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Lieutenant Commander David Edward Balme DSC...

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  • Lieutenant Commander David Edward Balme DSC...

    Written by Christina Boody on Facebook

    David Edward Balme was born in Kensington, London, on October 1, 1920. At the age of 13, he entered Dartmouth Naval College, and went on to have a varied and impressive naval career.

    He served as a midshipman on the cruisers London and Shropshire in the Mediterranean during the Spanish Civil War. In June 1939, just a few months before the start of WWII, he was assigned to the destroyer HMS Ivanhoe. In early 1940 he underwent training to become a sub-lieutenant and was then appointed as sub-lieutenant of the gunroom on the cruiser HMS Berwick, serving in the Mediterranean and Atlantic. He took part in the Battle of Cape Spartivento on November 27, 1940, and in driving off the German heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper while escorting Convoy WS-5A off the Canaries on December 25. The Berwick had been badly damaged during the engagement with Admiral Hipper, and when she returned to Plymouth for repairs David was appointed to the HMS Bulldog as her navigator. While serving aboard her he took part in several trans-Atlantic convoys, and in the occupation of Iceland. He also took part in another event while serving aboard the Bulldog: the capture of the Enigma machine.

    On May 9, 1941, German U-Boat U-110 had been caught in a depth charge attack while torpedoing ships in Allied Convoy OB318. The U-Boat was blown to the surface and came under fire from the convoy's escort, including the Bulldog, and was quickly abandoned by it's crew, who believed it was sinking. The sub remained afloat though, and David Balme led the boarding party that boarded the U-Boat to collect anything of value that might be found in the submarine. Onboard, telegraphist Alan Long made a discovery in the wireless telegraph office: “a funny sort of instrument, Sir, it looks like a typewriter but when you press the keys something else comes up on it”. David recognized this as some sort of coding machine, which he ordered to be unscrewed and removed, along with other equipment, charts and documents. It would prove to be a most valuable discovery, both the machine and a number of the documents collected, and David would be awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his part in what would come to be known as Operation Primrose, although due to the need for secrecy his citation did not directly mention the operation.

    David Balme would go on to become an observer in the Fleet Air Arm, serving as senior observer of 826 Naval Air Squadron in the Mediterranean until February 1943. Next he qualified as a fighter direction officer (FDO) and was assigned to the battle cruiser HMS Renown. One of David's last appointments was as staff FDO in the British Eastern Fleet, aboard the HMS Queen Elizabeth, when with acting rank he became the youngest lieutenant commander in the fleet. He also spent a month on the escort carrier HMS Empress directing her aircraft on photo-reconnaissance missions over Malaya in April 1945.

    Following the war David joined his family’s wool-brokers business. He married his wife Susan in 1947 and they raised two sons and a daughter. He enjoyed hunting with the New Forest Hounds club and was also a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron.

    Lieutenant Commander David Balme passed away yesterday, January 3, 2016 at the age of 95.

    The long toll of the brave
    Is not lost in darkness
    Over the fruitful earth
    And athwart the seas
    Hath passed the light of noble deeds
    Unquenchable forever.

  • #2
    One of the blokes in the Bulldog boarding party is from my hometown here in North Shields,there's a good photo and write up in one of the pubs.
    I'm afraid I can't remember his name just now though.

    As for Lt Cdr Balme,what can I say?


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