Petty Officer Ernest Herbert Pitcher VC

Discussion in 'World War 1' started by liverpool annie, Jan 20, 2009.

  1. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    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.

    Victoria Cross London Gazette 2.11.1917 Petty Officer Ernest Herbert Pitcher Royal Navy

    Date of Act of Bravery, 8.8.1917. Service in ‘Q’ or ‘Mystery’ Ship H.M.S. Dunraven.
    P.O Pitcher was selected by the crew of a gun of one of the H.M. Ships to receive the Victoria Cross under Rule 13 of the Royal Warrant dated the 29th January, 1856.

    Ernest Pitcher received his Cross from the King at an Investiture at Buckingham Palace on 5 December 1917. He also received the French Medaille Militaire and the Croix de Guerre. He was rated up to Chief Petty Officer on 1 August 1920, and retired from the Navy after twenty-five years service on 30 December 1927.
    He returned to Swanage and taught woodwork at a boys’ preparatory school. It is also recorded that at some point during the inter-war years he was the licensee of the Royal Oak at Herston. On 5 August 1940 he rejoined the Navy and served in shore establishments at Poole, Portland and Yeovilton until the cessation of hostilities. He died the following year of tuberculosis on 10 February 1946 in the Royal Navyal Auxiliary Hospital, Sherborne.
    A memorial tablet to C.P.O. Pitcher V.C., D.S.M., R.N. was unveiled in Swanage Parish Church on 11 November 1963.

    Petty Officer Pitcher was present at the VC Reunion Dinner Saturday 9th November 1929 The Royal Gallery, House of Lords, Palace of Westminster Seating plan for TABLE-12 ( Numbers 339 to 367 )
    SeatNo Rank FName LName Awards

    339 Captain Frederick BARTER VC, MC
    340 Lieutenant Colonel Dudley JOHNSON VC, DSO
    341 Lance Corporal William COLTMAN VC, DCM, MM
    342 Private William BEESLEY VC
    343 Sergeant Job DRAIN VC
    344 Private Thomas RICKETS VC
    345 Mr G LEWIS
    346 Private Charles MELVIN VC
    347 Private Harry CHRISTIAN VC
    348 Lieutenant Colonel Daniel BURGES VC, DSO
    349 Petty Officer Ernest PITCHER VC, DSM
    350 Major Daniel BEAK VC, DSO, MC
    351 "Daily Chronicle"
    352 Lieutenant Henry MAY VC
    353 Private Thomas EDWARDS VC
    355 Private Harold MUGFORD VC
    356 Sergeant John Brown HAMILTON VC
    357 General Sir Lewis HALLIDAY VC, CB
    358 Captain Tom ADLAM VC
    359 Sergeant Robert BYE VC
    360 Lance Sergeant George WYATT VC
    361 "Cape Times"
    362 Private James UPTON VC
    363 Colour Sergeant James SMITH VC
    364 CSM George EVANS VC
    365 Private Thomas KENNY VC
    366 "New Zealand Press"
    367 Captain Samuel MEEKOSHA VC

    His medals were sold in 1997

    Michael (Lord) Ashcroft bought Pitcher's VC at a Dix Noonan Webb auction in London in 1997.

    Date - 12 Feb 97
    Lot No - 596

    Description -
    The important Victoria Cross group of nine awarded to Petty Officer Ernest Pitcher, V.C., D.S.M., Royal Navy, who was five times decorated for gallantry whilst serving in Captain Gordon Campbell’s famous ‘Q’ Ships Victoria Cross, the reverse suspension bar inscribed ‘P.O. E. Pitcher. O.N.227029. Royal Navy.’, the reverse centre of the cross dated ‘8 Aug. 1917’; Distinguished Service Medal, G.V.R. (227029. E. Pitcher, P.O. Atlantic Ocean. 9 Jun 1917); 1914-15 Star Trio (227029 E. Pitcher, P.O. R.N.); Coronation 1937; Royal Navy L.S. & G.C., G.V.R., Admiral’s bust (227029 Ernest Pitcher, C.P.O., H.M.S. Excellent); French Medaille Militaire; French Croix de Guerre 1914-1917, contact wear, therefore nearly very fine (9)

    Estimate - £30000-£35000
    Hammer Price - £28000

    Attached Files:

  2. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    Our Petty officer was also part of the Honour Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in 1920


    The Cenotaph in Whitehall was completed shortly after the end of the 1914-1918 War and was scheduled to be unveiled by King George V on Armistice Day 1920. However, in October of that year the Dean of Westminster suggested to Buckingham Palace that the body of an unidentified soldier be exhumed from the battlefields and reburied in Westminster Abbey. To ensure the Warrior was unknown, the military authorities on the old Western Front were instructed to exhume six unidentified 'British' soldiers. On 9th November 1920, six working parties commanded by subalterns, went to the six main battlefields - Aisne, Arras, Cambrai, Marne, Somme and Ypres - each to exhume the remains of one soldier buried in a grave marked 'Unknown'.
    The six bodies were put in coffins and taken to a hut near Ypres where they were received by a clergyman. A blindfolded officer went inside the hut and at random touched the coffin of the soldier who was to be laid among kings in Westminster Abbey. The body was brought across the English Channel from Boulogne to Dover on HMS Verdun. Following a brief service the Unknown Warrior was lowered into his grave near the Great West Door on 11th November 1920, the grave refilled with earth brought from the battlefields.


    The order of the service in Westminster Abbey was published in 'The Times' newspaper on Tuesday, 9th November 1920.
    "The Unknown Warrior will be carried to his last resting place in Westminster Abbey between two lines of men who won the Victoria Cross or who had otherwise distinguished themselves by special valour during World War I. These will include representatives of the Royal Navy, the Army, and the Royal Air Force. The bodyguard of heroes will probably be as follows:"

    The VC Guard photographed before the ceremony in Westminster Abbey

    Attached Files:

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