The Hero Awarded the Victoria Cross upon the Recommendation of an Enemy Officer

The Victoria Cross is the highest honor that a member of the British armed forces can receive. Since Queen Victoria instituted it in 1856, only 1,358 people have received this award for extreme gallantry in the midst of the enemy, witnessed by compatriots to who attest to the courage of the recipient.

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Lieutenant Commander Gerard Roope of the Royal Navy is one such man honored by Britain. An article in the January 1, 2010 issue of magazine Military History (sorry, it’s paywalled) describes the unusual circumstances of this award. It was the enemy commander who recommended that the British War Office award Roope with the Victoria Cross.

On April 7, 1940, Roope was in command of HMS Glowworm, a destroyer. He encountered a squadron of German vessels in the North Sea on their way to invade Norway. At the center of this formation was the heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper.

Roope’s Glowworm was massively outnumbered and outgunned. In keeping with the traditions of the Royal Navy, he nonetheless immediately attacked the enemy formation.

The German destroyers scattered and Glowworm was soon facing Admiral Hipper alone. Hipper’s heavy guns delivered brutal blows to the much smaller British ship. Roope ordered his crew to throw up a smokescreen, which he used to feint a retreat. Then he turned and rammed the Hipper, doing immense damage to the heavy cruiser.

The Glowworm began to sink. Roope ordered his crew to abandon ship, which they did. After Glowworm sank, Captain Helmuth Heye of the Hipper ordered his crew to pick up the survivors, rescuing 31 out of the total crew of 149 men. Captain Roope was not among them.

Captain Heye was so impressed with the intrepidity of Roope that he sent a message to the British War Office through the Red Cross, urging them to award his foe with the Victoria Cross. Regulations required that at least three witnesses, preferably of high rank, attest to the courage of the honoree. In this case, the War Office decided to accept Captain Heye’s testimony, as no British officers were available. In 1945, they postumously awarded Lieutenant Commander Gerard Roope with the Victoria Cross. You can read his citation here.


Source: neatorama

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