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Lieutenant (Basil Charles) Godfrey Place (1921–1994), VC, DSC

© the artist's estate. Photo credit: National Maritime Museum

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A three-quarter-length portrait of Place in a blue roll-necked sweater and dark green trousers. In 1942, as a 22-year-old Royal Naval lieutenant, Place commanded the midget submarine X7 which, with three others, was towed by submarine from Scotland to make an attack on the German battleship 'Tirpitz', in Kaa Fjord, northern Norway. This involved travelling at least 1,000 miles from base and negotiating such hazards as a minefield, nets, gun defences and enemy listening posts and only three reached the ‘Tirpitz’. Of these, X5 was spotted and sunk. Only X7 and X6 managed to lay their charges under the enemy's hull before both had to be scuttled and abandoned, during which two more men were drowned. The remainder, including Place, were captured and were on 'Tirpitz' an hour later when their charges exploded, damaging her severely and putting her out of action for months. Place was later transferred to Marlag-O, the German prison camp for naval officers at Westertimke, near Bremen, and in 1944 was awarded the VC for the action. After the war Place was a sea-going commander in surface ships, a senior staff officer in naval aviation and finally Director of Naval Recruitment and training, retiring as a rear-admiral. He was a man of considerable reserve, characterised as 'monosyllabic' by a former NMM staff member who was a fellow-prisoner in Marlag-O. Something of this quality is apparent in the portrait.

National Maritime Museum





oil on canvas


H 76.2 x W 63.5 cm

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