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The post-war C.B., Great War D.S.C. group of eleven awarded to Vice-Admiral M. H. A. Kelsey, Royal Navy, a veteran of Dogger Bank and Jutland, who went on to command the cruiser Naiad (1940-42) and battleship Warspite (1944), the latter commissions including extensive action in the Mediterranean and off Normandy, including his unique order in the annals of Naval gunnery on D-Day, 6 June 1944: ‘Fifty rounds 15-inch rapid fire’
The Most Honourable Order of The Bath, C.B. (Military) Companion’s neck badge, silver-gilt and enamel.

Distinguished Service Cross, G.V.R., hallmarks for London 1920

1914-15 Star officially named to: S. Lt. M. H. A. Kelsey, R.N.

British War and Victory Medals, with M.I.D. oak leaves officially named to: Lieut. M. H. A. Kelsey, R.N.

1939-45 Star; Atlantic Star; Africa Star; Defence and War Medals, with M.I.D. oak leaf; Coronation 1937, unnamed as issued.

Mounted as worn, generally very fine and better 

C.B. London Gazette 10 June 1948.

D.S.C. London Gazette 11 June 1919:
‘For distinguished services whilst in command of a destroyer.’

Marcel Harcourt Attwood Kelsey was born in February 1894 and attended Eastman’s, Winchester prior to entering the Royal Navy as a Naval Cadet in January 1907. Appointed Midshipman in the cruiser Good Hope in September 1911, he was advanced to Sub. Lieutenant in September 1914, while serving in Dryad. Then, in January 1915, he joined the destroyer Defender, in which ship he was present at Dogger Bank before removing to another destroyer, the Obdurate, in April 1916 - on this occasion as a newly promoted Lieutenant and “Jimmy the One”.

A fellow officer in Obdurate later described Kelsey as ‘tall, blond and intrepid’, and ‘a polished product of the new Navy, trained to a strong sense of active duty’ - in point of fact ‘[h]e kept the ship’s company on the hop and, although they groused at times, he soon had them worked up to a fair state of war efficiency’. And this was fortuitous, for the Obdurate had a busy time at Jutland, participating in the 13th Destroyer Flotilla’s attack on German destroyers in the afternoon of 31 May 1916, during which she was hit by a 4.1-inch shell from the Regensburg, in addition to suffering a ‘burst’ 4-inch gun of her own. Nonetheless, she managed to stop and pick up three survivors from the Ardent.

Kelsey removed to the Valentine in November 1917, in which ship he remained actively employed until the War’s end, a period that witnessed at least one action with a U-Boat patrol and, ultimately, the award of his D.S.C.

Advanced to Commander in June 1930 and to Captain in December 1936, he was serving at the Admiralty as Deputy Director of Personnel by the renewal of hostilities. In April 1940, however, he was given command of the cruiser Naiad, in which capacity he would see a great deal of action in the Mediterranean, and serve on the staff of Rear-Admirals Vian and King, in addition to acting at other times as S.N.O. of 15th Cruiser Squadron. Naiad was heavily employed in the operations leading to the evacuation of Greece and Crete in April-May 1941, and took several hits off the latter place on 22 May:

‘The light cruiser Naiad had two turrets put out of action, and near misses caused several of her compartments to be flooded and her speed to be reduced to 17 or 18 knots. In the course of ten minutes there were 36 misses, and during a period of two hours 181 bombs were counted. Only two of her turrets remained in action ... ’

Added to which, she lost 7 men killed and a further 31 wounded. Having then fought an engagement with a French destroyer off Beirut, the Naiad was involved in several further engagements in December 1941, among them the action off Bardia, in which the Barham was lost, and the bombardment of Derna.

In January 1942, Kelsey was appointed Commodore at Freetown, but he returned to sea with command of the battleship Warspite in March 1944, a commission that would witness significant support being lent to the Normandy landings, not least on D-Day itself, when she was one of the very first ships to engage the enemy ashore, her 15-inch broadsides silencing the enemy coastal batteries at Benerville and Villerville - the latter target was treated to no less than 73 rounds of 15-inch, 9 of them resulting in direct hits. A few days later, off the “Gold” area, Kelsey had occasion to issue his famous command: ‘Fifty rounds 15-inch rapid fire’, an ‘order which must be unique in the annals of British naval gunnery’. Unsurprisingly, his target, a large concentration of enemy troops and tanks hidden in woodland, rapidly dispersed! That evening, the Warspite returned to Portsmouth to embark still more ammunition, following which she journeyed to Rosyth to replace her worn guns - this entailing the first passage of the Dover Straits by a capital ship since the famous ‘Channel Dash’ back in 1942. The German batteries on ‘the whole French coast were ablaze with their gun flashes’, luckily, however, without effect.

Back off Brest by late August, Kelsey got his new guns into action on behalf of the Americans, Warspite firing 147 rounds of 15-inch high explosive, and 66 armour-piercing shells, on the 25 alone - she, too, was subjected to heavy fire from enemy batteries, but was only hit by a few shell splinters. In the following month, off Le Havre, she engaged enemy gun positions at her maximum range of 32,000 yards, assisted by our aircraft spotting for her, and wiped out a troublesome 6.7-inch battery. Better still, she lent valuable assistance to the Royal Marines during the subsequent Walcheren operations, but this proved to be the last time her 15-inch guns were fired in anger, and Kelsey came ashore in early 1945 to take up the post of Commodore, Chatham. He had, meanwhile, been Mentioned in Despatches for ‘Neptune’ (London Gazette 28 November 1944 refers).

Advanced to Rear-Admiral in January 1946, and awarded the C.B. in the Birthday Honours List of 1948, he was placed on the Retired List in the rank of Vice-Admiral in the following year. His last post had been as Flag Officer, Malta, where he oversaw the clearing of Valetta Harbour, in addition to boarding operations in connection with immigrant ships trying to run the blockade of Palestine. The Admiral died in 1965.

Product Code: EM3958

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