A fine and rare Second War Landing Craft Gun C.G.M. group of six awarded to Able Seaman T. H. R. Hills, Royal Navy, who took over as the coxswain of L.C.G.12 in Operation “FERDY” the fiercely opposed landings on the Italian Coast at Vibo Valentia; when an enemy shell burst just above the bridge leaving him the only person alive on the bridge, he took control and steered the craft through bursting shells and ammunition out of range of the enemy’s guns and brought her to safety Conspicuous Gallantry Medal, G.VI.R. (A.B. T. H. R. Hills. C/JX. 373402); 1939-45 Star; Atlantic Star; Africa Star; Italy Star; War Medal 1939-45, these last five privately engraved ‘A.B. T. H. R. Hills C.G.M. C/JX. 373402’, nearly extremely fine (6) £10,000-£14,000 --- C.G.M. London Gazette 25 January 1944: ‘For gallantry, leadership and undaunted devotion to duty under heavy and continuous fire from the enemy during landings on the Italian mainland.’ Conspicuous Gallantry Medal. ‘Able Seaman Thomas Henry Richard Hills, C/JX.372402 Able Seaman Hills was serving in a Landing Craft which was heavily damaged by a shell which burst just over the bridge. All the officers were killed or badly wounded and he was the only man left alive on the bridge. With complete coolness he took control and steered the craft through bursting shells and ammunition out of range of the enemy’s guns and brought her to safety.’ The original recommendation for this award in Admiralty Honours and Awards file H&A 1257/43 is in the National Archives under reference ADM1/14593 - Operations “Baytown” and “Ferdy” awards to personnel for services in support of the invasion of Sicily (sic). It reads: ‘L.C.G.12 - Operation “BAYTOWN” L.C.G.12 at “Ferdy”. This rating was the only person left alive on the bridge of L.C.G.12 at “Ferdy”. He took charge and brought L.C.G.12 out of range of the enemy’s guns.’ Fleet Honours Committee, Commodore Parker, 31st October, 1943, noted: ‘Concur. Propose Conspicuous Gallantry Medal. An outstanding act of gallantry and devotion to duty.’ Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean, Admiral A. B. Cunningham, 2nd November, 1943, also noted: ‘Fully concur with the recommendation of the H & A Committee.’ Able Seaman Thomas Henry Richard Hills received his award of the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal at an Investiture on 19 November 1946. Operations “Baytown” and “Ferdy” Vibo Valentia is high up the ‘foot’ of Italy, midway between Reggio Calabria and Cosenza. Two landing attacks were planned by the Allies in September 1943, first across the Straits of Messina in operation “Baytown”, the first landing on the Italian mainland, and then further up the coast in operation “Ferdy” at Vibo Valentia. These were planned to disrupt enemy activities and to hasten their retreat north. Operation “Ferdy” was originally scheduled to take place on 6 September 1943. The object was to land 231 Brigade at Gioja, some miles behind enemy lines. This would help speed up the advance of XIII Corps, interfere with the enemy’s programme of withdrawal and road demolition, and, in the words of Flag Officer Sicily, ‘put some Germans in the bag’. Operation “Ferdy” was put into action on Tuesday 7 September, when the assembled force proceeded at 1830, to sail so as to arrive at Vibo Valentia Marina at 0530 on D-Day, 8 September. Paul Lund and Harry Ludlum take up the story in their War of the Landing Craft in the aptly named chapter The Guns of Vibo Valentia: ‘It had been thought that the landing at Vibo Valentia would be well behind the enemy’s lines and would only meet with slight opposition. But [...] the van of the German withdrawal happened to be passing when the landing occurred and this accounted for the large number of guns and machine guns brought to bear… And then it came, with a sound so full of bitter, impersonal hatred… the LCT’s ran the gauntlet of shell-fire into the harbour. The air was full of the sharp crack of the guns and the almost instantaneous explosion of the shells, which gave no preliminary whistle, for these were high velocity German 88-millimetre guns. We continued to stand, silent, clustered together in the tank space, watching the approach of several more landing craft, one of which carried a cargo of ammunition. As she now waddled towards the shore shells began to fall on either side of her. “Christ” said a low voice, “she only needs to get the next lot in that ammo, and there’ll be fuck-all left.” “There’ll be fuck all left of any of us, mate, if that lot goes up,” added another. But as we awaited what seemed like the inevitable fate of that LCT, there suddenly broke out to seaward the sound of gunfire followed by bursts of Oerlikon and pom-pom fire, which immediately drew the attention of the German gunners and dramatically eased the situation for the LCTs… It transpired that an LCG and an LCF had closed the shore and begun to engage the enemy defences. It was twelve minutes past six when LCG 12 opened fire with her two four-point-sevens at the battery of mobile German 88s, while LCF 4 sprayed the woods above the town where machine-gun nests were giving trouble. The effect of this intervention was instantaneous for the German gunners at once turned their attention on the LCG with her greater fire power and began to score hits. But LCG 12 stood her ground and continued to fire and so give the landing craft a chance to make good their escape from the harbour. Later[…] looking through their binoculars where LCG 12 had ceased firing. “She’s under way and she’s badly damaged” Snagge said. The three of us watched in silence as the LCG slowly headed away from the shore. As we made our way down the Italian coast with the warmth of the sun on our backs, each of us knew how much we owed to LCG 12. Months later, bit by bit, we heard the full story of Operation Ferdy and the part that LCG 12 and the LSTs and support craft had played. For 38 minutes LCG 12 had engaged the enemy shore batteries and during that time she was hit several times. Then, at 6:50 a.m. after most of the LSTs had left the beach, a shell exploded above the bridge killing all the craft’s officers and many of the crew. It was at that moment, when conditions aboard the gun craft had reached a critical state, with no one in control, with both her guns out of action and still under heavy fire, that Ordinary Seaman T. H. Hills with great presence of mind and under considerable difficulty took the craft out to sea and to safety. His coolness saved the LCG and the lives of the rest of her company. And the distraction that LCG 12 had provided during those 38 minutes had allowed nearly all the 16 LCTs to escape – only one being hit. But the operation was successful in fulfilling its main object for it greatly increased the speed of the enemy withdrawal and hardly a bridge was demolished on the long road to Sapri.’ Sold with copied research including Admiralty recommendation and extracts from various publications.