A DISTINGUISHED Service Order, awarded to a South Shields war hero after he brilliantly masterminded the sinking of a German submarine during the First World War, is set to fetch between £800 and £1000 at an auction next week.
In April 1918, Lieutenant-Commander Percy Sutcliffe Peat, 28, was in command of a small fishing boat – a herring drifter named the Coreopsis – when he and his 12-man crew spotted a German submarine, sank it and took its 36 crew prisoner.
The Coreopsis was part of a fleet of small craft carrying out an intensive counter movement to the German submarine menace, according to auctioneers Bonhams.
A spokesman said: “The drifter, which had a crew of 12, was armed only with a light gun, but Lt Cdr Peat took his ship into action with such skill that the gunner fought the submarine with great effect.
“The submarine, 10 times the size of the Coreopsis and possessing twice her speed, could neither turn nor run for safety and, having been hit early on, could not submerge.
“The deadly marksmanship of the gunner backed up the good work of the bridge, completely defeating the enemy and eventually the submarine foundered.
“It was for this feat that Lt Cdr Peat received the DSO; his skipper the DSC (Distinguished Service Cross) and every other rating in the ship being decorated.”
In an Admiralty report, Lt Cdr Peat was described as “a brilliant officer and a gallant seaman”.
The DSO is awarded “for distinguished services during active operations against the enemy”.
Percy Sutcliffe Peat was born in Accrington, Lancashire, on November 29, 1889, but some time between 1891 and 1901 he and his family moved to South Shields.
According to the 1901 Census, the Peat family lived at Eleanor Street, and Percy was the second of four children – Constance, Percy, Joseph and Elsie – of chemist’s druggist’s assistant, Joseph Peat, and wife, Annie Peat.
After the First World War, Percy became an instructor at the Marine School in South Shields and later entered the service of the Tyne Improvement Commission as deputy harbour master.
He and wife Maud lived at Preston Road.
He was 46 when he died at the Victoria Jubilee infirmary, Tynemouth, on May 3, 1936. He left £607 thirteen shillings and a penny, or £607.65p in modern money.
His DSO and his two other medals – a British War medal and a Victory medal – will be auctioned at Bonhams in Knightsbridge, London, on Wednesday.
These three medals – along with a Mercantile Marine war medal and a 1914 Star, also awarded to Percy Peat – were previously sold for £720 at an auction at Dix Noonan Webb in Mayfair, London, on September 22, 2006.