Patrick Noel Humphreys GC (EGM exchanger)

b. 06/02/1913 Sheppey, Kent. d. 26/11/1943 West Malling, Kent.

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 13/05/1937 Almeria, Spain.

Patrick Noel Humphreys (1913-1943) was born on 9th February 1913 in Sheppey, Kent, the third son of Captain Kenneth Noel and Marie Humphreys (nee Conde-Williams). His brother Jock became a Captain in the Royal Marines and sadly also died in World War II when HMS Glorious sank on 8th June 1940. After primary schooling, Patrick entered Dartmouth Naval College at the age of 13 in 1926, and passed out as a Cadet on 1st May 1930.

Patrick N Humphreys
GC Grave

On New Years Day 1931 he was promoted to midshipman, and by July 1931 was serving aboard HMS Kent. He was further promoted to Acting Sub Lieutenant in May 1933. After attending the Royal Naval College at Greenwich from 1933 to 1934, he was posted to HMS Cygnet. By October 1936, he had risen to the rank of Lieutenant and was now serving on HMS Hunter. Shortly afterwards, the Spanish Civil War began to rage, and HMS Hunter was sent to the southern coast of Spain.

On 13th May 1937, off the coast of Almeria, Spain, HMS Hunter was struck by a mine. Pat Humpherys immediately led a rescue party to the stoker petty officers’ and torpedomen’s mess decks. To reach the men on this deck, his party had to jump down 8ft, the ladder having been blown away, into 3ft of fuel oil and on to a deck that might not have been intact. During this time, they remained an imminent risk of falling through the shattered deck into the oil and water below. Moreover, they were under the impression that the ship was about to founder. Their exertions to save life consisted in dragging living and dead men from under wreckage and out of the fuel oil and passing them up on deck. This operation lasted five to ten minutes. The rescued men were in very severe danger from swallowing fuel oil and had they been left they would undoubtedly have died. As well as Humphreys, Petty Officer James Smail and Able Seamen James Collings, Ernest Thomas and Herbert Abrahams were also awarded the EGM. Stoker Petty Officer Peter Perring and Acting Leading Seaman Sidney Bevington also got the EGM for helping keep the ship afloat for as long as possible.

The awards of the Empire Gallantry Medal were confirmed on 12th November 1937, and shortly afterwards, Pat took an Observer’s Course and qualified to fly in Swordfish aircraft on HMS Eagle in 824 Squadron until 1941, though for a period in 1940 he transferred to HMS Illustrious with the crews of six Swordfish for the epic raid on the Italian fleet at Taranto and was mentioned in despatches for the part he played – calmly guiding his pilot John Wellham in Swordfish E5H back to safety after a collision with a barrage balloon. Also that same year it was announced that the George Cross had been created and all living recipients of the EGM could automatically exchange. Humpherys attended his GC investiture on February 7th 1942.

In October 1942, Pat was appointed to form and command the first FAA Night Fighter Squadron No 784 and led many operations from West Mallling, Kent until he was killed in a take off crash at the airfield on 26th November 1943. He was buried in Maidstone Cemetery in Kent with full military honours. His GC and EGM (he didn’t actually hand in or relinquish his EGM) are now owned by Lord Ashcroft following a private sale in 2023. 




PLOT C.C. 1 GRAVE 108.


Kevin Brazier – Humphreys GC Grave and Cemetery Map for Maidstone Cemetery.

Ashcroft Collection website – Image of the Humphreys medal group.