H.M.S. Sussex Presentation Prize Oar, 1933
Pulling races at Fleet Regattas in the 1920s and 30s were eagerly anticipated events and were held periodically in the Royal Navy’s principal fleets. For weeks beforehand, every opportunity was taken to train the crews entered by each ship. A ship’s gig might be crewed by officers, midshipmen or ratings under the urging of a coxswain, who was often a petty officer. Though a heavy boat by comparison, a gig with a good crew could be made to move though the water at surprising speed.
H.M.S. Sussex was a London-class cruiser, launched in 1927. In 1933 her pulling crews were rated to be the hot favourites amongst the competing ships of the cruiser squadron at the regatta held that year at Malta. During World War II she operated with with Force H in the hunt for the German raider Admiral Graf Spee. She served with the Home Fleet during the Norwegian Campaign, and was seriously damaged by German bombs during a refit at Glasgow and did not return to service until 1942. In 1943 Sussex was redeployed with the 4th Cruiser Squadron in the Far East. On her way out she sank the German tanker Hohenfriedburg but was then attacked by U-264 whose torpedoes she evaded. In July 1945 she was hit by a kamikaze bomber which left an imprint on the side of Sussex, from which it could be identified as a Mitsubishi Ki-51 Sonia. In September 1945 the commander of the garrison at Singapore was brought on board, where he signed the formal surrender of the army, thus completing Operation Tiderace, the Allied plan to recapture Singapore.
Silver. Miniature Mediterranean Fleet prize oar 'H.M.S. SUSSEX / FLEET REGATTA 1933’ prize oar. Maker’s mark of Walker & Hall. Hallmarked 1933. Maker’s mark of NA&AFI for the Navy, Army & Air Force Institutes (est. 1920). Hallmarked 1933. Length: 6in (15cm)