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    Sea Gallantry Medal (Foreign Services)

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    Recently I could acquire a silver Sea gallantry medal (Foreign Services), awarded to a member of a Dutch sea rescue team, concerning the disaster with the SS Berlin on 22d February 1907. The SS Berlin was a steam ferry operated by a British company between Harwich and Hook of Holland. While entering the waterway at Hook of Holland, because of a winter storm, huge waves and strong wind made the ship uncontrolabe and it was slammed against the granite breakwater at the entrance of the waterway, breaking the ship in two. It became one of the biggest ship wreaks before the Titanic.

    Immediately after noticing the disaster, local ship rescue teams got ready for rescue efforts. The first rescue boat to come near the SS Berlin was the President van Heel with a crew of 10, including the captain. It was however, very difficult to come alongside the shipwreak for danger of being thrown against it because of the violent and high waves. Nevertheles after several attempts, a number of passengers could be rescued. Together with the other rescue boats, of the 104 passengers and 40 crew, only 28 people were rescued (more, unregistred passengers, may have been on board)

    The 9 crew members of the President van Heel all received the Sea Gallantry medal (Foreign Services) in silver, the captain receiving the same in gold. The one I bought is named to B.F. Blokland, stoker sailor on the rescue vessel. The rim is named Bernardus Franciscus Blokland "Berlin" 22nd February 1907. However, very unfortunately, the widow (presumably) of Blokland altered the medal into a pendant. The ornate swivel was reversed and soldered to the rim, partly obliterating some letters of the first name and the first three numbers of the year 1907. I doubt whether the medal can be repaired into its original state without damaging the rim further. Still, it is a nice and rare medal to have, which I like to share with you.

    Regards, Pieter






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    A very nice medal and nicely presented. Personally I wouldn't worry about the clasp having been reversed, it's part of the history of the medal and was obviously proudly worn at some stage by his wife.


    Regards Simon.

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    thanks for your nice comment. Yes, I will leave the medal as it is. I have enclosed a picture of the rescue boat on which Blokland served.

    A sad, but for us collectors interesting note, is that one of the victims on the SS Berlin was the Kings Messenger, carrying diplomatic pouches, among which one for Tehran, containing the Royal warrant and insignia of the KCVO bestowed by King Edward on a Persian Prince. I have not been able to find out what happened to the pouches.

    Regards, Pieter



    Edited by pieter1012
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    For those interested, found a picture of B.F. Blokland in the Life Saving museum Jan Lels, Hoek van Holland. The Sea Gallantry medal can be clearly seen on his chest among the many other life saving medals, including the highest Dutch government life saving medal.

    regards, Pieter


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