Auten, Harold VC DSC
Victoria Cross

Dates:
(1891 - 1964)

Local Connection:
Lived at Lewisham Hill Educated at Wilson's School Camberwell

War Service:
Lieutenant Royal Naval Reserve.
London Gazetted on 14th September 1918
Victoria Cross Medal's Custodian is the Royal Naval Museum.
Also awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Order of Orange Nassau (Netherlands) and Legion of Merit (USA)
London Gazette: Makes no mention of the action, only gives his name and rank.
Digest of Citation for the Victoria Cross reads:
On 30th July 1918 in the English Channel, Lieutenant Auten was in command of HMS Stock Force (one of the 'Q' or 'mystery' ships) when she was torpedoed by a U-boat and very badly damaged. The 'Panic party' took to the boats and the U-boat surfaced half a mile away, but after 15 minutes the 'panic party' began to row back, followed by the U-boat When it lay about 300 yards from Stock Force the guns opened fire, doing tremendous damage to the submarine which sank in a very short time. Stock Force finally sank about four hours later. Lieutenant Auten and her crew being taken off by a torpedo boat.

Harold-Auten.jpg

He was presented with his medal by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 18th September 1918.

A total of 628 Victoria Crosses were awarded during the First World War: 454 Victoria Crosses were awarded to UK-born recipients; 173 were awarded to servicemen who fought for Britain, but were born overseas; 1 person was awarded the Victoria Cross twice during the First World War. Special paving stones will be laid in the home towns of every UK soldier awarded the Victoria Cross as part of 2014's World War I centenary events. The specially-commissioned stones will be given to councils in the areas where the VC recipients were born. A total of 28 will be unveiled next year to commemorate medals awarded in 1914 and a further 600 will be laid in every year up to 2018. Auten's will be laid in July 2018 at Leatherhead, where he was born.

In 1929, the Prince of Wales gave a dinner for Victoria Cross holders in London's Guildhall and Auten replied to the Prince's speech on behalf of the naval VC's.

Service Record: Service Number 366390 CSC [TNA Reference ADM/188/559 [piece 366001-366500]
In 1910, he joined the Royal Naval Reserve and was promoted to Sub-Lieutenant just prior to the outbreak of the war in 1914, eventually promoted to Commander..

Auten mainly served on Q-ships. These were decoy ships, armed vessels but disguised as innocent merchant ships with the aim to fool U-boats into surfacing. Once the U-boat had surfaced, the guns were opened and the U-boat fired upon. Auten served on Zylpha, a former collier, from early in 1915. In April 1917, he took over the command of Q.16, also called Heather after her Commanding Officer had been killed in action against a U-boat. While he was serving in this ship, he won the Distinguished Service Cross.

Afterwards, he joined the former collier, HMS Stock Force, a vessel that he seen for himself in Cardiff docks. On 30 July 1918, the ship was twenty five miles south west of Start Point, Cornwall when the ship was torpedoed by a U-boat. The torpedo hit a forward bulkhead and the vessel sustained severe damage, including the bridge. Some of the crew, known as the "Panic Party" left in the boats, but Auten, the gun crews and the engine-room crew remained aboard. The U-boat surfaced half a mile from the damaged ship and the Panic Party rowed back in the boats to try and get the submarine to follow, which it did. At 5.40 pm, the Q-ship opened fire. Three direct hits were made, one blowing off the periscope, one blowing up the conning tower and the third ripped into the submarine's hull. Firing continued until the U-boat sank beneath the surface. Four hours later, the little Q-ship also gave way to the damage sustained earlier in the day and sank, still flying the White Ensign, after the crew were taken off by torpedo boat.

Harold-Auten-grave.jpg

He also served in the Second World War.

Location of Memorial:
He is mentioned on the Lewisham Shopping Centre Mural and has a memorial an unmarked grave in Sandhills cemetery, Bushkill, Pennsylvania, USA.

Details:
Born on 22nd August 1891 at Leatherhead, Surrey [claimed 1889 on Royal Naval entry], son of William Blee Auten (1861 - 1932) retired naval paymaster and Edith Fanny M Ross ( - 1950). He attended grammar school in Camberwell and was apprenticed to the P&O line at the age of seventeen. After the war, he wrote about his naval wartime service in a book Q boat adventures My Mystery Ships , and in 1922, began work in the film industry. In August 1925, he was promoted to Lieutenant-Commander in the RNR.
In 1929 he worked on a film on the Battle of the Mons and in 1933 he produced the film Savage Gold which was a filmed record of Commander Dyott's expedition to the heart of Ecuador. He became Executive Vice-President of the Rank Organisation in New York and lived for thirty years in Bushkill, Pennsylvania, where he owned a hotel and cinema. In August 1939, he was promoted to Commander RNR and during the Second World War, he was employed in routeing convoys across the Atlantic from New York. Died on 3rd October 1964 at Bushkill, Pennsylvania, USA.

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