Skipper John Alexander Sutherland DSC, RNR
In my collection of research, I have only one award of a Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) documented, and it is a rather interesting one. For those who don’t know, “Trawlers” were boats used primarily for mine clearance and occasional defensive sorties they were of mainly wooden construction and were not even close to equalling Nazi Germany’s famous “E-boats”, yet the courage and determination of the crews made them a formidable foe.
Now John’s DSC was never publicly gazetted with a citation, just an “awarded to…”, and sadly over time it has been lost in the dark hole of the archives. His award was gazetted on 11th of July 1940, I had however found a report signed by John, and it probably went some way towards his award:
“(PRO Ref ADM 267 – 100)
31st January 1940
I have the honour to submit the following report on an engagement which took place between HM Trawler Pelton and a JU88 K at 1655 on 10th January 1940. Whilst at anchor off Scroby Elbow Buoy, the anchor was found to be dragging at 1645 it was weighed preparatory to taking up a new berth. Whilst taking up this position an enemy aircraft was sighted on the port beam steering east.
Ships company immediately went to action stations and opened fire with the 12 pounder and Lewis gun as the aircraft turned to attack. Four bombing and machine gun attacks were carried out, salvos consisting of 3 bombs, except the last in which six were dropped. No casualties were sustained. The attacks were made from starboard to port at a height of two to three hundred feet.. The Lewis gun jammed after about eight bursts and four rounds were fired from the 12 pounder, no hits were observed.
All bombs dropped except two were small and did no damage when burst alongside. During the third and fourth salvos, however, two heavy bombs were dropped apparently with delayed action fuses. One burst close to the starboard beam and the other very close on the port quarter. These two bombs caused all the damage. During the last two the dynamo was put out of action and the first engineman reported the ship making water fast, full of steam and having lost the vacuum he must stop the main engines. I requested the services of a lifeboat and tug by signal. Our own lifeboat was carried away by the enemy action. Ship was anchored off Yarmouth harbour, the crew having been taken off as a precaution.”
Skipper Sutherland was presented with his DSC, personally by the King, however his opportunity to wear it was cut short, as on Monday the 23rd of December 1940, HMT Pelton was sunk, with 20 hands, Skipper Sutherland being one of them, and he was killed age 27, leaving a wife; Alexandria.
LT/JX 174604 Seaman Joseph Baden Bradbury RN-Patrol Service
LT/JX 164348 Seaman Cook Herbert Lewis Eade RN-Patrol Service
LT/X 142SA Second Hand William Cowie RNR – Patrol Service
LT/JX 193066 Seaman Stewart Stanley Farrow RN – Patrol Service
LT/KX 110670 Stoker Second Class Joseph Baird RN – Patrol Service
LT/KX 200788 Seaman John William Johnson RN – Patrol Service
LT/6078D Leading Seaman John Victor Ball RNR – Patrol Service
LT/X 10302S Stoker Jeremiah Clarke RNR – Patrol Service
LT/KX 103558 Stoker Second Class Douglas Large RN- Patrol Service
C/SR 8808 Able Seaman George Stanley Parkin RN – Patrol Service
LT/X 18988A Leading Seaman John Wilson Sutherland RNR – Patrol Service
Skipper J.A.Sutherland DSC RNR
D/JX 196387 Ordinary Telegraphist Howard Patterson RN – Patrol Service
LT/JX 165984 Seaman Reginald Kenneth Watson RN- Patrol Service
LT/JX 165981 Seaman Harold Ernest Minter RN- Patrol Service
Lieutenant Commander Herbert Rowley Walker RNVR
P/LD/X 4420 Signalman Arthur Frederick Haswell RNVR
LT/KX 103824 Stoker Second Class Joseph James Scully RN – Patrol Service
LT/X 6128ES Engineman William Ashley Philips RNR – Patrol Service
C/K 21120 Leading Stoker Edward Atkins RN – Patrol Service
These gallant men between the ages of 20-40 who, on the whole, in peacetime were merchant mariners, in their countries hour of need defended her shores and her shipping, and gave their all, in defence of this nation. Thank you.