View Full Version : Petty Officer Ernest Herbert Pitcher VC
Ernest Herbert Pitcher [1888-1946]
On 8 August 1917 in the Bay of Biscay, Atlantic, Petty Officer Pitcher was the 4-inch gun layer on HMS Dunraven (one of the 'Q' or 'mystery' ships) when she was shelled by an enemy submarine. He and the rest of the crew waited while the battle went on overhead and all around them. When the magazine below them caught fire they took up cartridges and held them on their knees to prevent the heat of the deck igniting them and when the magazine finally blew up they were all blown into the air.
The following particulars are given in the London Gazette of 30th October, 1917 : "P.O. Pitcher was selected by the crew of a gun of one of H.M. Ships to receive the Victoria Cross under Rule 13 of the Royal Warrant dated 29th January, 1856." The action fought by this ship has been described as the greatest action of any "Q" boat against a submarine, fought by a ship's company of heroes."
Pitcher retired from the Royal Nay in 1927 but rejoined again at the outbreak of war in 1939 and was to serve throughout the Second World War until his death on Sunday, 10th February 1946 at the age of 57. In addition to the Victoria Cross, Ernest was also the holder of the Distinguished Service Medal and the French Croix de Guerre and Medaille Militaire.
Born in Mullion, Cornwall, 31 December 1888, Ernest was the son of George and Sarah Pitcher and husband of Lily Ethel Louisa Pitcher, of Swanage where he is buried in the Northbrook Cemetery.
(highlights in bold print are mine)
Ernest Herbert Pitcher
Birth: Dec. 31, 1888
Death: Feb. 10, 1946
World War I Victoria Cross Recipient. A native of Mullion, Cornwall, he joined the Royal Navy at age 15. He was one of the earliest recruits for the Q-ship program spearheaded by Commander Gordon Campbell, VC. The Q-ships were specially-outfitted and armed merchant ships designed to present easy targets to U-boats. When a U-boat surfaced, the Q-ship dropped the camouflage hiding its armament and opened fire.
As one of a handful of regular Royal Navy men in ships largely manned by former merchant seamen and reservists Pitcher was one of Campbell's most effective hands, being Mentioned in Despatches and awarded the Distinguished Service Medal and the Victoria Cross, all within a six-month period. Pitcher earned his V.C. for action aboard the Q-Ship HMS Dunraven in the Bay of Biscay, August, 8, 1917.
Petty Officer Pitcher was serving as the crew chief for the Dunraven's single four-inch gun when it was attacked by the U-boat UC-71. A shell from the U-boat's deck gun struck the Dunraven's poop deck where the four-inch gun was disguised by a fake hatch and phony laundry hanging out to dry. The shell set off one of the Dunraven's concealed depth charges, and while thick smoke obscured the hidden gun crew's view ports and fire threatened to set off powder and shells in the magazine below the poop, Pitcher and his crew maintained their stations, not wanting to give the game away. But before The Dunraven had a chance to spring its trap, another shell from the UC-71 made a direct hit on the poop deck and blew it sky-high.
Despite the devastation, the gun crew survived. Pitcher cartwheeled through the air and landed near the engine-room, sustaining wounds in several places. The shell had set off The Dunraven's alarm buzzers, and one of the remaining 12-pounder guns had gotten off a couple of shots before the U-boat submerged. Campbell could have cut his losses and headed for home, but he chose to stand and make a fight of it. Unfortunately, in the ensuing battle the Dunraven came off second-best. The UC-71 made its escape after having made a direct hit with one of its torpedoes, and the Dunraven sank 36 hours later.
The award of the V.C. was made to Pitcher as a representative of the four-inch gun crew, the rest of whom received Conspicuous Gallantry Medals.
After the war Pitcher remained in the Navy, retiring in 1927. Between the wars he worked in a boys school as a PT instructor, wood shop teacher and groundskeeper and also operated an "off-license" (package store). He re-joined the Navy for World War II, serving at a number of home islands stations. He passed away at the Royal Naval Auxiliary Hospital, Sherborne, Dorset. His medals, including the French Croix de Guerre and Medaille Militaire, are privately held. (bio by: Paul F. Wilson)
Maintained by: Find A Grave
Originally Created by: K
Record added: Jun 30, 2004
Find A Grave Memorial# 9018163
above extracted from the Find a Grave site, link included below:-
dennis a feary
Little H, very interesting thr posting on PO Pitcher. Here are some other awrads to crew of DUNRAVEN ;
BONNER Charles G DSC Lt. RNR 83P162 & 163 Dunraven
Vice Admiral Queenstown 02.11.17 Gazetted
Action with enemy submarines 08.08.17 VC
Their Lordships' appreciation expressed of the magnificent discipline and gallantry displayed by him on the 8th August, 1917, in an action with an enemy submarine. H.M. the King has been pleased to state that "greater bravery than was shown by all officers and men on this occasion can hardly be conceived".
Lieutenant Bonner having been blown out of his control station by the first explosion of a depth charge due to shell fire, crawled back into the 4" gun hatch with the gun's crew ( 6 men) were well aware that it was only a matter of time before the magazine and depth charges below them would explode, and they remained there until it happened. The gun was shifted bodily, and the gun's crew were blown up in the air, one man being blown overboard, but fortunately none of them were killed, and only four wounded.
CAMPBELL Gordon VC., DSO Captain RN 83P161 Dunraven
Vice Admiral Queenstown 02.11.17 Gazetted
Action with enemy submarines 08.08.17 DSO - 2nd bar to
Their Lordships' appreciation expressed to Captain Campbell, officers and men under his orders of the magnificent discipline and gallantry displayed by them on the 8th August, 1917, in an action with an enemy submarine. H.M. the KIng has been pleased to state that "greater bravery than was shown by all officers and men on this occasion can hardly be conceived".
The action lasted over three hours and the Dunraven was torpedoed and eventually sunk, but all hands were saved by one of H.M. Ships.
Thanks Little h. Yet another brave man who deserves mention on the forum.Any one VC winner or not who served in our great service deserves a place in our obituaries Thread.It seems that quite a few high awards went to the crews of Q ships in World War One...Many Regards Steve.
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