Captain Frederick H Gething DSC RFA

Captain Fred Gething

Captain Frederick H Gething DSC RFA
kindly donated by his 1st cousin Virginia Shaw

Frederick Hanbury Gething was born on 21 September 1879 in Aberavon, Glamorgan, Wales, and qualified as a 2nd Mate in the Mercantile Marine at Swansea on 25 November 1901, he went on to pass the exam as a 1st Mate on 27 July 1903, before passing his Master’s Certificate in Steamships at Swansea on 24 September 1906 The certificate number ‘003785’ was issued to him at Port Talbot on 1 October 1906.

Master Fred H Gething

Frederick Gething’s Masters Certificate

At this time Gething was serving as Third Officer of the S.S. Don Hugo, a passenger / cargo vessel, and was aboard her when she saved the crew of the shipwrecked Dutch registered S.S. Drague on 8 November 1908, Gething was awarded the Lloyd’s Medal for Saving Life at Sea, he also received the Silver Medal of the South Holland Lifesaving Society for Shipwrecked Mariners. 


Gething Lloyds Life Saving Medal 1908

The Lloyds Medal for Saving Life at Sea awarded to 3rd Officer Gething


South Holland Medal

The Silver Medal of the South Holland Life Saving Society awarded to 3rd Officer Gething

With the outbreak of the Great War, Gething was by then serving as a Master in the Mercantile Marine, and by mid 1917 was in command of the Emergency Wartime Construction LEAF Group Freighting Tanker RFA Elmleaf, previously the RFA Olivet. RFA Elmleaf had been converted into an oil tanker whilst on the stocks in 1916, being brought into the service of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary in March 1917. She was placed under the management of Lane & MacAndrew Ltd of London. 


Paktank Flushing ex Elmleaf

RFA Elmleaf after World War 2 as a fuelling hulk in Holland

She sailed with Gething as Master to Port Arthur, Texas in November 1917 and there loaded a cargo of FFO before sailing for the UK in an escorted convoy. On 24 December 1917 when RFA Elmleaf was 27 miles off Cape Wrath, Scotland that she was torpedoed by the German submarine – U91. Gething’s report takes up the story. ‘Dec.24th,1917, at 7.25 am, vessel was struck by a torpedo or torpedoes on the Port quarter in way of  No.10 Tank, causing a huge flame of fire and vessel to shudder violently for a few seconds. This caused terrible damage to vessel, damaging both steam and tele motor steering gear. I reduced speed and then put vessel into hand steering gear which is relieving tackles connected on to winch on deck, then we proceeded best way possible. At 11 am two trawlers arrived on the scene and I made them fast, one on the port quarter and the other on the starboard bow to assist vessel to steer. Noon fresh NW wind, sea rough and squally weather. 0.45 PM vessel was again attacked by torpedoes on the starboard side in way of No.2 Tank doing terrible damage. During this attack I ordered the boats to be lowered and the sick men put into them and the boats kept alongside ready for use. After I had attended to my various duties, I observed the Chief Officer and 21 men in the boat. I asked him what he was doing there but got no reply, also told him to get out of it and come and do his duty. I afterwards went aft to the steering gear and to my surprise I observed the boat leaving the ship, the chief officer giving orders to cut the painter and push off. I immediately gave orders to the Trawler to return the boat to the ship at once, which they did all excepting 10 men, the remainder returning on arrival at Stornaway. During the second attack the Trawlers got clear of ship. At 4 pm, we made the Tug “Flying Buzzard” fast forward and he commended to assist to steer us into port but he parted his rope and I ordered him to stand off until we got into smoother water. When vessel got under the lea of the land we made the tug fast again and then proceeded slowly. Arrived off Stornaway at mid night, Pilot came on board. We then made the two trawlers fast on both quarters to assist us past the nets and into port arriving there safely at 1.30 am.’ Elmleaf however lost her cargo of oil valued at £24,549, and was so heavily damaged that she no longer saw any further service during the war. Gething was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for this action, the award being published in the London Gazette for 20 April 1918, and he was also awarded the Lloyd’s Medal’s for Meritorious Service in Silver.


Gething DSC Obverse

Captain Frederick H Gething DSC RFA’s Distinguished Service Cross

Gething Lloyds front

Captain Frederick H Gething DSC RFA’s Lloyds Medal for Meritorious Service


Only six awards of the Lloyd’s Medal’s for Meritorious Service in Silver were made during the Great War to members of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. 


Images of Captain Gething’s medal used with the consent of Wellington Auctions