Gordon Charles Steele VC
An Old Palmerian who was awarded the Victoria Cross

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.

After 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.

The 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.

He 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 Eamonn Andrews.

Gordon Steele died on 4th January 1981 and lies buried in All Saints New Cemetery, Winkleigh in Devon.

Gordon Charles Steele VC