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Armstrong, R.W., awarded the B.E.M. 1943

Newspaper photo

The Shields Daily News 26/02/1943 reads:

Shield Manís B.E.M. for Gallantry in Far East.

At a recent investiture at Buckingham Palace Mr. Ralph William Armstrong, son of Mr. Ralph Armstrong of 6 Fern Avenue, North Shields, was presented by the King with the B.E.M. for his gallantry in Far Eastern Waters.

Armstrong, who is 20 years of age and a second mate, was accompanied by his sister, Miss Florence Armstrong, and his fiancee.

The story of his heroic conduct has already been told in the Evening News. (30/09/1942)

Soon after Japan came into the war his ship, while on the voyage from Singapore to the South Sea islands and Western Australia, was dive-bombed by Japanese planes and set on fire.

Many of the crew were killed, including the chief officer, and the master and mate were seriously injured.

Armstrong, who was then only 18 years of age and an apprentice, took charge of the ship and with the survivors of the crew fought and extinguished the fire. He then headed the ship back to Singapore.

Some 14 or 15 hours later the ship was again dive-bombed, set on fire and left in a sinking condition. Lifeboats were launched and manned by all who remained of the crew, Armstrong Taking charge.

He took the injured master and second mate into his own boat. Ten days later they reached Singapore, where the master and the second mate were taken to hospital.

Armstrong made his escape with three other members of the crew in one of the lifeboats just before the Japanese took possession of Singapore.

He had been a pupil at the Ralph Gardner School.

Third Supplement to The London Gazette of 25th September 1942, Issue 35722, 29/09/1942;The Citation reads follows:-

Apprentice. Awarded on: September 29th, 1942 Action: Citation:The ship was attacked by Japanese bombers in Far Eastern waters. She was hit, and set on fire. Apprentice Armstrong, aged 17, was to the fore in fire-fighting and showed courage when bringing out two men from the wrecked accommodation. Details: Civil Division. LG 35722/4223.

Source: World War II awards

World War II Awards

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