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Looking up an old soldier...

I was just wondering if there was any ways to find reasoning behind medals issued in WW2? Much like the citations today.

My late Grandfather (Rest in Peace) was a soldier in the Royal Artillery during WW2. From what I gather he spent a lot of the war as a Maritime Naval Gunner on Merchant Navy ships - and was sunk on multiple occasions.

I believe he served for the 22 years, or the equivalent then - as I have a feeling he rose to the rank of RSM or BSM. However, I may well be wrong there.

My main request for information is as I have seen some of the medals he earnt, and would like to know the story behind them. Due to family issues the medals are with another member of the family - and I doubt I'd be able to get to see them again.

I am led to believe that he earnt the DSO. However, whilst he was with us he would never open up about what he had seen or done - which is rather understandable. The nurses at the home he was in prior to departing from this world said he "was a very brave man" based on the stuff he had said and done whilst suffering from dementia.

Naturally, I feel it rather sad to think of an old soldier not getting the credit he deserved, even if he is no longer with us. As a very proud grandson, and I'm sure I also speak for my father, I'd be most interested to be more aware of what it was he done. I'd also like to put his name down for a mass at a nearby priory.

I know I've given you some sketchy information here, nothing concrete - but I was just wondering if there was someplace I could check? Firstly to see which rank he attained, and secondly to see which incidents led to his decorations. Any suggestions would be appreciated guys!

(Note, I will be away Thurs->Mon - but will be sure to check this when I get back)
You can get his service records from here if you have a death certificate and fill the forms in. 30 Quid.


If he received any gallantry medals try searching the london gazette.


Edited to say I doubt it was a DSO as this was for officers only
Am I right in saying it could've been a DSC if he was aboard a naval vessel?

If it helps - I remember looking it up before and the reasons for the medal being awarded in general were "Actions under fire above and beyond the call of duty" - or words to that affect. However, to an uneducated ear (i.e Me :D ) that sounds like any medal!

Cheers for the link to the gazette though - I hadn't thought of giving that a search!

I'll also have to look into getting a copy of his death certificate. That shouldn't be to hard really.
Thanks a lot guys! Just got back today and done a bit more digging on the London Gazette search!

It made me VERY proud to find his rank, name, number and unit - and to find it was in fact the Distinguished Service Medal (DSM) he was awarded!

Now on to a bit more digging!
My great uncle was also a Royal Artillery gunner on merchant ships in WW2. These ships were known as Defensivly Equipped Merchant Ships and carried gunners from either the RN or RA (Maritime Regiment). The photo is of a crowd of them ashore, including my uncle, possibly in Brazil, with the ships master and some of the crew.

See here for some info on DEMS



A little update guys - I've done a bit of digging, and asked my father; It appears he was on Operation Pedestal and volunteered to go on to the SS Ohio after it was damaged and they required men to man the ship.

I found this link - http://www.usmm.org/malta.html - and it describes the actions of a US Merchant Marine who was awarded the American merchant marine equivalent of the DSM. The actions seem pretty similar - boarding a damaged ship (SS Ohio) and manning the guns on it.

WaltOnTheMildSide said:
MM - saw this and thought of you:
The blurb says it includes citations.
Oh wow! Thats an awesome find, cheers for that! Looks like it would be an interesting read anyway!

merchantman: I'd seen the abbreviation DEMS used quite a bit whilst trying to peice together bits and peices - thanks for that explanation! I wasn't sure if it was a weapons system, a job or ship! Nice to get a (thorough) explanation!

Thats also an interesting photo - I'm not sure why, but it never crossed my mind about the uniforms. (Gunners keeping their uniforms despite being on a naval vessel)
moodymoddy said:
Thanks a lot guys! Just got back today and done a bit more digging on the London Gazette search!

It made me VERY proud to find his rank, name, number and unit - and to find it was in fact the Distinguished Service Medal (DSM) he was awarded!

Now on to a bit more digging!
Look up the National Archive for his citation


Most recommendations for the VC, DSO, MC, DCM and MM (and a very few Mentions in Despatches) are in WO 373 (from 1938). The London Gazette date, and the theatre of war, is needed to find them.

During the Second World War, some members of the RN, the RAF, the RM and the Home Guard received Army awards.

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