Personal info

  • Name: Harold AUTEN
  • D.O.B: 22nd August, 1891
  • D.O.A: 30th July, 1918
  • D.O.D: 3rd October, 1964
  • Award: Victoria Cross
  • Occupation at time of action: Lieutenant, HMS Stock Force, Royal Naval Reserve
  • Book: The Complete History - Volume 2
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The English Channel 30 July 1918

30 July 1918

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The First World War 1918 

The last Q-Ship action of the war took place on 30 July 1918, when HMS Stock Force sank an enemy submarine in the English Channel, twenty-five miles south-west of Prawle Point, Devon. Stock Force herself sank shortly afterwards. For Q-Ships and their role, see the narrative for Commander G Campbell VC (17 Feb 1917).

Citation

 Honours for Services in Action with Enemy Submarines. The KING has been graciously pleased to approve of the award of the following honours, decorations, and medals to the undermentioned Officers and Men for services in action with enemy submarines:– To receive the Victoria Cross. Lieut. Harold Auten, D.S.C., R.N.R. (Second Supplement to The London Gazette of 13 September 1918. 14 September 1918, Numb. 30900, p. 10847) Admiralty, 20th November, 1918. With reference to announcements of the award of the Victoria Cross to naval officers and men for services in action with enemy submarines, the following are the accounts of the actions for which these awards were made:– (6) Action of H.M.S. “Stock Force,” on the 30th July 1918. H.M.S. “Stock Force”, under the command of Lieutenant Harold Auten, D.S.C., R.N.R., was torpedoed by an enemy submarine at 5 p.m. on the 30th July, 1918. The torpedo struck the ship abreast No. 1 hatch, entirely wrecking the fore part of the ship, including the bridge, and wounding three ratings. A tremendous shower of planks, unexploded shells, hatches and other debris followed the explosion, wounding the first lieutenant (Lieutenant E. J. Grey, R.N.R.) and the navigating officer (Lieutenant L. E. Workman, R.N.R.) and adding to the injuries of the foremost gun’s crew and a number of other ratings. The ship settled down forward, flooding the foremost magazine and between decks to the depth of about three feet. “Panic party,” in charge of Lieutenant Workman, R.N.R., immediately abandoned ship, and the wounded were removed to the lower deck, where the surgeon (Surgeon Probationer G. E. Strahan, R.N.V.R.), working up to his waist in water, attended to their injuries. The captain, two guns’ crews and the engine-room staff remained at their posts. The submarine then came to the surface ahead of the ship half a mile distant, and remained there a quarter of an hour, apparently watching the ship for any doubtful movement. The “panic party” in the boat accordingly commenced to row back towards the ship in an endeavour to decoy the submarine within range of the hidden guns. The submarine followed, coming slowly down the port side of the “Stock Force,” about three hundred yards away. Lieutenant Auten, however, withheld his fire until she was abeam, when both of his guns could bear. Fire was opened at 5.40 p.m.; the first shot carried away one of the periscopes, the second round hit the conning tower, blowing it away and throwing the occupant high into the air. The next round struck the submarine on the water-line, tearing her open and blowing out a number of the crew. The enemy then subsided several feet into the water and her bows rose. She thus presented a large and immobile target into which the “Stock Force” poured shell after shell until the submarine sank by the stern, leaving a quantity of debris on the water. During the whole of the action one man (Officer’s Steward, 2nd Class, R. J. Starling) remained pinned down under the foremost gun after the explosion of the torpedo, and remained there cheerfully without complaint, although the ship was apparently sinking, until the end of the action. The “Stock Force” was a vessel of 360 tons, and despite the severity of the shock sustained by the officers and men when she was torpedoed, and the fact that her bows were almost obliterated, she was kept afloat by the exertions of her ship’s company until 9.25 p.m. She then sank with colours flying, and the officers and men were taken off by two torpedo boats and a trawler. This action was cited as one of the finest examples of coolness, discipline and good organisation in the history of “Q” ships. (The award of the Victoria Cross to Lieutenant Harold Auten, D.S.C., R.N.R., was announced in London Gazette No. 30900, dated the 14th September, 1918.) 

Second Supplement to The London Gazette of 19 November 1918. 20 November 1918, Numb. 31021, p. 13695

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