Between 2013 and 2015 I brought you no less than 7 blogs that either told the story or made some reference to London Ontario born US Naval Lt. Samuel W. Preston. His heroism on several dates including the first and second attacks on the Confederate held Fort Fisher in the Charleston Harbour, ought to have resulted in his being awarded a Medal of Honor. But alas, this was not to happen.
It was during that attack that 24 year old Preston, (shown above) was acting as the Flag Lt. for famous Rear Admiral David Porter, and lost his life in the attack.
More research is needed but it seems that Preston and his men fought in nothing less than a Forlorn Hope... a suicide mission... to gain time for land troops to approach from the rear of the fort. Preston's men attacked, depending on sources, across the beach either near the Mound Battery at bottom of map or the North East Bastion at upper right.
While the fort eventually fell, it would be at the heavy a naval cost of about one in five sailors and marines.
Preston's immediate superior wrote of Preston's bravery to the Rear Admiral and eventually to the Secretary of the Navy. So did the Rear Admiral. But no medals came to Preston. Not even a posthumous brevet promotion. Something not unheard off throughout the Civil War!
The writer who contacted me about the matter noted that during the war and up until the early 1900's Marine and Naval officers, by virtue of the rules of the day, were not entitled to be awarded the MOH. It was then only for the enlisted men. Something not so on the army side of things.
The fact was briefly mentioned in some of the blogs, and that, due to a number of circumstances, the argument can be made today that the late Lt Preston could still be awarded the medal posthumously. if the US Government can authorize the naming of SIX warships honouring the bravery of Sam Preston, then surely the argument to get him a posthumous Medal of Honor has some validity.
There are ample cases of posthumous awards over the years, at least one involving an Admiral who also was not entitled during the war years, but later, while still alive, was awarded the medal. They even named a ship after him.
Preston got no medal or posthumous promotion, but the US government named not one BUT SIX ships after him. Hmmm!
It was 100 years ago (and 15 days) that the British tried to sink their own HMS Brilliant at the ocean entrance to a canal along the Belgian coastline at a place called Zeebrugge. If successful, many German U Boats would be caught in their service bays and forced to take a longer and more dangerous route out into the Atlantic to spread their terror.
The vessel was sunk but many factors resulted in the plan not being the success sought. None the less a Naval Reserve Lieutenant by the name of Rowland Bourke, a
later Victoria BC resident, would take his wooden 44 ft. motorboat out into harms way several times to rescue over 30 sailors who would have otherwise met their fate by drowning. The King would later award him with a Distinguished Service Order for this bravery.
And it should be noted that during both events and for years before, and the rest of his life Rowland Bourke was blind in one eye. For the Ostend rescues he would be awarded the Victoria Cross.
Past blogs in this space brought you stories about the relocation of the memorial to another area closer to the water's edge. After it was refurbished a ceremony was held in 2013.
In three days, on the 10th of May the people of Belgium will be performing a 100th anniversary ceremony at the HMS Vindictive Memorial. Details will be hopefully be provided to me and I will bring the story's update at a layer date.
Here in Victoria, as regular readers will recall, several folks played a major role in the unveiling of the new grave marker for Rowland Bourke VC DSO, and at death, holding the rank of Commander.
Many of the attendees were former veterans, some even holding the rank of an Admiral. A flag flown over our provincial government House was presented to the descendants, a letter was read from our Lt Governor of the day, as well as another letter read from our then Minister of National Defense.
Being part of that ceremony was not only an honor and privilege, but also is one of my most favourable moments, over the 18 plus years of doing the work, a ;portion of which is evidenced by now close to 450 blogs in this space.
That ceremony tool place 5 years ago tomorrow.
Note: This blog was delayed a day due to the fact that I again had the hopnour of attending both the very formal ceremony here at BC's Legislature for those lost during the WWll Battle of the Atlantic, and a reception later at CFB Esquimalt's Workpoint officer's Gun Room.
Next week I will bring a blog about this ceremony.
Cheers till then,