Militaria Auction - Jolly Roger for sale

Published: 09/05/2022

A unique Jolly Roger flag made by submariners on the legendary HMS Unbroken during the Second World War is to go under the hammer at the Militaria Auction – 14 May at The Tank Museum, hosted by Duke’s Auctioneers

The auction is being hosted at The Tank Museum, but the lots have all been sourced by Duke’s.

The Jolly Roger flag has been consigned by the family of Petty Officer Fred Sharp DSM, who served on the boat.

The tradition of creating Jolly Roger flags on submarines began in WWI after First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Arthur Wilson claimed the vessels were ‘underhanded, unfair and damned un-English’. He added that the crews ought to be hanged as pirates.

The Jolly Roger flag made on HMS Unbroken in WWII that is going under the hammer at a Duke's sale to be held at The Tank Museum in Bovington, Dorset.
The Jolly Roger flag made on HMS Unbroken in WWII that is going under the hammer at a Duke's sale to be held at The Tank Museum in Bovington, Dorset.

The tradition continued in WWII and now these flags are incredibly rare with the one on sale offered with an estimate of up to £10,000.

The sailors added stars, canons and bars relating to the number of ships they’d sunk, and daggers showing how many ‘cloak and dagger’ operations they had completed. Interpreting the flag shows that HMS Unbroken sank four merchant ships with the deck gun as well as sending ten others and two warships to the seabed.

She also completed four ‘cloak and dagger’ operations which included dropping off Captain Peter Churchill DSO in Antibes, France, in 1941.

He returned that evening with a French resistance leader, Francois d’Astier de La Vigerie – codename ‘Bernard’ – who was then taken to England. ‘Bernard’ went on to support General Eisenhower in preparations for the invasion of France.

Julian Smith, the militaria expert at Duke’s of Dorchester, said: “This is an astonishing relic of the war that has come direct from the family who live in Weymouth.

“The sale also includes a book about the history of HMS Unbroken written by her captain, Lt Cdr Mars, which he dedicated to Petty Officer Sharp.

“There will be a lot of interest in this flag and we’d love it to go to a museum.”

Gordon Sharp, Fred’s grandson, said: “My grandfather didn’t really talk about the war and it was only around 15 years ago after he died that we found out what he had done.

“He was the one who actually made the Jolly Roger flag, which was the reason he got to keep it. He just used bits of material on board to create it.

“After the war he ran a pub in the Wyke Regis area of Weymouth, which was fittingly called The Mermaid.

“He was a man who enjoyed socialising, loved a whisky and his family was extremely important to him.

“We now feel the time is right to sell these items and hope perhaps it might be bought by a museum.”

A book 'unbroken'.
The book 'Unbroken, the story of a submarine' dedicated to Petty Officer Sharp by the author and sub's captain, which is to go under the hammer at The Tank Museum in a Duke's of Dorchester sale. The photos include one with the crew holding a Jolly Roger flag that is also up for auction.

The sale also includes other superb lots including a DSO group of medals that belonged to Lt Col Henry Pleydell-Railston of the 1st Rifle Brigade.

His heroic actions at Hannebeck in May 1915 were immortalised in the book ‘Deeds that Thrill the Empire.’

Also under the hammer is the collection of the late Lance Corporal Dennis Jones, which includes a variety of helmets, uniforms, bayonets, headdresses, a military Land Rover and a B31 motorbike.

The collection also includes a ‘Green Goddess’, a military fire engine in impeccable condition.

Rosanna Dean, Visitor Experience General Manager from The Tank Museum said: “We’re pleased to be hosting our second militaria auction with Duke’s, who are offering a unique set of items for a military enthusiast audience.

“As with our exhibits it is the stories that surround the items that fascinate and intrigue us – and they remind us of the heroism and sacrifice of those who served.”

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