Dawsons Presents The Captain Ralph Kerr Medal Group

Captain Ralph Kerr's legacy is indelibly linked to one of the most significant naval battles of WWII


Dawsons is proud to be taking to auction an esteemed collection of medals, featuring those awarded to Captain Ralph Kerr, who was in command of battlecruiser HMS Hood. The British battlecruiser was sunk after a ferocious and brief exchange of gunfire with German battleship Bismarck, with the loss of almost every member of its crew (including Captain Ralph Kerr) … Only 3 survived out of 1,418 souls.  


An esteemed collection of medals with papers, featuring those awarded to Captain Ralph Kerr 


Captain Ralph Kerr's legacy is indelibly linked to one of the most significant naval battles of World War II. The Battle of the Denmark Strait took place on 24th May 1941 – poignantly, almost 83 years to the day of the upcoming auction. The medals offered for sale, estimated between £3,000-£5,000, bear witness to his unwavering courage and service to the Royal Navy, his country, and his King.


Sir Oswald Birley (1880-1952), Portrait of Captain Ralph Kerr

Sir Oswald Birley (1880-1952), Portrait of Captain Ralph Kerr

Estimate £2,000-£3,000


The medal collection includes numerous honours bestowed upon Captain Kerr throughout his illustrious career, from his early days as a cadet in the Royal Navy to his command of HMS Hood. Alongside the impressive Medal Group, a ceremonial naval sword, and a depiction of HMS Hood at port in Valetta, is a portrait by renowned artist Oswald Birley, capturing Captain Kerr's likeness with striking detail.


A depiction of HMS Hood at port in Valetta 


Reflecting on his grandfather's legacy, a family member shared, "I never knew my grandfather, but the details of his face are etched on my mind... My mother always said it was a very good likeness, apart from the hands which just didn’t do his hands justice."



Born in Gloucestershire during the Victorian era, Captain Ralph Kerr joined the Royal Navy at the tender age of 13. His journey led him through the trials of the First World War, where he distinguished himself at the Battle of Jutland in 1916. Subsequently, he assumed command of HMS Cossack in 1918, marking the beginning of an illustrious naval career.


The tale of Captain Kerr's life is one of daring escapades and remarkable resilience. Notably, his leadership aboard destroyers, including several flotillas stationed in the Mediterranean, earned him widespread admiration. An incident in which he was mistakenly reported drowned, only to prove otherwise, speaks volumes of his character and resolve.


Captain Ralph Kerr's ceremonial naval sword 


In early 1941, Captain Kerr's appointment to be in command of HMS Hood surprised many, given his background in destroyer operations. Tragically, his tenure aboard Britain’s one-time largest and most powerful warship was short-lived. HMS Hood was scheduled to undergo a major rebuild in 1941 to keep up with advances in naval gunnery, but this was not possible due to the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. Thus, before any upgrades were possible, the once “Mighty Hood” met its fateful end in the Straits of Denmark at the hands of the fabled German warship Bismarck.

As we approach the 83rd anniversary of the sinking of HMS Hood, the timing of this auction will almost certainly rouse emotion with collectors and naval enthusiasts alike, serendipitously aligned as it is, with this historic milestone.


Browse the full collection now >


The team at Dawsons very much look forward to welcoming you all to what promises to be a momentous auction. Bidders from around the world are invited to join this live online sale on: 

Thursday 30th May at 9.30am BST


We would be delighted to hear from interested parties. For more information, please contact:

info@dawsonsauctions.co.uk / +44 (0)207 431 9445