Gordon Charles Steele was
born in Exeter in 1891.
In 1903, his father,
Captain H. W. Steele, was Captain Superintendent of the Cornwall
moored in the Thames off Purfleet in West Thurrock. The family
lived on board and Gordon attended Palmer's College. On the
outbreak of the Great War he joined the Royal Naval Reserve,
serving on the submarine D8 and later on Q ships (armed merchant
ships disguised to attract u-boats). He served on the Royal Oak
and took part in the Battle of Jutland.
the end of the Worl War, he continued his service on coastal
motor boats and was part of the North Russian Relief Force
assisting the white Russians in the civil war against the
Bolshevik government. He saw action on the 18th August, 1919
when he was second-in-command of H.M. Coastal Motor Boat No. 88.
Commanding Officer was shot through the head and the boat thrown
off her course. Steele took the wheel, steadied the boat, lifted
the commander away from the steering and firing position and
torpedoed the Bolshevik battleship Andrei Pervozanni at a
hundred yards range. He had then a difficult manoeuvre to
perform to get a clear view of the battleship Petropavlovsk,
which was overlapped by the Andrei Pervozanni and obscured by
smoke coming from that ship. The evolution, however, was
skilfully carried out, and the Petropavlovsk torpedoed. This
left him with only just room to turn, in order to regain the
entrance to the harbour, but he effected the movement with
success and firing his machine guns along the wall on his way,
passed under the line of forts through a heavy fire out of the
harbour. For this
conspicuous gallantry, skill and devotion to duty he was awarded
the Victoria Cross. He was part of the VC guard of honour at the
burial of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey 11 Nov 1920.
retired from the Navy in 1957. In 1958, he was the subject of an
episode of the BBC programme, “This is Your Life”, hosted by
Gordon Steele died on 4th January 1981 and lies buried in All
Saints New Cemetery, Winkleigh in Devon.
Gordon Charles Steele VC