The Albert Medal of a Royal Navy officer who was picked up after the sinking of his own destroyer only to dive from the rescue ship hours later, seeking to save others, is being sold by his family.
The medal, one of the highest awards for self-sacrifice in saving or attempting to save life, was awarded posthumously to Commander Walter Marshall-A’Deane for his actions during the Battle of Crete. It was presented to his widow by King George VI along with the Distinguished Service Cross and Distinguished Service Order he had earned earlier in the Second World War.
The medals are in a group of eight awarded to A’Deane that are estimated to fetch £20,000-£30,000 in Noonans live online auction of medals and militaria on July 27.
Marshall-A’Deane, originally from Keswick, had entered Osborne Royal Naval College in 1916 when he was 13 years old. He rose through the ranks in the 1920s and 1930s, being promoted to Commander and appointed commanding officer of the G Class destroyer HMS Greyhound in the summer of 1939, aged 37.
He saw active service from the earliest days of the war, escorting convoys and the larger battleships and cruisers protecting them, in the Atlantic and Mediterranean. He was mentioned in dispatches twice. The first time was for his part in the evacuation of Dunkirk in May 1940 when Greyhound picked up 1,360 men and had to be towed to Dover by a Polish ship after being hit by German bombs. The second was for the Battle of Cape Matapan, off southern Greece, in March 1941, when his ship’s searchlight caught a trio of Italian cruisers off-guard.
In between these events, Greyhound was one of three British ships that fired on the Vichy French destroyer L’Audacieux during the Battle of Dakar, off French West Africa, putting the enemy ship out of action.
Marshall-A’Deane won the DSC in July 1940 for good service since the outbreak of the war, and the DSO one year later for his “courage and skill in a successful attack on an Italian submarine.” The attack, in March 1941, was on the submarine Anfitrite which was attempting to strike a convoy carrying British troops to Greece. Only a couple of months earlier Greyhound had sunk another Italian submarine, Neghelli, in the Aegean.
“He had a momentous career and was recognised for his great gallantry”Nimrod Dix
During the German invasion of Crete, Greyhound the battleship Warspite west of the island as it covered Allied cruisers trying to sink the invasion convoys. On May 22, 1941, Greyhound was struck by three bombs dropped by Stuka dive bombers and sank within minutes. The destroyers Kingston and Kandahar rescued scores of survivors but six officers and 74 sailors were lost.
Commander Marshall-A’Deane was among those picked up by Kandahar. However, later that day, Fiji, a cruiser that had been sent to provide anti-aircraft support for Kandahar and Kingston, was sunk. Kandahar attended to rescue the crew and Commander Marshall-A’Deane made his ultimate sacrifice.
The citation for his Albert Medal stated: “Commander Marshall-A’Deane, despite the ordeal he had already been through that day, dived overboard in the gathering darkness to rescue the men in the water. He was not seen again.
“This was the last proof of his great gallantry.”
Nimrod Dix, specialist and deputy chairman at Noonans, said: “Although Commander Marshall A’Deane died before the age of 40, he had a momentous career and was recognised for his great gallantry on several occasions. Sadly, his life was cut short and his decorations, the DSO, DSC and posthumous AM were all presented to his next of kin by King George VI and are now being sold by his family.”
In March 1942, the Western Morning News covered the presentation at Buckingham Palace. Marshall A’Deane’s widow told the reporter: “He had been in almost every engagement since the beginning of the war. He was at Dunkirk, and brought his ship home with his engines almost gone.”
Marshall-A’Deane’s other medals in the group going on sale include the Atlantic Star, Africa Star, 1939-45 Star and War Medal 1939-45. The Albert Medal was instituted in 1866 and named after Queen Victoria’s consort who had died in 1861. It was discontinued in 1971, when living recipients could exchange their medals for the George Cross.