Petty Officer Sephton wins the Victoria Cross

The Anti-Aircraft guns on a Royal Navy warship

The war in Mediterranean sea around Crete was suddenly hotting up, with the Luftwaffe making constant attacks on British shipping:

On 18th May while on patrol in company with Rear Admiral (D) in “Phoebe”, an S.O.S. was received from Hospital Ship “Aba” who reported being bombed in a position South East of Crete. “Coventry” in company with “Phoebe” proceeded to her assistance arriving at about 1745. Shortly after the “Aba” was sighted, a large group of Ju.87s approached the ships. These aircraft attacked “Aba” “Phoebe” and “Coventry” independently. “Coventry” engaged several targets in turn, both directors operating independently.

Alfred Edward Sephton was a Petty Officer on HMS Coventry when he won the V.C.

Petty Officer Sephton was in ‘B’ director as layer. The first direct attack on “Coventry” came from astern when a Ju.87 carried out a steep dive bombing attack, spraying the ship with machine fire. One bomb was dropped which fell close on the Port quarter, but no damage to the ship was done. As a result of the machine gunning however, Petty Officer Sephton was fatally wounded by a bullet which penetrated the director, passed though his body, and wounded A.B. Fisher who was communication number in the director.

Sephton reported to the Control Officer that he had been hit but could carry on. He continued to carry out his duties admirably, although obviously in great pain. Sephton knew that owing to the cramped space in the director and the difficulty of access he could not be relieved until the end of the action. His heroism in carrying on under these conditions set a magnificent example to A.B. Fisher who was also able to carry on, thus maintaining the efficiency of the director.

After about ten minutes at the end of the attack, Sephton was relieved. He refused any assistance, climbed out of the director, but collapsed on the deck below. He died next day as a result of the extensive internal injuries sustained during the action.

It is considered that Petty Officer Sephton’s heroism in carrying on, and his fine example to Fisher may well have saved “Coventry” and “Aba” who were both attacked after Sephton had been wounded, the attacking aircraft being effectively repelled by “Coventry’s” gunfire.

From the original recommendation for an award, submitted by Captain Carne see TNA ADM 1/11502

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

John jefford February 16, 2014 at 11:40 am

My father was a male nurse on the ABA and spoke about the attack on the ship and how the Coventry & Phoebe came to there rescue and the extreme bravery of petty officer sephton, on my fathers 80th birthday he was invited to the HMS Coventry reunion in Coventry i was also invited this took place over two days including a service in Coventry cathedral , my father was given a Coventry blazer badge tie and a copy of a painting depicting the action involving the three ships which he treasured to his death 2000, I still have the copy and every time I look at it it reminds me of the bravery of all concerned .

Danielle Breakwell May 21, 2013 at 12:39 pm

Thank you for this information. This has helped me present something to my Cadets as been as most of them did not know what you had to do to get the Victoria Cross this has helped me tell them how brave and loyal the people were to their country to get one. Petty Officer Sephton seems like a very heroic man and I am proud to say that he was in the Royal Navy and he stayed at his post while in great pain.

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