Able Seaman, James Robert Arthur, D.S.M., R.N. PJ/X149078

 

Battle of the Tarigo Convoy (Skirmish of Sfax) - 16th April 1941

 

 

                                                                                           

 

On the morning of 16th April 1941, a division of the 14th Destroyer Flotilla, comprising of 2 ‘J’ Class destroyers, the Jervis and Janus, and 2 Tribal Class destroyers, the Mohawk and Nubian, under the command of the Capt. D., Capt. Philip Mack, encountered an Italian convoy off the Kerkenah Islands in the Gulf of Gades, near Sfax, Tunisia.

 

The convoy, which consisted of 5 Merchant ships (4 German Troop Ships and an Italian Ammunition Ship), escorted by 3 Italian destroyers, and was transporting 3000 Panzer troops of the Afrika Korps (including 300 vehicles) from Italy to Tripoli in Libya. The escort consisted of a Navigatori class destroyer, Luca Tarigo (flagship) and two Folgore class destroyers, Baleno and Lampo, commanded by Captain Pietro de Cristofaro. During the engagement, Captain de Cristofaro had his leg shot off and was posthumously awarded the Medaglia d'Oro (the highest Italian decoration for valour).

 

The convoy was engaged in an early morning action by moonlight and in the ensuing battle the 5 Merchant ships were sunk, together with 2 of the escorting destroyers, Luca Tarigo and Baleno. The third destroyer, the Lampo, was forced ashore.

 

The Mohawk was hit by a torpedo from the sinking Luca Tarigo, and turned turtle leaving the retractable ASDIC dome showing above the up-turned bottom. In April 1941, ASDIC, the British wartime name of what the Americans called Sonar, was top-secret and was meant to self-destruct in such circumstances. In this instance the charges failed to explode.

 

After the Mohawk’s crew had been taken on board other ships, the Janus was tasked not just to sink the Mohawk, but to blow off the ASDIC dome. Able Seaman Jimmy Arthur was the LR3 layer (gun aimer) on the Janus ‘B’ gun, alongside A.B. Harold Worthy as the gun trainer. After highlighting the dome with a searchlight for two seconds for the first shot, the task was completed in the dark, under fire and at a range of 1000 yards in about 8 shots from twin 4.7-inch guns utilising a pistol operated trigger.

 

21 year old, Able Seaman Arthur was given four Captain’s recommendations, one from each of the Destroyer Captains, and was awarded the D.S.M. for his ‘coolness, skill and enterprise’,

 

On HMS Janus, two other ratings were awarded the DSM and Commander Tothill, the Captain, and two other officers were awarded the D.S.C for their part in the action. The flotilla commander, Captain Philip J. Mack was awarded a Bar to his DSO. British losses were 43 men whilst Axis losses were reported as between 350 – 1800 men.

 

The award was announced in the London Gazette on 5th August 1941 and the decoration was presented by King George VI at Buckingham Palace on 17th October 1942, at which Able Seaman Arthur was accompanied by his grandmother Josephine Cunningham (Jessie).

 

A fuller, but slightly erroneous, account given in ‘Mediterranean Maelstrom’, Chapter 3 (Page 91) with photographs on page opposite p81.

 

 

 

THE DSM

 

The medal was instituted on 14 October 1914.

 

The medal was awarded to Chief Petty Officers, Petty Officers and men of the navy (or army and air force personnel of equal rank serving with the fleet) who show themselves to the fore in action, and set an example of bravery and resource under fire, but without performing acts of such pre-eminent bravery as would render them eligible to receive the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal.

 

Following the 1993 review, the Distinguished Service Medal (DSM) was discontinued in favour of the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) for all ranks.

 

 

DESCRIPTION

A circular, silver medal, 1.42 inches in diameter.

 

The obverse shows a crowned effigy, facing left, and the legend:
GEORGEIVS VI D: G: BR: OMN: REX ET INDIAE IMP:

While the reverse shows the legend FOR/DISTINGUISHED/SERVICE in three lines, encircled by a laurel wreath and surmounted by an Imperial Crown.

The mounting is a straight suspender, fastened to the medal with a single-toe claw and the ribbon is 1.25 inches wide and consists of three equal stripes: dark blue, white, and dark blue, with a thin dark blue stripe down the centre of the white.

The edge of the medal is impressed with the service number, rank, initials, surname and service of the recipient.

 


 

 

OBVERSE

REVERSE

James Arthur 2010.

 


 

The London Gazette Awards 1941 and Reports 1948 on the sinking of HMS Mohawk:-

 

1941 Page 1 1941 Page 2 1941 Page 3 1948