28 March 2010

Victoria Cross: R. B. Stannard


Lieutenant, Royal Naval Reserve; commanding HM Armed Trawler Arab

Born: 21 August 1902, Blyth, Northumberland
Died: 22 July 1977, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Citation: When enemy bombing attacks had set on fire many tons of hand grenades on Namsos wharf, with no shore water supply available, Lieutenant Stannard ran Arab's bows against the wharf and held her there. Sending all but two of his crew aft, he then endeavoured for two hours to extinguish the fire with hoses from the forecastle. He persisted in this work till the attempt had to be given up as hopeless.
After helping other ships against air attacks, he placed his own damaged vessel under shelter of a cliff, landed his crew and those of two other trawlers, and established an armed camp. Here those off duty could rest while he attacked enemy aircraft which approached by day, and kept anti-submarine watch during the night.
When another trawler near-by was hit and set on fire by a bomb, he, with two others, boarded Arab and moved her 100 yards before the other vessel blew up.
Finally, when leaving the fjord, he was attacked by a German bomber which ordered him to steer East or be sunk. He held on his course, reserved his fire until the enemy was within 800 yards, and then brought the aircraft down.
Throughout a period of five days [28th April through 2nd May, 1940] Arab was subjected to 31 bombing attacks and the camp and Lewis gun positions ashore were repeatedly machine-gunned and bombed; yet the defensive position was so well planned that only one man was wounded.
Lieutenant Stannard ultimately brought his damaged ship back to an English port.
His continuous gallantry in the presence of the enemy was magnificent, and his enterprise and resource not only caused losses to the Germans but saved his ship and many lives.

(London Gazette issue 34924 dtd 16 Aug 1940, published 16 Aug 1940.)

Note: ZUI Lieutenant Stannard's report. Sub-Lieutenant Ernest T Lees, RANVR, was made a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order, and Second Hand David G Spindler, RNR, was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal, for their service aboard HMS Arab during this time. 2nd Engineer James Nicholson, RNR, and Seaman Charles Newman, RNR, received the Distinguished Service Medal.

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