WW1 Project Roger L'Estrange Murray REDE <BACK
Warnham Address Brookhurst
Date & Place of Birth 30th Aug 1878 Toonah, Victoria, Australia
Occupation Naval Officer
Enlisted 27th Jan 1893
Regiment(s) Royal Navy
Rank Commander
Regimental No(s)
Service Record See Notes below
Awards Companion of the DSO, 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, British Victory Medal, French Legion of Honour, Italian Order of St. Maurice and St. Lazarus
Died 3rd March 1930
Source(s) National Archives, Parish Magazine, Auction of Medals

July 1918 Parish Magazine – Commander Rede is with us at Brookhurst when leave permits, and we congratulate him for his leadership and initiative in the action off the Belgian coast on March 21st he has been made a Companion of the DSO.

from http://www.dnw.co.uk/medals/auctionarchive/viewspecialcollections/itemdetail.lasso?itemid=60272

D.S.O. London Gazette 21 June 1918: ‘For services in the action with enemy destroyers off the Belgian coast on 21 March 1918 ... Commander Rede of the Botha took his ship through a heavy barrage of gunfire and, without waiting to ascertain that the rest of his division were following, proceeded to engage the enemy with ram, torpedo and gunfire. He rammed and cut in two pieces an enemy torpedo boat. The success of the action was undoubtedly due to his gallant leadership and initiative.’

French Legion of Honour London Gazette 7 August 1918.

Italian Order of St. Maurice and St. Lazarus London Gazette 11 August 1917.

Roger L’Estrange Murray Rede was born at Toonah, Victoria, in August 1878, the son of a clergyman, and entered the Royal Navy as a Naval Cadet in Britannia in January 1893. Appointed a Midshipman in the cruiser Orlando on the Pacific Station in December 1895, he was advanced to Lieutenant in October 1901 and to Lieutenant-Commander in December 1909, and on the outbreak of hostilities in August 1914, as a recently promoted Commander, he took over torpedo boat destroyer T.B. 23.

Removing to the battleship Albermarle in the following year, he won a commendation from his captain on the occasion their ship was damaged in an incident in Pentland Firth on 7 November 1915 and, on taking command of the destroyer Martin in September 1916, the appreciation of Their Lordships ‘for the promptness with which an attack against an enemy submarine was carried out on 7 August 1917’. But it was for his subsequent command of the Dover Patrol flotilla leader Botha in an action off Dunkirk on 21 March 1918, that he won his D.S.O. Commander P. K. Kemp’s H.M. Destroyers takes up the story:

‘As they lay in wait off Dunkirk, ready to slip their cables at the first sign of enemy activity, they heard firing off the coast and saw gun flashes. It was the enemy squadron from Zeebrugge bombarding Allied positions ashore off La Panne.

The mixed squadron set off at full speed, sighted a line of ships in the darkness and, receiving the wrong reply to the challenge, opened fire. Rede, leading the line in the Botha, fired two torpedoes at the enemy and then turned to ram. Travelling at a speed of 27 knots, the Botha cut clean through one of the enemy without damaging her bows, the two ends dropping apart either side of her. As soon as she was through she turned in order to repeat the process, but a shell through her main steam pipe cut down her speed so much that she just failed. However, she passed through the line so close to another of the enemy that her guns set her on fire and completely wrecked her.

Her next experience was somewhat less happy. One of the French destroyers, mistaking her for an enemy, fired a torpedo which hit amidships and exploded with terrific force, blowing a large hole in her port side. Orders were given to abandon the ship, but a few minutes later were cancelled when it was found that the Botha still had a chance of survival. Although she had taken a lot of water on board and her engines and boilers were wrecked, her sturdy construction was holding up to the strain. One of the French destroyers was also in trouble. In working up to full speed one of her boilers exploded, which she reported somewhat dramatically in a plain language signal: “Can go no more. Boiler go bang.”

With the coming of daylight the only sign of the enemy was the ship set on fire by the Botha’s guns. All the remainder had made off in the night. She was soon finished off by the Morris, which then took the Botha in tow and just managed to reach Dunkirk with her. The two German ships sunk were the torpedo boats A-7 and A-19.’

Rede transferred to another flotilla leader, the Douglas, in July 1918, and remained in her until the end of hostilities, a period that witnessed him conveying Sir Douglas Haig and Sir Roger Keyes across the Channel on at least one occasion - ‘we crossed at over 30 knots in a cloud of spray’ (The Admiral’s memoirs refer). As it transpired, Keyes was busy pushing Rede forward for advancement to post-rank, an intention which was eventually fulfilled:

‘When I found that Roger Rede, who displayed such initiative in the action off Dunkirk in March, was not to be promoted - as I had been practically promised - I appealed to Admiral Wemyss, and reminded him of the great moral value of Rede’s action; apart from the destruction of two enemy vessels, plucked from a superior force. It was so hard that he should lose the promotion he so thoroughly deserved, because in the meantime more spectacular actions had taken place. The Service was full of gallant officers, who would face great odds without hesitation when led, but the gift of rapid decision, initiative and readiness to accept responsibility was given to few, and Rede displayed all these excellent qualities. Admiral Wemyss’ letter, in reply to mine, is amongst those I prize, and Rede was promoted the following December.’

Post-war, Rede commanded the flotilla leader Nimrod 1919-21, and was employed at the Admiralty, his final seagoing appointment being in the battleship Resolution, aboard which he died suddenly on 3 March 1930 and was buried at sea.