A ‘Volturno Disaster’ Sea Gallantry Medal to Able Seaman E.D. Cunningham, S.S. Devonian Sea Gallantry Medal, G.V.R., silver, chisel engraved Edward Donald Cunningham. “Volturno.” 9th. October 1913.), pawn-broker’s mark to obverse field, otherwise extremely fine, in fitted case of issue, with accompanying paperwork, including a copy of a hand written letter detailing the Volturno disaster and aftermath, as well as the award sheet for those medals presented.
Able Seaman Edward Donald Cunningham, born Mauritius, April 1879; served in the S.S. Devonian; for his gallantry during the rescue of the passengers and crew of the S.S. Volturno was awarded the Sea Gallantry Medal together with a gratuity of £3; and the Liverpool Shipwreck and Humane Society Bronze Medal; presented with his Sea Gallantry Medal by H.M. the King at Buckingham Palace, 17.12.1914; subsequently served in the S.S. Melita, and Mercian; died 1927.
The Volturno Disaster
The S.S. Volturno, a British steamer, chartered by the Uranium Steamship Company, of Rotterdam, and bound for New York, was engulfed by fire in mid-Atlantic during a heavy gale on the night of the 9th-10th October, 1913. Of the 657 on board, of whom 561 were passengers, being for the most part Polish, Romanian, and Serbian emigrants, 521 were saved by a fleet of eleven steamers (including 39 by the Devonian) that sped to her aid following an SOS distress call. Heavy seas interfered with the launching of boats, but the difficulty was eventually overcome by the use of oil; those who perished were mostly lost in the boats. The hull of the Volturno was eventually found by a Dutch steamer and scuttled as a dangerous derelict. 103 passengers and 30 crew lost their lives in the disaster.Numerous awards were made for this famous rescue, including 78 Sea Gallantry Medals in Silver to crew members of the six British vessels, of which 18 were awarded to the Officers and Men of the Devonian. In addition, the Board of Trade also awarded 152 silver Sea Gallantry Medals (Foreign Services) to the crews serving on foreign vessels at the rescue.