Jump to content

Rare British group with German decoration

Recommended Posts

An extremely rare 'Decorated by the Third Reich' British Naval Officers 'World Wars' medal group of 8: Commander Henry John Murphy, Royal Navy

- 1914-15 Star (J.4647 H. J. Murphy, L.S., R.N.)
- British War Medal. Silver issue (Mate H.J. Murphy. R.N.)
- Interallied Victory Medal (Mate H.J. Murphy. R.N.)
- 1939-45 Star
- Burma Star
- Defence Medal
- War Medal with oakleaf 'Mention-in-Despatches' emblem
- Germany Third Reich: Cross of Merit of the Red Cross Order, Verdienstkreuz Steckkreuz

Note: This grouping has been reconstituted with the 'correct type and class' of Third Reich decoration. The German decoration being an extremely rare and valuable item of German insignia - being of a type that was only issued in the period 1937-1939

Important: Though not published in the London Gazette, Commander H.J. Murphy, R.N. was given unrestricted permission to accept and wear the Third Reich award (ref Admiralty letter dated 9th June 1938), as under;


Sir, I am commanded by my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to inform you that His Majesty the King has bene pleased to grant you persmission to wear, without restriction, the Order of the German Red Cross conferred upon you by the German Government in recognition of your services to the wounded members of the crew of the German battleship DEUTSCHLAND at Gibraltar.........


The services referred to occurred in 1937 in the immediate aftermath of the 'Deutchland Incident' that occurred during the Spanish Civil War. Spanish Republican Air Force bombers attacked the German battleship 'Deutchland' causing an estimated 80 casualties including more then 50 deaths, the British helped evacuate the German wounded and provided extensive medical support through the British military and naval medical services located in Gibraltar. As a consequence an estimated 20 x German 'Red Cross' awards - of various grades -were bestowed upon British Naval and Military personnel for their services after the 'Deutchland Incident', of which only 4 were awarded to Naval personnel (2 x senior officers received the first class of the order, and two others including Murphy received the Cross of Merit, or 'Verdienstkreuz Steckkreuz').

See the related article by Norman Gooding on the 'Deutschland Incident', and the German awards granted, that was published in the Orders and Medals Research Society Journal of Winter 2000.

Henry John Murphy, a native of Islington, London, England, was born there on 29 May 1893. By occupation a Draughtsman's Assistant, Henry joined the Royasl Navy as a 'Boy' rating on 29 May 1911. Evidently a person of considerable talent, it did not take long before Henry gained rapid promotion from the lower decks to being commissioned as an Officer. His naval carrer included; several years in the Submarine Service between 1918-1926; Staff Officer to the Commander-in-Chief (Far East) in Hong Kong from 1928; posted to Gibraltar in 1935, where he was commanding the shore base H.M.S. Cormarant, as well as being Chief Naval Intelligence Officer. He ended his career as a Captain in Port of Rangoon, Burma, and for which services in Burma he was awarded a well deserved 'Mention-in-Despatches' (ref London Gazette 17 December 1946)

Sold together with a quantity of hard-copy associated research including;

- Copied 'Service Sheet'
- Copy of offiical German award document for Verdienstkreuz Steckkreuz
- Copy of Admiralty letter granting unrestricted permission for the German award
- Details of his Subnarine service

The British campaign medals mounted in the swing-style, and presumably as-worn by the recipient. Suspended from contemporary silk weave ribands, the mounting brooch bar retains the original long hinged pin and clasp fittings.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The first one is the Edward VII Coronation 1901 and in an the initial position means that it was an older mounted bar. The second medal is the China Campaign Medal for the Opium War, the third medal is the Abassynian Campaign Medal and the fourth medal is the Territorial Decoration (Officer) that was awarded during Victoria's reign, thus the "VR". The China and Abassynian Medals should be officially named. Interesting group. I believe Peter Ustinov's father had a "mixed" medal bar of Imperial Russian, Imperial German and British Medals. I wonder if anyone has a photo of that group?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

Alastair Norman Fraser was born at Duirinish, Rosshire on 10 March 1881, the son of Major-General C. A. D. Fraser. Educated at Blair Lodge and Edinburgh University, he qualified as a M.B. and Ch.B. in 1904. He served in the ranks of the Volunteer Medical Staff Corps during the Boer War. After qualification he was commissioned a Lieutenant in the R.A.M.C. in July 1904. Promoted a Captain in January 1908 and a Major in July 1915, he held the rank of Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel, July-October 1917 and Acting Lieutenant-Colonel, December 1918-February 1919. He was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel in December 1926 and attained the rank of Colonel in September 1933, being placed on Retired Pay on 2 September 1937. His extensive military service took him to North China, 1905-08; Straits and Settlements, 1912-15 and Egypt, 1915-16. During 1916-18 he was C.O. of the R.A.M.C. Training Centre and Commandant of the R.A.M.C. Officers School of Instruction. Later in 1918 and into 1919 he was C.O. of the 20th Field Ambulance in France. For his wartime services he was mentioned in despatches (London Gazette 21 June 1916) and awarded the D.S.O. (London Gazette 3 June 1916). He then served in India, 1919-23 and 1926-31.

It was as D.D.M.S. at F.H.Q. Gibraltar, 1933-37, that he came to be awarded the German Red Cross Order for his part in tending the wounded from the German ship Deutschand. The Deutschland (later renamed Lützow) was officially designated an ‘armoured ship’ or ‘heavy cruiser’ but was actually a light battlecruiser, popularly referred to at the time as a ‘pocket battleship’. During the Spanish Civil War the ship was deployed along the Spanish coast, ostensibly as a part of an international force charged with keeping the sea lanes open but actually supporting Franco and the Spanish ‘Nationalists’. On 29 May 1937, the ship was at anchor off Ibiza in the Balearic Islands, when she was bombed by two ‘Republican’ bombers. The aircraft dropped 12 bombs, two of which hit - one of which hit the unprotected mess quarters in the forward part of the ship causing heavy casualties. Early reports listed 23 dead, 19 severely wounded and 30 plus less seriously wounded. Needing specialist facilities to treat many of the wounded, the ship made for nearby Gibraltar. There the wounded received treatment at the military hospital, and such was the influx of patients during this ‘time of peace’ that a reinforcement party of nurses was summoned to the base. The Germans were appreciative of the help extended and extensively awarded their Red Cross Order to those who gave assistance - Colonel Fraser was one of five officers to be awarded the 1st Class of the Order; presentations being made at Gibraltar by Admiral Carls on 17 August 1937. Although they were not to know it, recipients had but two years during which to wear their German decoration. Colonel Fraser was placed on Retired Pay on 2 September 1937 but rejoined on 1 September 1939. During the Second World War he was A.D.M.S. H.Q. Northumbrian Area, 1939-41 and A.D.M.S. H.Q. Durham and N. Riding County Area, 1941-42. Colonel Fraser reverted to Retired Pay on 1 August 1942 and died on 5 March 1964. Sold with copied research on the recipient, decoration, incident and the state funeral of those killed.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Great topic too! One wonders what happened to all the blokes with Roumanian or Italian medals from the First War who were still around in War Two. Did they keep wearing them or discreetly lock them in a bottom drawer until 'better days' came round again?

Although he retired in 1937, I once owned a WWI Trio and Roumanian Order of the Crown to Captain "Branny" Branfoot, 37th Lcrs. An aquaintance from long ago lived next door to one of Branfoot's fellow officers and admitted to winding "Branny" up by suggesting that the Roumanian gong was because he didn't quite make the list for an M.C. he may not have been far wrong, either, as Branfoot had no connection with Roumania and it was apparently the custom of Britain's gallant European allies to send round bundles of medals and orders for the war office to deal out as it saw fit. :)

Lovely medal though, with silver metallic thread in a powder blue ribbon. And a group of minatures which had been polished so assiduously between 1918 and '37 that they were thin enough to cut oneself on the edges.


Edited by peter monahan
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 months later...

As an illustrative group containing a rare German South West Africa Campaign medal with original 'Kalahari 1907' clasp, members might be interested to see the below described group that I recently handled.

- KSA 1902. With 2 x dated clasps (903 L.Cpl W. L. Simon. C.P.Dist 2.)
- 1914-15 Star (S.S.M. W.S. Simon. 5th S.A.M.R.)
- Permanent Forces LSGC. (No 1839. S.S.M. W.L. Simon. 5th Regt (S.A.M.R.)
- Germany: South West Africa Campaign Medal. Bronze with clasp 'Kalahari 1907'

The recipient was William Leslie Simon.

Although the group was missing his QSA (and presumably his issued Great War pair), it was an interesting buy-in that I sourced locally in the recipients place of origin in Aberdeenshire, Scotland

His entitlement to the GSWA Medal and 'Kalahari 1907' being confirmed in his surviving service papers.

As information

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Great group! I´ve read Gordon McGregor´s book "German Medals, British Soldiers and the Kalahari Desert" on this most interesting subject!

Curiously the recipient William Leslie Simon - whose surviving medals are illustrated earlier in tbis thread - is incorrectly listed in the book by Gordon McGregor as being entitled to the GSWA medal but without the rare 'Kalahari 1907' clasp!

In the absence of any extant official medal roll for the GSWA Medal, I do not know the primary sources the author used, and or cross-referenced to determine who qualified for the GSWA Medal with 'Kalahari 1907' clasp. Be that as it may, William Simon certainly did receive a GSWA Medal with clasp 'Kalahari 1907', as extant primary sources - specifically the recipients service papers - held in South Africa include, confirm the recipient receiving a GSWA medal and clasp 'Kalahari 1907', which if I am not mistaken is all written in bright red ink!

Below attached are a couple of images of Simon's GSWA medal and clasp

Edited by Aberdeen Medals
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Great sets!!!!

Here is my small contribution - not the medal bar but ribbon bar instead:


- 1914 Star
- British War Medal
- Victory Medal with the Mentioned in Despatches
- Rumenia Order of the Crown (from 1881), Officer (Ordinul Coroana României)
- French National Order Legion of Honour, Officer (Ordre national de la Légion d'honneur)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...