Albert Medal, 2nd Class, for Gallantry in Saving Life at Sea, bronze and enamel, the reverse officially engraved;
QSA (0) (A. Stickley, Ch. Sto., H.M.S. Powerful.);
1914-15 Star (131808, A. Stickley, Ch. Sto., R.N.);
BWM and VM (131808 A. Stickley. Ch. Sto. R.N.);
Coronation 1911, silver;
Royal Navy LS&GC, V.R., narrow suspension (A. Stickley, Ch. Stoer, H.M.S. Powerful.)
AM LG 17 February 1905: 'Presented by His Majesty to Chief Stoker Alfred Stickley, R.N., in recognition of the Gallantry displayed by him on the occasion of the explosion in the stokehold of H.M.S. “Success” on the 11th. day of June 1904’
‘On the morning of the 11th June 1904, at about 11:30, His Majesty’s Torpedo Boat Destroyer Success was steaming towards Lamlash, when it became apparent from deck, owing to the issue of steam from the funnel, that something was wrong in the after stokehold. Alfred Stickley, Chief Stoker, in accordance with the orders of the Engineer Officer, went below to ascertain the cause. On reaching the stokehold he found that there was an escape of steam from the top drum of No. 4 Boiler, which shortly caused one of the furnace doors which had been left unlatched to be blown open. The stokehold was immediately filled with flame and steam, and the men present were burnt and scalded. Stickley grasped the situation with promptness, showing the greatest presence of mind in the emergency, and ran great risks in endeavouring to minimise the consequences of the accident and prevent further injuries to the men.
In spite of the conditions in the stokehold, and his own severe exposure to the flames, he managed to open out the fans to their full extent, and made many gallant attempts to close the furnace door and open the drencher valve. Finding it was impossible to drive the flames back, he gave orders for the hatch to be opened, and himself remained below until the four men in the stokehold had effected their escape. His face and neck were severely burned, and his hands and forearms very badly scalded. For over four months he has been on the sick list suffering from his injuries. His lungs escaped injury, as he had the presence of mind to put cotton waste into his mouth while he was in the stokehold.’
Alfred Stickley was born on the Isle of Dogs, London, on 12 January 1867 and enlisted in the Royal Navy as a Stoker 2nd Class on 1 April 1885, having previously been employed as a bargeman. Advanced Acting Chief Stoker on 14 April 1897, he transferred for service in H.M.S. Powerful on 8 June of that year, and was promoted Chief Stoker on 22 April 1898. He served in Powerful during operations on and off the coast of South Africa in the Boer War, and received his Long Service and Good Conduct Medal on 30 August 1900, before transferring for service in H.M.S. Success on 1 April 1904. Severely burnt during his gallant act following the accident in the ship’s stokehold, his Captain wrote to him: ‘I consider you behaved so well during the accident and I am quite sure that you were the means of everyone coming on deck alive. Considering the damage done to No. 4 Boiler, I can only wonder that anybody came on deck at all as the boiler is now quite useless the drum being badly damaged and at least 34 tubes having gone.’ (letter to the recipient from Captain Osmond Prentis, dated 16 June 1904 refers). Recommended for the Albert Medal by Success’s captain, he was awarded his Albert Medal by H.M. King Edward VII on 9 February 1905, the investiture having been deferred for a considerable time on account of the recipient’s severe burns.
Drafted to H.M. Yacht Victoria and Albert on 15 February 1905 as a reward for his gallantry, ‘to be borne on the books as a permanent supernumerary until a vacancy occurs for a Chief Stoker, when he is to be absorbed into the compliment’ (the recipient’s service record refers), he had a long and pleasant commission in the Royal Yacht, before serving throughout the Great War, first in H.M.S. King Alfred from 4 August 1914, and then in H.M.S. Victory until the end of the War. He was finally shore pensioned on 29 March 1919, after 33 years’ service.
I remember this group adorning an auction catalogue cover many years ago.
Pictures courtesy of DNW
Albert Medal, 2nd Class, for Gallantry in Saving Life at Sea, bronze and enamel, reverse officially engraved ‘Presented in the name of Her Majesty to Captain E. D .Thornburgh Cropper of the West Kent Militia for attempting to save the life of Thomas Nolan of Steam Ship “Idaho” on 6th. August 1878.’, reverse of the crown with maker’s cartouché Phillips, Cockspur St., and officially numbered ‘No. 41’, with originally-ordained narrow riband;
Jubilee 1897, silver (Captain E. D. Cropper. Pembroke Yeomanry Cavalry.);
SAGS (1) 1879 (Capt. E. D. Thornburgh Cropper ADC);
QSA (2) CC, OFS (Major E. D. Thornburgh Cropper. 30/Co. Imp. Yeo.) re-engraved naming;
Royal Humane Society, small bronze medal (unsuccessful) (Capt. E. D. Thornburgh Cropper. 6th. Aug. 1878) with top bronze riband buckle.
Provenance: Payne Collection 1911; W. F. Hughes Collection; Edkins Collection, Glendining’s, September 1986
D.S.O. London Gazette 26 September 1901.
A.M. London Gazette 5 June 1879:
‘At 11 a.m. on 6th August, 1878, as the steamship “Idaho”, belonging to the Pacific Coast Steamship Company, was in the act of crossing the bar of San Francisco Bay, outward bound, about two miles from the shore, Thomas Nolan, a coloured waiter, threw himself overboard. Immediately there was a cry of “a man overboard”, and Captain Cropper, a passenger, without a moment’s hesitation, threw off his coast and waistcoat, rushed to the stern, and jumped overboard. Although Captain Cropper made a most gallant attempt to reach the drowning man, Nolan sank before he was reached. Captain Cropper was subsequently picked up by the steamer’s lifeboat, after being in the water five-and-twenty minutes. The steamship was going eight knots at the time, and there was a high sea running with a westerly wind.’
Royal Humane Society Case No. 20514:
‘At 11 a.m. on 6th August 1878, in San Francisco Bay, North America, Captain E. D. T. Cropper, West Kent Militia, jumped overboard into a rough sea 8 fathoms deep and 2 miles from the shore and swam through water towards the drowning man, Thomas Nolan, a Negro waiter from the S.S “Idaho”, but he sank before being reached and was drowned. Cropper then undressed in the water and waited forty minutes until he was picked up by a boat.’
Edward Denman Thornburgh Cropper was born at Swaylands, Kent, in 1855, and educated at Eton. Commissioned Sub-Lieutenant in the West Kent Militia on 20 May 1875, he was advanced to Captain on 20 March 1878.
In August 1878, Thornburgh Cropper, having married a Californian lady by the name of Virginia in 1874 (although records about their marriage were destroyed in the earthquake and fire of 1906), and whilst a passenger on board the 1,077 ton, 3 deck steamship Idaho, two miles from the shore in the Bay of San Francisco, made an unsuccessful attempt to rescue the life of a suicidal crewman who had thrown himself overboard. For his unsuccessful attempt to rescue the crewman, and one where it was considered that the risk of death to Thornburgh Cropper exceeded his chances of survival, he was awarded both the Albert Medal and the Royal Humane Society’s Bronze Medal, the latter being sent to him in February 1879.
Thornburgh Cropper returned from America and served throughout the Zulu War as orderly officer and extra Aide-de-Camp to Sir Evelyn Wood, V.C., and was present at Ulundi and with the flying column. He was Mentioned in Despatches (London Gazette 21 August 1879), in which it is stated that he and Colonel the Hon. R. Needham, as orderly officers, ‘have worked continuously in assisting to get the column transport forward on the line of march’. He retired from the West Kent Militia on 29 January 1881, and was appointed a Captain in the Royal Pembroke Artillery on 29 June of that year. During the First Boer War in 1881 he again served as orderly officer to Sir Evelyn Wood, and was again Mentioned in Despatches. Following his return from South Africa he transferred to the Pembroke Yeomanry as a Lieutenant on 19 August 1885, and was promoted Captain on 15 June 1893.
Having reportedly served in the Spanish-American War in Cuba, Thornburgh Cropper was gazetted a Captain with the 30th (Pembrokeshire) Company, 9th Battalion Imperial Yeomanry, and served during the South African War. He was dangerously wounded near Bethlehem, in the Orange Free State, on 29 December 1900, most likely having fallen victim to the Boer’s isolated but effective guerrilla tactics and dumdum bullets. The following month he was promoted Major and honorary Lieutenant-Colonel in the Pembroke Yeomanry Cavalry.
Mentioned in Lord Roberts’ Despatch (London Gazette 10 September 1901), and created a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order for his services in South Africa, tragically Thornburgh Cropper did not live to receive either award, dying on 29 March 1901 from influenza and pneumonia whilst recuperating in London from an operation, presumably related to the severe wound he had received exactly three months previously. Described by an officer who knew him well, ‘he was an exceedingly popular officer in “club-land”, and also in the county. He has been described as one of the “Dare Devils” in the British Army.’
12 Albert Medals for Sea have been awarded to the Army. In addition, only 18 Albert Medals have been awarded for acts of gallantry in North America, 17 in Canada, and this unique award for gallantry in the United States of America.
Note: Lieutenant-Colonel Thornburgh Cropper’s original Queen’s South Africa Medal (which would have been issued posthumously to his next of kin is in Newarke House Museum in Leicester.
(a) Q.S.A. 3 bars Cape Colony, Orange Free State, S. Africa 1901 (Pte. Rl. Warwick Regt.).
(b) Royal Victorian Medal George VI, silver.
(c) 1902 Edward VH Coronation Medal bronze.
(d) 1911 George V Coronation Medal.
(e) 1935 George V Jubilee Medal.
(f) 1937 George VI Coronation Medal.
(g) Royal Household Faithful Service Medal Geo. V with bar ‘Twenty years’ (J. Miller).
(h) France, Medal of Honour silver.
(i) Italy, Royal Service Medal, Vittorio Emanuele III gold medal.
(j) Russia, Medal for Zeal silver, Nicholas II, with St. Anne riband.
(k) Belgium. King Albert Service Medal silver.
(l) Norway, King Haakon Coronation 1906 Medal bronze.
(m) Greece, Royal Household Medal silver.
(n) Roumania, Loyal Service Cross 3rd Class bronze.
(o) Yugoslavia, Royal Household Medal Alexander I, gilt with crown.
(p) Greece, Medal of the Order of George I gilt.
The lot included two photographs and full biographical details which show that he entered the royal household in 1902 and retired in 1943. Assistant valet to George V.