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TOPIC: Medals to HMS Terpsichore

Medals to HMS Terpsichore 2 weeks 1 day ago #65287

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Picture courtesy of DNW

DSM GV (210040. J. Webb, P.O. Nl. Bde. Zeebrugge. Ostend. 22-3. April. 1918.);
QSA (0) (J. Webb, Boy 1 Cl., H.M.S. Terpsichore)
1914-15 Star (210040, J. Webb, P.O., R.N.);
BWM & VM (210040 J. Webb. P.O. R.N.);
Coronation 1911;
RN LS&GC GV 1st issue (210040. John Webb, P.O. H.M.S. Iron Duke.)

DSM London Gazette 23 July 1918: ‘For services during the operations against Zeebrugge and Ostend on the night of 22/23 April 1918.’

John Webb was born in Holborn, London in February 1885. He joined the Royal Navy as a Boy 2nd Class in May 1900. Webb advanced to Boy 1st Class, and served with H.M.S. Terpsichore, December 1902 - June 1903. He advanced to Able Seaman in August 1904, served as a member of the Guard of Honour at the Coronation of 1911, and advanced to Petty Officer in August 1913. Webb was appointed to H.M.S. Iron Duke, flagship of the Grand Fleet, in March 1914. In this ship, flying the flag of Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, he was present at the Battle of Jutland on 31 May - 1 June 1916, and indeed for most of the remainder of the Great War.

When volunteers were called for from the Fleet to man the ships that had been assembled for the operation against Zeebrugge and Ostend, Webb was serving with the Iron Duke and volunteered to join Sub Lieutenant F. E. Chevalier of the same ship who had already been accepted. Chevalier was placed in Command of Number’s 1 and 3 Sections of the demolition parties forming ‘C’ Company, Seaman Storming Party. Webb accompanied Chevalier with No. 1 Section’s Demolition Party. The task allocated to the Demolition Parties was the storming of the Mole and the destruction of the German gun emplacements, thereby creating a diversion whilst the block ships were manoeuvred into position.

‘C’ Company of the Seaman Storming Party sailed for Zeebrugge aboard the recently requisitioned Mersey Ferry Daffodil which, along with her sister ship Iris, were to be bathed in glory for their outstanding contribution to the success of the mission. H.M.S. Daffodil, commanded by Lieutenant H. G. Campbell, R.N., sailed under the direct orders of Captain A. F. B. Carpenter R.N., Commanding the Vindictive. The Daffodil was given the important job of holding Vindictive against the Mole whilst the storming parties leapt ashore. This role she carried out with complete success, despite the surging, rising and falling that was taking place aboard Vindictive and it was largely due to her action that elements from the Royal Marine and Royal Navy Storming Parties were able to land.

It was originally planned that after the Vindictive had been secured to the Mole the Daffodil would moor alongside to allow ‘C’ Company to transfer over her decks to assault the Mole. This proved impractical as for the whole duration that Vindictive was alongside the Mole, Daffodil’s bows were at a right angle to her side holding her securely in position. The Demolition Parties and Men of ‘C’ company seaman storming party were forced to transfer over the bow and on to the deck of Vindictive. Despite these problems Lieutenant C. Dickinson, in overall Command of the Demolition Parties, and his second in Command, Chevalier, rallied their Men, leapt across the gap between the ships and climbed up on to the Mole and fought their way to the nearest German gun emplacements, killing along the way a number of Germans. They laid their charges alongside the guns but owing to the close proximity of our own troops were unable to detonate them. Due to the heavy swell, Chevalier had only managed to get four of his men on board the Vindictive. The remainder were left under the command of Petty Officer Webb and ‘were unable to follow, as the Daffodil went astern to clear her bows from the Vindictive. The Daffodil was being shelled at the time, and the Captain ordered my men who were left on board to throw the Stokes ammunition, some of which was stowed on deck and some below, overboard. Petty Officer Webb and Leading Seaman Hawkins took charge of them in my absence and carried this out.’ (Chevalier’s report on the attack on the Zeebrugge Mole refers)

There is little doubt that the Demolition Parties would have been able to carry out considerable destructive work if more time had been available. Whatever the results of their efforts it is certain that Dickinson and Chevalier and the men of the demolition parties did all that was possible under the circumstances. Lieutenant Dickinson was awarded the D.S.O., Sub Lieutenant Chevalier the D.S.C. and 5 D.S.M’s, including one to Petty Officer J. Webb, were awarded to the members of ‘C’ Company Storming Party. It is noted in Admiralty records for this operation that Lieutenant Dickinson received a large number of votes for the Victoria Cross. Webb also participated in the ballot for the Victoria Cross, and was promoted Chief Petty Officer in June 1920. He was ‘Shore Pensioned’ in February 1925.
Dr David Biggins

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