HMS Kashmir: PMV18 Ordinary Seaman Ian Desmond Rhodes

Accession Number AWM2021.537.1
Collection type Photograph
Object type Print
Place made At sea
Date made c
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945

Item copyright: Copyright expired - public domain

Public Domain Mark This item is in the Public Domain


HMS Kashmir underway. Inscribed by PMV18 Ordinary Seaman Ian Desmond Rhodes. "I won't mark the photo by showing/ you any stations. Defence Stations four/ hours on, four hours off. I'm in that / thing like a big egg cup half way up/ mast. Action stations - there for whole/ of action stern gun obscured by smoke/ but same as two forward ones you/ can see."

Ordinary Seaman PMV18 Ian Desmond Laurie-Rhodes was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal (Geo VI) for action in HMS Kashmir during the Battle of Crete on 23 May 1941. It is the only such medal ever awarded to an Australian sailor.

Laurie-Rhodes was born in Waipana, New Zealand in August 1912 and soon after moved with his family to Australia. He enlisted in the Royal Australian Naval Volunteer Reserve (RANVR) in September 1940, under the name of Rhodes, probably to disguise the fact that he had already tried to enlist in all three services but had been rejected medically unfit due to a stomach ulcer.

Sent to Britain under the Admiralty Yachtsman’s Scheme, Rhodes was posted to the British destroyer HMS Kashmir and was with the ship in May 1941 when it took part in the naval blockade of Crete to prevent the Germans from landing troops on the island. On 23 May, Kashmir, together with HMS Kelly and HMS Kipling, were sailing to Egypt for refuelling when they came under heavy attack by German fighters and bombers. Kashmir suffered a direct hit and was cut in half. While preparing to join the other survivors in the sea, Rhodes saw a German bomber approach and begin to strafe the rear of the ship and struggling sailors in the water. He left the port Oerlikon gun (on which he was the gunlayer) which was sinking as the stern of the ship tilted, climbed to the nearby starboard Oerlikon, and fired on the bomber causing it to crash.

For his courageous and selfless actions during the attack, Rhodes was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal, second only to the Victoria Cross in awards available to seaman. The citation reads, 'For outstanding gallantry, fortitude and resolution during the Battle of Crete. After HMS KASHMIR had been hit amidships by a bomb and was sinking, the afterpart was machine-gunned at short range by a JU.87 bomber. Ordinary Seaman RHODES was gunlayer of the Port Oerlikon which was at that time going under water. In spite of the fact that the ship was sinking rapidly, he climbed up to the Starboard Oerlikon and opened fire on the aircraft, which was hit and crashed a few cables away'.