HMS Kandahar Evacuation of Greece Gallantry Medal Group- Distinguished Service Medal and Long Service and Good Conduct Medal Group.
This is one of 9 DSMs to be awarded for the Evacuation of Greece as announced in the London Gazette, 30th May 1941.
Of these 9 DSMs, 6 were for H.M.S. Kandahar. This 2 page Second Supplement of the Gazette was issued solely to announce the Decorations and “Rewards for gallantry and distinguished services in the withdrawal from the beaches of Greece under fire and in the face of many and great difficulties of many thousands of Troops of the Allied Armies.”
Recipient, as per the announcement in the LG was Petty Officer Charles James Sewart, D/J 112839 H.M.S. Kandahar.
His citation reads – “AS COXSWAIN OF WHALER HE DISPLAYED INITIATIVE AND POWER OF COMMAND AND WAS OF THE GREATEST ASSISTANCE DURING EMBARKATION.” Images of the citation documents are attached.
The medal group of 6 is as follows: Distinguished Service Medal GVI obverse named to: D/J 112839 C. J. SEWART. P. O. H.M.S. KANDAHAR – 1939/45 Star, Atlantic Star, Africa Star, Pacific Star, Long Service and Good Conduct Medal (GVI obverse named to: J223839 C. J. SEWART. A/P. O. H.M.S. NILE.
Petty Officer Sewart joined HMS Kandahar on 6th October 1939 for her Commissioning and was present throughout her life until she was destroyed, sunk by torpedo fired by H.M.S. JAGUAR. following damage caused by a mine 19th December 1941.
H.M.S. Kandahar was a K-Class Destroyer originally commissioned for service in the 5th Flotilla, Home Fleet.
Battle Honours for HMS KANDAHAR during her short life were – Greece 1941, Crete 1941, Libya 1941, Mediterranean 1941 and Malta Convoys 1941.
Notable incidents include – Feb 1940 – Involved in capture of the German Freighter WAHEHE with HMS Manchester and HMS Kimberley. March 1940 – Carriage of injured from the torpedo damaged HMS Kelly. June 1940 – involved in the surrender of the Italian Submarine Galileo Galilei and took part in the subsequent sinking of another Italian submarine the Evangelista Torricelli. August 1940 took part in the evacuation of British Personnel from British Somaliland. Late 1940 and early 1941 took part in Convoy escort (WS4B) and later WS5B in the Indian Ocean. March 1941 supported landings at Berbera, Italian Somaliland (Operation APPEARANCE). Intercepted the German Freighter Bertha Rickmers. April 1941 rejoined 14th Destroyer Flotilla, for Mediterranean Fleet Duties.
23rd April 1941 – Support of evacuation of Commonwealth Troops from Greece. Operation DEMON.
26th April 1941 – Assisted evacuation at Raphti of 560 Troops to Suda Bay.
27th April 1941 – Assisted evacuation at Kalamata of 126 troops to Suda Bay.
29th April 1941 – Part of escort for Convoy GA15 evacuating troops to Egypt from Suda Bay.
May 1941 saw further intense action on Convoy escort of Convoy MW7 to Malta and also Operations MD4 and Tiger. Notably on the 22nd May 1941 she was under sustained air attacks twice during which HMS Naiad, Perth and Carlisle were damaged and HMS Juno sunk, from which she also rescued survivors. Then she came under attack from Italian Motor Torpedo Boats. She also rescued survivors form HMS Greyhound who had been hit and disabled in the air attacks. Late May 41 she joined Force C and took passage to Spakhia to land essential stores and evacuate non-essential personnel.
June 1941 she was deployed for support of military operations against Vichy French in Syria – Operation Exporter. During this she provided patrols to intercept Vichy French Destroyers and provide naval gunfire support. She also rescued 2 pilots from aircraft that had collided. June 10th saw her carry out bombardment north of Khan Bridge in support of military advance.
July 1941 she carried out support bombardment in Damour area, later resuming flotilla duties. 15th July she was deployed fro support of Torbruk Garrison, carrying essential stores and personnel. This support of Torbruk continued , with HMS Kingston and HMS Kipling from August to October 1941.
November 1941 HMS Kandahar was deployed for convoy escort and interception and anti-submarine patrols.
December 1941 she was nominated for service with Force K, based in Malta.
The brief contact of Forces C and K with the Italian Battle Squadron became known as the First Battle of Sirte.
18th December joined forces of Force K with Force C to intercept Italian Convoy.
19th December 1941 sustained serious damage aft after hitting a mine whilst going to assist HMS Neptune which had struck a mine, 20 miles north of Tripoli. HMS Aurora and HMS Penelope were also damaged. HMS Neptune sank with only 1 survivor, please see story below from New Zealand.
H.M.S. Kandahar was sunk by a torpedo from HMS Jaguar when it became impossible to salvage anything in such a mine area. This incident is recognised as the nadir of Royal Naval strength in the Mediterranean and was the demise of the Malta Striking Force.
Throughout her service she had been involved in Convoy Escort Movements on 26 occasions.
Charles James Sewart was a crew member, rising from Leading Seaman to Petty Offficer, throughout the service life of HMS Kandahar.
Charles James Sewart was born Totnes, Devon. 18th February 1909 and died 2nd quarter 1968, Torbay, Devon. He married in September 1937 to Florence J Hall at Totnes, Devon.
He joined the Royal Navy 18th February 1927 at Devonport and continued to serve in the Royal Navy until being released 30th April 1949.
With this medal group are several personal artefacts. This group was obtained by the previous owner directly form the family. There is a set of 6 RN buttons. 5 Cap Tallies which are HMS Kandahar, HMS Guardian, HMS Dorsetshire, HMS Impregnable, HMS Drake, and his Sea Cadets Queen Charlotte S.C.C. tally, plus his Bosun’s whistle (with MOD crowsfoot stamps), his invitation to attend the DSM investiture at Buckingham Palace with a ticket for one witness and his medal entitlement slip and 2 patches (Petty Officer’s bullion badge and red trade armourer’s badge.
The Presentation of the Distinguished Conduct Medal was at Buckingham Palace at 10.15 a.m. Tuesday 10th November 1942.
The Cap Tally of HMS Dorchester is of particular interest as HMS Dorchester was sunk 5th April 1942 by Japanese dive bombers. Also hit was HMS Cornwall. It is now part of the research to establish whether P.O. C J Sewart was a survivor of the crew of Dorchester when she sank.
An example of the wealth of historic and personalised information that is out there on the internet regarding this highly active ship follows here – Extract from the superb Navy Museum NZ website
“At about 0100 on the morning of 19 December 1941 the force was about twenty miles from Tripoli sailing in single line ahead on a course of approximately south by west when at 0106 HMS Neptune which was leading struck and exploded a mine on one of her paravanes, now going full astern she hit another mine which wrecked her propellers and steering gear thus bringing the ship to a standstill. A minute or so later she exploded a third mine and took a heavy list to port. Efforts were made to rescue the HMS Neptune’s crew in the rough seas but when at about 0400 the Neptune set off a fourth mine, then quickly rolled over and sank.
When the ship hit the fourth mine the order was given to abandon ship. A heavy sea was running and the men had to go overboard, death came quickly to many of her company, many perished as they tried to swim to the destroyer HMS Kandahar. Both Bruce and William had been killed and went down with the ship. Only sixteen men survived the sinking and were left afloat on a raft when daylight came including Captain O’Conor and two other officers and one New Zealand rating, Able Seaman J.B. Quinn of Kaiwarra, Wellington who died on 20 December. However, all but one succumbed to thirst and exhaustion during the next six days until the sole survivor, an English rating, Leading Seaman Norman Walton, was rescued by an Italian ship and when landed was interned as a prisoner of war.
Over 750 men including 150 New Zealanders died in Neptune. The names of two officers and 148 ratings including Bruce and William Anderson furnished by far the longest list of casualties in the war record of the Royal New Zealand Navy. Her loss bought grief to many homes in every city and major town in the Dominion as well as in country villages from Auckland to Southland. Bruce and William Anderson are remembered along with their comrades from HMS Neptune at the Memorial Wall within the Devonport Naval Base. They were just twenty years old when they perished.”
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