desperately unwieldy tanker had still to be nursed through the narrow swept channel between minefields around the entrance to Grand Harbour, and at any time attacks from submarines or torpedo boats might still develop. At approaching midnight, Ohio entered the swept channel and Commander Jerome rearranged the accompanying minesweepers and launches to form an anti-submarine and torpedo-boat screen to seaward. The journey at snail’s pace through the channel in pitch dark proved perilous in the extreme, and more than once Ohio attempted to slew away to port. At these moments, activity aboard the destroyers lashed to her sides would be frenetic...
By 0300 on the morning of the 15th, the ancient battlements of Valetta were just discernible as darker shapes against the night sky, port side abeam the slow moving group...Grand Harbour came into view as the final dawn of this epic voyage brightened into morning.’ (The Ohio and Malta, the Legendary Tanker that Refused to Die by Michael Pearson refers)

It would have been with some relief that at 0500 hrs Commander Jerome handed charge of the tow into Grand Harbour over to the Assistant King’s Harbour Master. To cheering crowds and a band playing Rule Britannia, the Ohio then entered the harbour after which the crowd fell silent, men removed their hats, women crossed themselves and a bugle sounded ‘Still’. The tanker discharged its oil into two tankers and settled on the bottom just as the last of the fuel was emptied.

Jerome was created a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order and remained as Commander Minesweepers Malta until May 1944. He transferred to the command of the new Algerine class minesweeper H.M.S. Courier in August 1944 and remained with her for the rest of the war whilst also assuming joint command of the 10th Minesweeping Flotilla, latterly on the China Station. In December 1946 he accepted an appointment as Captain and Commander in Chief of the newly formed Irish Naval Service, serving until his retirement in 1956. Commander Jerome D.S.O., R.N., always known to his family as ‘Toby’ and to his fellow officers in the Royal Navy as ‘Jake’, died in 1982.

Note: An oil painting of Jerome in his Irish Navy Captain’s uniform hangs in the Irish Navy Headquarters, Dublin.

Sold with the following large archive of original documents, photographs and artefacts:

(i) A quantity of secret telegrams, memorandums and reports either written by or sent to the recipient, the majority relating to Operation Pedestal including:
a) series of Secret Telegrams (9 pages) sent to the recipient on Malta over the period 27 July 1942 to 11 August 1942, detailing plans for the upcoming Operation Pedestal - opening instruction of first telegram reads ‘Intend Malta Force consisting of 17th Minesweeping Flotilla and 3rd Motor Launch Flotilla shall meet Pedestal and take over escort duties of convoy when Force X parts company’.
b) Memorandum - most secret (4 pages), dated 8 August 1942, issued to the recipient by the Office of Vice Admiral, Malta, detailing information, forces available, requirements and tasks relating to Operation Statue (final stage of Pedestal). Copies sent to other senior officers of Malta Force.
c) Orders - secret (3 pages) to Malta Force issued by the recipient (Commander Minesweepers) dated 11 August 1942 detailing plans for executing Operation “Statue”.
d) Report - secret (4 pages) written by recipient on Operation “Statue” from the evening of 12 August 1942 to morning of 15 August 1942, sent to Vice-Admiral Malta - an authoritative and detailed real time account of events.
e) Further naval telegrams of congratulation relating to Statue (Pedestal); messages between the recipient and the Admiralty relating to the recipient’s Ohio salvage claims; a secret memorandum relating to Operations “Shred” and “Groundsheet”, February 1945; other R.N. documents.

(ii) Presentation silver salvers (3), the first circular, approx 26.5cm diameter, hallmarks for London 1937, gadrooned edge, supported on four feet, engraved centrally ‘To Lieutenant Commander H. J. A. S. Jerome, Royal Navy. In appreciation of his outstanding service to the Division, from the Officer Commanding and Officers of the SA Division Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. 30th September 1940.’; another, circular, 35.8cm diameter, by Lambert & Co., 12 Coventry St, silver hallmarks 1966, scalloped edges, supported on three feet, engraved centrally with the recipient’s ship tour dates; a third, circular, 35.8cm diameter approx, scalloped edges, feet removed, Irish sterling silver, hallmarked Dublin 1956, engraved centrally ‘To Capt. H. J. A. S. Jerome from Officers of the Irish Naval Service 1946-1956’ with the badge of the Irish Naval Service, the whole within a celtic border.

(iii) Photograph albums (4) large, hardback, together containing a very fine and comprehensive pictorial chronology of the recipient’s life (1904-1936) with many (mostly captioned) images of family, social and sporting life.
Album 1, 1914-1922 - Habana, 1904, Osborne 1914, Dartmouth 1915/16, Great War, Caius College Cambridge, Whale Island and more.
Album 2, 1922-1928 - Habana and Mexico 1904-1908 followed by RN submarine service, Norway, H.M.S. Sesame and Resolution and more.
Album 3, 1928-1932 - Mt. Athos, H.M.S. Resolution, European travels, marriage to American wife Thelma J. Madill in Paris, honeymoon Marbella, Goa and more.
Album 4, 1933-1936 - H.M.S. Enterprise, global travels.

(iv) Royal Navy Officer of the Watch Telescopes (2), both single draw examples, the first 59.5cm when extended, the draw end engraved ‘H. J. A. S. Jerome’ and eye-piece slide impressed ‘T. Cooke & Sons Ltd. London & York. No. 6447 No. 17’, with leather central section, missing frontal cover piece, good condition; the second, 62.3cm when extended, the draw end engraved ‘H. S. Jerome R.N.’ and eye-piece slide impressed ‘G. Lee & Son, The Hard, Portsmouth’, complete with frontal end section and eye piece cover, stitching on central leather sectioning weakening slightly, overall good condition

(v) Silver medal, 48mm diameter - ‘Oxford and Cambridge Universities Boxing & Fencing Competitions’, obv. these words surrounding the coat of arms of both universities, rev. inscribed ‘Welterweight 1st H. S. Jerome 1922’

(vi) A large quantity of loose photographs captioned to the reverse, subjects including early years in Mexico, recipient’s portraits in naval uniform and group portraits, ships and naval scenes including 3 shots of Ohio during Operation Pedestal.

(vii) A folder of information and photographs relating to the 1954 summer cruise to Stockholm of the Irish corvette L.E. “Macha” captained by the recipient in his capacity as Commander in Chief of the Irish Navy.

(viii) Full page illustration from Christmas 1922 edition of The Field magazine featuring an artist’s depiction of the recipient’s victory over P. I. Bell (Queen’s, Oxford) in the Oxford and Cambridge Welterweights - 9 March 1922.

(ix) Bestowal documents for Spanish Naval Cross of Merit and Order of Merit of the Italian Republic and document confirming the recipient’s appointment as Captain of Irish Naval Service, dated August 1946, signed by Eamon de Valera, Taoiseac.

(x) Letter written to the recipient from his father, Lucien Jerome, dated 5 August 1941, together with a further significant quantity of letters, cards and newspaper cuttings.

For the recipient’s uncle’s medals, see Lot 19.