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07 April 2014
WWI Tales and Auction News





April 10 auction to offer 300-plus lots of medals and militaria in Cardiff

An auction marking a milestone in world history, the 100 years since the start of the First World War, is also the inaugural sale of medals, militaria, arms and armour at the Cardiff saleroom of Wales’s premier auctioneer of fine art and antiques, Rogers Jones Co.

With it comes Boys’ Own tales of derring-do alongside touchingly poignant reminders of the futility of conflict. The sale is on Thursday April 10 and is expected to attract interest from collectors worldwide.

Working in association with the South Wales-based medals and militaria specialists David and Steve Nuwar, trading as War & Son, who have curated the sale, the auctioneers have been instructed to offer a number of groups of high valuable medals with fascinating historical backgrounds, going back to the 18th century alongside around 100 lots of antique weaponry and scores of collectors’ items among the 300-plus lots.

Most intriguing is a set of nine medals recalling the heroic “folly” of Lieutenant-Commander Arthur Esme Lockington who was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his command of the “Mystery Ship” H.M.S. Farouk, which was sunk by a U-boat in 1942.

Steve Nuwar explained: “It was noticed that when German U-boats sank smaller, unescorted merchant ships in the Atlantic, in order to save torpedoes, they would first surface then destroy the vessel with gunfire. In response to this, the Royal Navy started to use Mystery Ships, also called ‘Q-ships’ after their home port of Queenstown, Ireland.

“A Mystery Ship was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. At first sight, through the periscope, she may have appeared as easy prey. Often resembling a rickety fishing trawler or simple, single-funnelled steamer, she would only be carrying a ‘cargo’ made from balsa wood. But once bitten, she could show her claws: wooden panels would drop to reveal a fierce armament of 4-inch guns and suddenly the Royal Navy White Ensign would be hoisted.

“As the German seamen became more suspicious, so too did the elaborate ruses on board the Mystery Ships: men disguised as bearded merchant sailors, captains accompanied by ‘wives’, and even in one case the ‘cook’ was equipped with a stuffed parrot in a cage. A simulated abandon-ship routine was practiced, whereby half the crew, nicknamed the ‘panic party’ would escape overboard, while the other half would be left hidden to man the guns.

During the First World War, Mystery Ships were responsible for sinking 10 per cent of German U-boats and for damaging many more. However by the time of the Second World War, isolating single ships and giving them a makeover was a risky tactic.

Lockington was born in Peterborough, Northants in 1889. He served in North Russia on the Emtsa River Front at the end of World War One, and was awarded the Order of St. Stanislaus 2nd Class and a Military O.B.E “for valuable services as Naval Transport Officer in Charge on the Emtsa River”.

Lockington had valuable knowledge and experience of the Navy’s use of Mystery Ships, and used this to effect in the Second World War, despite by then aged 53. H.M.S Farouk was a two-masted schooner requisitioned by the Admiralty as transport vessel in 1940. That year she carried 200 prisoners of war from Mersa Maqtruh to Alexandria and was subsequently converted in Alexandria to a Mystery Ship, armed with two 12-pounder guns.

At 10.09hrs on June 13, 1942, U-83 spotted H.M.S. Farouk off Ramkin Island, north-west of Tripoli, and began shelling her from afar. Lockington’s diary of events describes a deck-hand reporting flashing Morse from inshore. He wrote: “I looked and this was the first time I sighted the enemy, the flashing being gun flashes…during the next 20 minutes it was hell aboard, with shells large and small causing terrific explosions, much damage and loss of life.

“I was getting rather worried, as I expected the U-boat would have ceased fire and closed, seeing the vessel on fire and the Panic Party crew long left the ship. But he did not. He just continued shelling. The first ruse of an innocent caique had failed; he did not fire across the bows and come close to talk to the vessel. I was now perfectly sure the U-boat knew we were a Q-boat.”

In the ensuing fire, bloodshed and chaos, Lockington and a dwindling number of crew tried valiantly to return fire from the only working 12-pounder gun. The Farouk eventually sank , the remaining crew holding on to what they could to stay afloat, especially Lockington, who could not swim. He was one of few survivors, eventually plucked from the swell by an Australian motor launch based at Tripoli.

In addition to Lockington’s D.S.C., two of the crew were awarded Distinguished Service Medals and four were Mentioned in Despatches, two posthumously.

The Captain of the Royal Navy’s Recommendation for Decoration records that: “... though 53 years of age, [Lockington] put the heart of a young man into the enterprise. The U-boat did not close but destroyed his vessel from a range of 3,000 to 4,000 yards; but this did not prevent Lt-Cdr. Lockington and the majority of his crew from remaining on board their vessel until she was literally blown from under them. I consider this to be a magnificent example of cool courage in the face of heavy odds, in the hope that even at the last, some opportunity might turn up to attack the enemy.”

The medal group is estimated at £5,000-7,000, while in contrast, a War Medal received by Mary Jones from Pwllheli after her son’s death in 1918 is estimated at just £40-60.

Private Robert Jones joined the Canadian Infantry after emigrating from North Wales. He wrote letters home to his mother in Pwllheli before being killed in action near the end of the war on 30th September 1918.

The medal will be offered with a large original portrait photograph of Jones in civvies, others of him in the uniform of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (C.E.F.), one flanked by his mother and sister and another showing his grave marked by a simple cross; his original C.E.F. Death Certificate, commemorative scroll, last will and testament, and postcards and letters home.

Written in Welsh, one letter dated July 18 1918 reads: “I wish I was with you, mum – make sure you spend the £5 I left on a holiday when you can. I am glad to hear you are well, as I am – at the moment. From your son.”He was killed in action less than two months later on September 18. Hostilities ceased with the armistice on November 11, 1918.

The Rogers Jones Co saleroom is located at 17 Llandough Trading Estate, Penarth Road, Cardiff, CF11 8RR where viewing will take place on Wednesday April 9 from 10am-7pm and on the morning of the sale, which starts at 11am.

For further information, please contact the auctioneer on 02920 708125 or cardiffinfo@rogersjones.co.uk.

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