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HMS Sikh Ensign (Second World War) Donation by Mr Michael Cole-Hamilton

02 November 2016

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On 26th October Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust received a fascinating new item into our collection. A White Ensign that flew on board HMS Sikh (a Tribal Class Destroyer) during the second Battle of Sirte has been donated by the Cole-Hamilton family.

David Cole-Hamilton who as First Lieutenant serving in HMS Sikh at the time of the battle was presented with the ensign in May 1942. His son Michael and family have made the generous decision to donate the ensign to the Trust as HMS Sikh was a Chatham manned ship and his father, who was based at HMS Pembroke, has his name recorded on the Chatham Naval Memorial.

After the battle David Cole-Hamilton left HMS Sikh at Malta to travel home to take command of his own ship. It was on this journey in June 1942 that he was killed aged just 28 years.

The ensign was returned to his family and hung for many years in his father’s church in Llangattack, Wales in memory of David. It was later displayed on the only surviving Tribal Class Destroyer HMCS Haida in Canada.

During the battle in March 1942 HMS Sikh, and other British ships escorting an important convoy, were attacked by Italian ships. The British used smoke –screens to help hide the convoy and this thick, black smoke also coated the ensign. Damaged and stained from the battle this emotive item has survived to make it to The Historic Dockyard. Our aim is to have the ensign on display to the public as part of our Steam, Steel & Submarines Gallery by 2018.

Images show our collections team preparing the ensign for temporary storage in our collections store. Acid-free materials protect and buffer the ensign before being rolled and covered in conservation grade materials. Storing the ensign rolled will help prevent any strain on its delicate structure and fabric and help keep it crease-free!

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