Fleet Air Arm Distinguished Service Cross Group

The Distinguished Service Cross Medal Group

ttandm4h are delighted to have recently acquired this important and rare DSC group.

Palace Letter
A Second World War Fleet Air Arm operations D.S.C. group of five attributed to Lieutenant (A.) D. Levitt, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, a Firefly pilot who was decorated for his part in five strikes against the Tirpitz in July-August 1944: just a few days after being notified of his award, he was killed in action over Palembang in January 1945 – but not before himself shooting down a Japanese Oscar.

Front page

 

Medals are as follows:
Distinguished Service Cross, G.VI.R., hallmarks for London 1945, the reverse officially dated ‘1945’ and privately inscribed, ‘Lt. Dennis Levitt’, in its Garrard & Co. case of issue;
1939-45 Star
Atlantic Star
Burma Star
War Medal 1939-45,
The Arctic Star is obviously not the genuine article and has been recently added to complete the group.

D.S.C. London Gazette 16 January 1944:

‘For undaunted courage, skill and determination in carrying out daring attacks on the German battleship Tirpitz.’

The original recommendation states:

‘This Firefly pilot has taken part in seven sorties of close escort and flak busting, including five strikes against Tirpitz. He has shown great determination and courage in all these attacks, which have been pressed home, and has set an excellent example to other pilot’s in his squadron.’

Dennis Levitt was decorated for the above cited deeds while serving as a Firefly pilot in No. 1770 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm. Commanded by Major V. B. G. Cheeseman, D.S.O., M.B.E., D.S.C., Royal Marines, in the period February 1944 up until the recipient’s death in action in January 1945, the Squadron first carried out a strike against the Tirpitz in Kaa Fjord, Norway, in July 1944, a strike mounted from H.M.S. Indefatigable and the first of five such sorties flown by Levitt, for he also participated in Operations “Goodwood” I, II, III and IV that August, when no less than four attacks of similar nature were mounted. Of these latter operations, John Winton’s book Find, Fix and Strike states:

‘After Tirpitz had made her last trip to sea, for exercises in Alten Fjord with the 4th Destroyer Flotilla on 31 July and 1 August 1944, the Fleet Air Arm launched four more strikes against her, code-named GOODWOOD I, II, III and IV, beginning with the first two on 22 August 1944. Five carriers, Indefatigable, Formidable, Furious, Nabob and Trumpeter took part. The strike and escort consisted of thirty-two Barracudas (of 820, 826, 827, 828 and 830 Squadrons), eleven Fireflies of 1770, eight Seafires of 887, twenty-four Corsairs of 1841 and 1842, and nine Hellcats of 1840. The Barracudas and Corsairs did not reach the target but the Hellcats bombed through holes in the smoke clouds, without getting a hit. Five enemy aircraft were destroyed, for the loss of one Barracuda, one Hellcat and a Seafire. The same evening six Hellcats from Indefatigable escorted by eight Fireflies made a second attack with no hits. While the force was withdrawing that evening, U-354 torpedoed and sank the escort Bickerton and hit Nabob in the stern. Although a thirty-foot hole had been blown in her hull and she was well down by the stern, Nabob returned home safely, even flying off aircraft on the way. Two days later, on the afternoon of the 24th, Indefatigable, Formidable and Furious mounted the heaviest attack of all: seventy-seven aircraft, with thirty-three Barracudas armed each with a 1600lb bomb, ten Hellcats with 500lb bombs, and five Corsairs with 1000lb bombs, escorted by nineteen Corsairs and ten Fireflies. This time they achieved two hits. One, by a 500lb bomb on the top of ‘B’ turret, was unimportant but the other, by a 1600 pounder should have put paid to Tirpitz. It penetrated the main armoured deck and went down through eight decks to lodge deep in the bowels of the ship where it failed to explode. The Germans afterwards found it had less than half its proper amount of explosive. Two Hellcats and four Corsairs were lost. The last strike in the GOODWOOD series was delivered from Formidable and Indefatigable on 29 August. The bombing force was twenty-six Barracudas, two Corsairs and seven Hellcats, escorted by fifteen Corsairs and ten Fireflies. All the bombs were dropped, with several near-misses but no hits. A Corsair and a Firefly were lost.’
In November 1944, the Indefatigable was ordered to the Far East, Levitt and his fellow pilots taking part in in a number of attacks on the oil refineries at Palembang, Sumatra, in the new year, and it was in the course of one such operation on 29 January 1945 that he shot down a Japanese Oscar before he and his observer, Lieutenant J. F. Webb, R.N.Z.N.V.R. (Royal New Zealand Naval Reserve) were in turn shot down.
Please see The Forgotten Fleet, by John Winton, for a full account of these operations and mention of Levitt.

The son of Thomas and Sarah Levitt of Windlestone, Co. Durham, he was 23 years of age. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Lee-on-Solent Memorial, Hampshire; sold with original Admiralty letter of notification for the award of the D.S.C., dated 19 January 1945, mounted on card, together with copied research.

Fleet Air Arm

The Fleet Air A offered protection to convoys crossing the Atlantic, mainly on defensive operations, looking for U Boats ahead of the fleet on the surface, using the Fairey Swordfish. Aircraft such as Grumman Martlet operating over the fleet, looking out for the German Fw 200 Condor. Later on they took on a number of offensive operations and took part in the Channel Dash in February 1942, seeking out the German Battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. In 1944 the FAA undertook offensive operations against the Tirpitz to try and sink her whilst holed up in Norway and trying to prevent her putting to sea and reeking havoc with the Allies convoys!. The had considerable success although she was not sunk, she was badly damaged in Operation Tungsten, and the FAA tried to repeat that success with mass attacks of 60 plus aircraft in August of that year under the heading of Operation Goodwood. It was on this operation that the Fairey Firefly was first used operationally with 1770 Sqn operating from HMS Indefatigable .
One of those pilots who took part was Lt D Levitt, who undertook 5 sorties against the Tirpitz, his job was mainly to supress the flak ships and guns around the Tirpitz with his 20mm cannon. For his actions he was awarded the DSC.
Unfortunately for him, he sailed with the squadron to the Far East and was one of the pilots to take part in the offensive raids on the oil fields around Palembang. He and his observer were unfortunately killed in action and his DSC was gazetted a few days prior to his death so he would never have known. However he did mange to shoot down the first Ki43 Japanese fighter, making it the first claim of an FAA pilot flying the type.

Lt Dennis Levitt DSC FAA
He won the DSC for 5 strikes against the Tirpitz flying the Firefly, they were using it for flak suppression! This was known as operation Goodwood. He then went to the Far East on HMS Indefatigable and took part in three strikes against the oil refineries in Sumatra, this was the first major strikes the FAA had been involved in the Far East. Proving to the Americans they could pack a punch! He claimed 2.5 KI43 fighters before being shot down himself and he and his navigator were never found! Much has been written about these raids.
He sadly never knew he had been awarded the DSC! He was also recommended for MID. He was the Squadron Senior Pilot at the time of his death in 1945.
The Book on the Firefly in the folder, the front cover is Levitt in combat claiming his first Kill! The magazine gives details of the oil refinery raids. The details of the claims and losses against Tirpitz are in the research file along with all his service records, flying training etc.
He is mentioned in a book called Those Other Aces by Chris Shores. Extract in the file. I also have another book here you may want to pick up called Air War in the Far East which details the oil refinery raids in detail.
The map and badges in the lot are added to the group and not his, as is the arctic star. All of the badges and map are exact period items.
His service records were researchable as he was KIA, and an application to the Royal Navy Disclosures section, revealed all of his training details, comments of his instructors etc. His squadron diary was also available from the National Archives.

The Distinguished Service Cross
The award was originally created in 1901 as the Conspicuous Service Cross, for award to warrant and junior officers ineligible for the DSO. It was renamed the Distinguished Service Cross in October 1914, eligibility being extended to all naval officers (commissioned and warrant) below the rank of Lieutenant Commander. In 1931, the award was made available to members of the Merchant Navy and in 1940 eligibility was further extended to non-naval personnel (British Army and Royal Air Force) serving aboard a British vessel. Since the 1993 review of the honours system, as part of the drive to remove distinctions of rank in awards for bravery, the Distinguished Service Medal, formerly the third level decoration for ratings, has been discontinued. The DSC now serves as the third level award for gallantry at sea for all ranks.

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This is a very rare group relating to famous Fleet Air Arm engagements protecting Arctic Convoys against the Turpitz and against Japanese Refineries in the Far East. Much of the research and compilation has been carried out by Mark Hillier or West Sussex.

Mark Hillier has had an interest in aviation since a young lad, in particular aviation in the Second World War. Mark gained his gliding license at the age of 16, going on to become an instructor and then later converting to motor gliders and gaining a PPL. He flies mostly vintage types including the Harvard and Stearman. He has been in the RAF and RAF VR (T) teaching air cadets about aviation subjects. He has written four books on aviation history, all for charity and also writes articles for Britain at War magazine amongst others. He is a keen collector of RAF medals and log books and carries out research on behalf of families or collectors.
The detail obtained from the National Archives makes fascinating reading at the time of the birth of a Squadron. The humour and details comes through strongly.
It is our intention to tell more of the story on the pages at a later date.

This group will go on sale at http://www.medals4heroes.co.uk in the near future but we are happy to negotiate a private sale prior to listing.

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