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Naval Obituaries A collection of notes on those who have crossed the bar.

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  #1  
Old 17-09-2009, 01:03
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Default Rear-Admiral Godfrey Place VC

Rear-Admiral Godfrey Place VC

Godfrey Place won the Victoria Cross in 1943 when, as a 22-year-old lieutenant, he captained the midget submarine X7 during a daring attack on the battleship Tirpitz, the most important unit of the German fleet. X7 and X6 successfully exploded fou r charges underneath Tirpitz as she lay at anchor in Kaafjord, in Norway, causing severe damage and rendering her unfit for sea until April 1944.

Operation Source began on 11 September 1943 when six midget submarines, each weighing only 35 tons and with a crew of four, were towed from Loch Cairnbawn for 1,000 miles to a position off Altenfjord in northern Norway. Each carried two detachable charges weighing two tons. X9 was lost on passage with all hands and X8 had to be scuttled. The four remaining submarines detached on the evening of 20 September and entered Kaafjord on 22 September. X10 had to abandon the attack because of a defect while X5 got within 500 yards of her target before being sunk by gunfire.

Tirpitz had been a constant threat to the British merchant and naval vessels and behind a double row of anti-torpedo netting, some 50 miles away from the open sea. X7 passed through the boom defence gap at the entrance of the fjord and then dived to avoid a motor launch and became entangled in the nets. After an hour of struggling, she wriggled free and dived to 75ft to pass underneath Tirpitz's nets but again got caught.

Meanwhile, X6, commanded by Lt Donald Cameron, had been sighted on the surface and the alarm raised. Having lost her gyro compass and periscope, the submarine rammed Tirpitz and released her charges before Cameron scuttled her.

X7 once again struggled to escape from the protective nets. Then, in Place's words, "by some extraordinary lucky chance" she surfaced in the nets and at full speed struck Tirpitz on the port side, sliding under her keel before releasing the first charge.Place then drove his submarine astern, releasing the second charge 150 to 200 feet aft of the first. X7 became entangled in the nets for a third time. Place, with masterly understatement, described her predicament thus: "Without a compass I had no exact idea where we were; X6's charges were due to explode in an hour . . . it was extremely annoying to run into another net."

Shortly afterwards, there was a tremendous explosion. "This evidently shook us out of the net, and on surfacing it was tiresome to find the Tirpitz still afloat," said Place. X7 was under heavy fire so Place dived again and then considered his options. There was only enough air left to surface one more time so he decided that there was no alternative but to surrender. He surfaced next to a battle practice target 500 yards away from Tirpitz and stepped out of the submarine waving a white sweater. Tragically, water lapped into the submarine, which then sank. One officer managed to escape three hours later using Davis Equipment but the other officer and the engine room artificer perished.

Place joined Cameron and the crew of X6 on board Tirpitz where the Germans initially thought they were Norwegian saboteurs. The six survivors were subjected to intense interrogation before being taken to the Marlag-Milag Nord prion camp, where they spentthe rest of the war.

Cameron and Place were awarded the VC in February 1944 and received their medals from the King on 22 June 1945. The citation concluded: "The courage, endurance and utter contempt for danger in the immediate face of the enemy shown by Lts Cameron and Place during this determined and successful attack were supreme."

Basil Charles Godfrey Place was born in 1921, the son of Godfrey Place, a barrister in the colonial service who, as a major in the East Surreys, had won the Distinguished Service Order and Military Cross for gallantry during the First World War. He joined the Navy at 14 and spent the first year of the war as a midshipman in the cruiser Newcastle before volunteering for submarines. Place was appointed liaison officer in the Polish submarine Sokol, where he won the Polish Cross of Valour, and then served in the submarines Urge, Una and Unbeaten. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his part in the sinking of the Italian submarine Guglielmotti by Unbeaten off Sicily in March 1942.

Place put his name down for "special and hazardous duties" and was one of the early volunteers for midget submarines in November 1942, commanding the experimental X4 before joining X7. He was married to a second officer in the WRNS just six weeks before the Tirpitz raid. The best man was Lt Henty-Creer who was to command the ill-fated X5 - and was awarded a mere posthumous mention in despatches for his part in the operation. Naval intelligence took the view that X5 probably failed to complete her attack by laying her two charges but Place always maintained that the evidence was "inconclusive".

After the war, Place resumed his naval career but never held another submarine appointment. In 1950, he took the highly unusual step for a submariner of transferring to the Fleet Air Arm, training as a pilot and gaining his "wings" in 1952. Later that year he saw action in the Korean war, flying the Sea Fury in 801 Squadron from the deck of the carrier Glory.

Thereafter, Place's appointments alternated between general surface ships and Fleet Air Arm staff jobs. He commanded the destroyers Tumult and Corunna, the new entry training establishment Ganges, the air carrier Albion and the frigate Rothesay before promotion to rear-admiral in 1968. His final appointment on the active list was as Admiral Commanding Reserves as Director and Director General Naval Recruiting.

After retirement in 1970, Place became the personnel director for Cunard Cargo Shipping. In 1975 he was appointed as the first Lay Observer of the Law Society, in effect the ombudsman for complaints about solicitors. From 1971, he was president of the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association, doing much to ensure that the courage of VC and GC holders was not forgotten. "Once in your lifetime," he said, "you're first to meet the monarch. You head the queue right in front of the KCBs and that sort of thing, and the main purpose of our association is that VC holders should not feel that they never get to the front of things again."

Place was never an easy man. He was headstrong, harsh towards those who did not live up to his expectations, and he had an unswerving belief that, on any given issue, his opinion was the correct one. In many ways he was an archetypal member of the Submarine Service and Fleet Air Arm, both branches of the Royal Navy which see themselves as elites and combine great professionalism with social abandon. After one mess dinner at the naval air station at Culdrose in the 1950s, Place, then a commander, and a fellow officer flung themselves, in full mess kit, into a large water tank.

His act of gallantry in 1943 was, in the words of a friend, "entirely consistent with his character" which was "a peculiar combination of recklessness and determination". Qualities which, in war, can push men on to extraordinary feats.

Basil Charles Godfrey Place, naval officer: born Little Malvern, Worcestershire 19 July 1921; DSC 1943; VC 1944; CB 1970; CVO 1991; married 1943 Althea Tickler (one son, two daughters); died London 27 December 1994.

The Independent Friday, 30 December 1994
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  #2  
Old 04-10-2009, 06:38
dennis a feary dennis a feary is offline
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Default Re: Rear-Admiral Godfrey Place VC

GPRDAVE, only just started LOOKING at this OBIT Thread. Interesting. Here is Submarine Service of Adm. Place ;

PLACE B.C.G. VC., DSC. LIEUT. 30. 6.41.
DOB ; 19. 7.21. 16.11.42.
COURSE. 30. 6.41. ELFIN.
SPARE. 11. 8.41. ST. ANGELO.
SPARE. 1. 9.41. TALBOT.
SOKOL. D.T.B.R. TALBOT.
SPARE. 3.11.41. TALBOT.
SOKOL. 13.11.41. TALBOT.
SPARE. 27.11.41. TALBOT.
URGE. 10.12.41. TALBOT.
SPARE. 20.12.41. TALBOT.
UNA. 28. 1.42. TALBOT.
UNBEATEN. 21. 2.42.
DOLPHIN. 13. 8.42.
DOLPHIN. 13. 9.42. SPECIAL SERVICE
MISSING. 8.10.43. OPERATION `SOURCE'.
PRISONER O WAR. 6. 1.44. PRESIDENT.
REPATRIATED. 5.45.
VICTORY. 16. 7.45.
PRESIDENT. 23. 7.45.
OSPREY. 30. 7.45.
PEMBROKE. 13. 8.45.
VERNON. 27. 8.45.
PRESIDENT. 17. 9.45.
BOXER (ND). 10. 1.49.
RECOMMENDED FOR FIGHTER DIRECTION OFFICERS COURSE.
REF ; ABOVE US THE WAVES. FREEDOMS BATTLE. ATTACK ON TIRPITZ.

Sadsac
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  #3  
Old 05-10-2009, 20:24
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Default Re: Rear-Admiral Godfrey Place VC

Served under him on Albion when he was skipper 66/67, When he was relieved by Captain Ollivant after he was promoted to Rear Admiral. one of his quirks was, if you were at the table on defaulters and you were taller than him he threw the book at you. He was very intollerant of people who did not meet his standards and anyone due for promotion got a lecture from him, mine lasted for 25 minutes.
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Old 06-10-2009, 13:39
dennis a feary dennis a feary is offline
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Default Re: Rear-Admiral Godfrey Place VC

BIG AL, `serves yer right for having yer head in the clouds' - so there !!

Sorry just could not resist it ! I'm a `Short A**E' yer see !!!!!!

Sadsac
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  #5  
Old 06-10-2009, 18:00
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Default Re: Rear-Admiral Godfrey Place VC

Yeah and so was he, but for all his faults in that respect he was a good skipper and a first class seaman.
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Old 03-11-2009, 14:47
PaulPWhite PaulPWhite is offline
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Default Re: Rear-Admiral Godfrey Place VC

Rear-Admiral Place spent his Retirement near Sherborne in Dorset. My Father was Director of the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton, Somerset, so they knew each other well.
One particularly cold winter evening in the 1980s, there appeared to be a scratching at the snow-covered window from the garden side of our house, which was surprising to say the least. Admiral Place and his wife had been caught in a snowdrift while driving back from somewhere and had sought refuge from the elements at our house, had received no answer from the front door, so had gone round to the back to catch our attention.
Once safely inside, they warmed themselves by the fire and said how glad they were that we were in!
We were glad to have been the saviours of this distinguished gentleman and lady on that very cold night.
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Old 03-11-2009, 18:07
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qprdave qprdave is offline
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Default Re: Rear-Admiral Godfrey Place VC

After what this great man went through whilst in those midget submarines and serving on the Albion with Big Al, a little bit of snow probably didn't bother him. More than likely he was thinking of his wife!
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Old 04-11-2009, 04:34
tim lewin tim lewin is offline
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Default Re: Rear-Admiral Godfrey Place VC

He relieved my father as captain of Corunna in 1957.
tim
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  #9  
Old 20-12-2009, 15:12
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Default Re: Rear-Admiral Godfrey Place VC

Quote:
Originally Posted by tim lewin View Post
He relieved my father as captain of Corunna in 1957.
tim
He was on the Victorious as Aide to Flag Officer Aircraft Carriers in 1959, he was asked to go on the SRE and give a talk about his experiences, he declined, a lot of disappointed matelots.
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Old 20-12-2009, 16:04
Dave Hutson Dave Hutson is offline
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Default Re: Rear-Admiral Godfrey Place VC

Another great man whose exploits are the events history is made from.

And a Captain HMS GAnges 1963-5

Dave H
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Old 27-06-2010, 23:02
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Default Re: Rear-Admiral Godfrey Place VC

Met Godfrey Place VC in 1968 when he was Admiral Commanding Reserves. We had an RNR communications training centre in Warrington, Cheshire and attended for ACR's inspection. We all fell in wearing our bezzie No1's (we weren't issued with made to measure uniforms in the RNR, we had 2 sets of those itchy scratchy rigs - 1 with gold badges and 1 with red!). He came into the unit, had a quick look around, said something to the effect ' all very ship shape' then ordered us all to accompany him across the road to the British Legion Club! Must have been the fastest Admirals inspection ever....
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Old 09-07-2010, 11:09
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Default Re: Rear-Admiral Godfrey Place VC

Great man. I thought it was worth including the full citation for his VC award:

Quote:
"The King is Graciously pleased to approve the award of the Victoria Cross to Lieutenant Basil Charles Place, DSC, Royal Navy and Lieutenant Donald Cameron, Royal Naval Reserve. Lieutenants Place and Cameron were the Commanding Officers of two of His Majesty's Midget Submarines X7 and X6 which on the 22nd September 1943 carried out a most daring and successful attack on the German Battleship Tirpitz, moored in the protected anchorage of Kaafjord, North Norway. To reach the anchorage necessitated the penetration of an enemy minefield, and a passage of fifty miles up the fjord, known to be vigilantly patrolled by the enemy and to be guarded by nets, gun defences and listening posts, this after a passage of at least a thousand miles from base. Having successfully eluded all these hazards and entered the fleet anchorage, Lieutenants Place and Cameron, with complete disregard for danger, worked their small craft past the close antisubmarine and torpedo nets surrounding the Tirpitz, and from a position inside these nets, carried out a cool and determined attack. Whilst they were still inside the nets a fierce enemy counter attack by guns and depth-charges developed which made their withdrawal impossible. Lieutenants Place and Cameron therefore scuttled their craft to prevent them falling into the hands of the enemy. Before doing so they took every measure to ensure the safety of their crews, the majority of whom, together with themselves were subsequently taken prisoner. In the course of the operation these small craft pressed home their attack to the full, in doing so accepting all the dangers inherent in such vessels and facing every possible hazard which ingenuity could have devised for the protection in harbour of vitally important capital ships. The courage, endurance and utter contempt for danger in the immediate face of the enemy shown by Lieutenants Place and Cameron during this determined the successful attack were supreme."
Photographs of Place at various stages in his career
Photograph of his grave at Corton Denham Cemetery, Somerset

Photographs of the remains of X7 at Duxworth - remembering that Lieutenant L. B. Whittam RNVR and W. M. Whitley who both died trying to escape from the craft after it plunged to the bottom.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Place_1.jpg (910.7 KB, 7 views)
File Type: jpg Place_2.jpg (246.6 KB, 8 views)
File Type: jpg Place_3.jpg (373.5 KB, 10 views)
File Type: jpg Place_4.jpg (376.0 KB, 13 views)
File Type: jpg x7_1.jpg (235.9 KB, 15 views)
File Type: jpg x7_2.jpg (191.6 KB, 10 views)
File Type: jpg x7_3.jpg (413.3 KB, 11 views)
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