Distinguished Service Medal awarded to Acting Able Seaman W. Kelly, Royal Navy

London Medal Company Distinguished Service Medal a.

A fine and scarce Second World War escort aircraft carrier crewman's Distinguished Service Medal awarded to Acting Able Seaman W. Kelly, Royal Navy, who was decorated for his distinguished services aboard the carrier H.M.S. Stalker, which covered Operation Avalanche - the Salerno landings, followed by Operation Dragoon - the invasion of southern France, saw Aegean sea operations, and formed part of the force which reoccupied Singapore harbour in September 1945.

William Kelly served during the Second World War as an Acting Able Seaman (No.Devonport/JX.257109) with the Royal Navy. A regular rating, who had signed on for long service, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal in the London Gazette for 1st January 1946, in respect of his distinguished service aboard the escort aircraft carrier H.M.S. Stalker.

H.M.S. Stalker was originally a C3-S-A2 type freighter, built by Western Pipe & Steel, of San Francisco, California, and was launched on 5th March 1942, being purchased by the US Navy to be the USS Hamlin AVG-15, later changed to ACV on 15th August 1942, and then delivered to the US Navy on 21st September 1942. However it had been whilst she was under construction that it was decided to transfer her to the Admiralty on completion, and as such she was commissioned into the Royal Navy as the escort aircraft carrier H.M.S. Stalker (D91) on 7th October 1942, under the command of Captain H.S. Murray-Smith, Royal Navy.

Stalker was posted to the Mediterranean, and on 1st September 1943 became part of Force V, the covering force for allied invasion of Italy at Salerno, and titled Operation 'Avalanche' which saw operations between 9th to 12th September 1943, with Stalker operating in company with the assault CVEs Attacker, Hunter and Battler and the maintenance carrier Unicorn. Once the operation was over and the fighter aircraft had been transferred to land bases, Force V retired by way of Palermo to the United Kingdom, and was disbanded.

Between 15th to 27th August 1944, Stalker next formed part of Task Group 88 together with eight other escort aircraft carrier's, forming the covering force for the allied invasion of Southern France, codenamed Operation 'Dragoon'. Stalker had embarked 800 Squadron with 23 Hellcat Is, and one Walrus of 700 Squadron for Air Sea Rescue duties. Following the successful landings in southern France, Stalker was then involved in operations in the Aegean Sea from 25th September to 20th October 1944, conducting anti-shipping and anti-troop movement airstrikes on rail links and other lines of communication on the islands of the Aegean, but in November 1944 Stalker returned to the United Kingdom for a refit and to prepare for her next assignment in the Far East.

Stalker then sailed for Ceylon, going via the Suez Canal she embarked 809 Squadron from RNAS Dejheila in Egypt, 809 having previously operated from Stalker in the Aegean and was equipped with Seafire aircraft, and then arrived at Trincomalee on 20th March 1945, joining the 21st Aircraft Carrier Squadron, within the recently formed East Indies Fleet.

Stalker then formed part of the force of six escort aircraft carrier's sent to reoccupy Singapore, being of four of these vessels which actually entered Singapore harbour on 10th September 1945. Shortly afterwards Stalker sailed back to the United Kingdom, disembarking 809 Squadron at RNAS Nutts Corner in Northern Ireland, and after sailing across the Atlantic, she was then decommissioned from the Royal Navy on 29th December 1945 at Norfolk, Virginia, and was returned to the United States Navy, being then scrapped in Alabama on 18th December 1946.

13 June 2017