Charles Montagu Dammers

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Cdr. Charles M. Dammers, 1915.
Photo provided courtesy of and © Bob Marlowe.

Commander Charles Montagu Dammers, D.S.O., Royal Navy (3 May, 1878 – 16 October, 1956) was an officer of the Royal Navy. His naval career was unusual. Beguiled by the chance to prospect for gold in Argentina, he deserted the service in 1904. Though he was removed from the Navy List in consequence, he nonetheless returned ten years later to deliver distinguished service in the war for which he was awarded a D.S.O.!

Life & Career

Dammers was born in Symondsbury, Dorset, the son of engineer A. W. Dammers.

After a year's service in destroyers Starfish and Violet and the training brig Martin, Dammers was promoted to Lieutenant on 30 June, 1900.

Dammers was appointed to the torpedo cruiser Tartar for navigating duties on 20 June, 1903 and she ventured to the South Atlantic.

On or around 29 June, 1904, Dammers was found to be missing from a port call at Buenos Aires. He had left a letter for Captain Ralph Hudleston, which said that "he would be hundreds of miles away before the letter reached him[Hudleston]", and forwarding an official application to resign his [Dammers's] commission.[1]

A telegram with the news was sent from Montevideo on 4 July. Custom was apparently to allow six months' time to elapse in case unlikely circumstances were to blame, but he was decreed a deserter on 29 December, and his name was removed from the Navy List. "Papers as to desertion" are mentioned in his Service Record, but it is also noted that "no further action to be taken." Why this was is apparent from his other Service Record. A Commodore reported to the Admiralty that he had "heard" that Dammers was "gold prospecting in Argentina in company with a well-known Austrian". The Commodore asked for instructions before taking action. The Admiralty's response was that "in light of the publicity the affair would receive in Argentina, he is to let the matter rest."[2]

Normally, a member of the navigating branch has difficulty truly distinguishing himself, but Dammers took this as a challenge and really drove his effort home!

Great War

It is not clear whether anything more was heard from Dammers until he applied to return to duty on 26 August, 1914 after the war had broken out. He seemingly did so from the somewhere in South Atlantic, as Captain John Luce of the light cruiser H.M.S. Glasgow was authorized to embark Dammers as a Lieutenant on the Emergency List, to be added to the ship's complement, additional, and welcome to the rank for the duration of the war, communicating this in a telegram dated 4 September.

At some point, it was deemed fit that Dammers should be promoted to Lieutenant-Commander (emergency list), with a seniority of 30 June, 1908. He had apparently lost no seniority whatsoever despite his standing as a nominal deserter. He must have talked a good game.

Dammers found himself back in Britain, and was sent to Harwich on 21 October to work in minesweeping. He kept at this appointment diligently through 18 March 1918, when he moved to another minesweeping post, perhaps pertaining to instruction and perhaps in the Mediterranean (very hard to read), having the acting rank of Commander for this work. On 23 January, 1919 his work was re-classified as Assistant Mine Clearance Officer, and for [illeg] and instructional duties on the books of Europa.[3]

Dammers was promoted to Commander (emergency list) on 11 August, 1919.

Dammers had had appendicitis in late November 1917, being treated at Shotley Hospital. In December 1919, he was diagnosed with an intestinal disease. He was removed from the Emergency List as unfit on 6 January, 1920.


Dammers was awarded a D.S.O. in recognition of his services in minesweeping between 1 July and 31 December, 1918. He had apparently relocated to America, as his award was forwarded through the Foreign Office to the ambassador in Washington. Dammers acknowledged he had received the award on 23 February, 1921.

Dammers died in 1956 at age 78 in California, where he is buried in Riverside. A rather remarkable photo of Dammers dated 1915 is reproduced on his tombstone, which further labels him as "Riverside California's Butterfly Man".[4]

See Also



  1. Dammers Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/142/38. f. 39.
  2. Dammers Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/142/38. f. 39.
  3. Dammers Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/142/38. f. 39.