OLPHERT, Wybrants

Display Number:  1608  
Name:  Olphert  Wybrants
Rank:  Lieutenant Commander (Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve) Service Number:  
Date Joined:  1902 (Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve) Date Discharged:  7th January 1938 (discharged dead)

Wybrants Olphert had an illustrious career in the Navy. He joined the New Zealand Shipping Company in 1895 and then the Royal Naval Reserve - in the United Kingdom - in 1902. Because of his merchant maritime experience he was granted a commission. With the outbreak of the First World War he was called to duty and served on armed yachts in British Waters. He was given command of HMS Scadaun where, on the 21st June 1915, he encountered and sank a German U-Boat for which he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. He then commanded a Q-Ship - an armed ship that disguised itself as an unarmed merchant ship - HMS Salvia, where he encountered and sank three U-Boats. For this he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and Bar (a Bar indicates the medal is awarded twice). Unfortunately, while sinking the third U-Boat in June 1917, his craft was also sunk and, rescued by the Germans, he spent the rest of the war in captivity. It has been commented - unfortunately unsubstantiated - that he was recommended for the Victoria Cross as a result of his deeds. After the end of the First World War, having married a New Zealand woman, he settled permanently in the country taking up a career as a merchant captain. He was instrumental in reviving the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve in Wellington, being appointed to command that regional division in 1928. Wybrants Olphert died in 1938 and the Wellington Division of the Royal New Zealand Volunteer Reserve was commissioned as HMNZS Olphert in 1950 to mark his memory. 


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Medal Description (Left to Right):  
  • Companion of the Distinguished Service Order - Was instituted in 1886 to recognise acts of gallantry by military officers for which a Victoria Cross was not considered appropriate.
  • Distinguished Service Cross - Awarded to junior naval officers and senior naval ratings for courage and devotion to duty on active service.
  • 1914-15 Star - Awarded to servicemen and servicewomen who served between 5 August 1914 and 31 December 1915 in any "theatre of war", provided they had not qualified for the 1914 Star. Those eligible for the medal must have 'served on the establishment of a unit in a theatre of war' during the relevant dates of operations in that area. This included service in Gallipoli (25 April 1915 - 31 December 1915), Egypt (5 November 1914 - 31 December 1915) and service during the capture of German Samoa on 29 August 1914.
  • British War Medal - Recognises the successful conclusion of the First World War. Its coverage was later extended to recognise service until 1920, recognising mine clearing operations at sea, and participation in operations in North and South Russia, the eastern Baltic, Siberia, the Black Sea and the Caspian.
  • Victory Medal (Mentioned In Despatches) - Was issued to all those who had already qualified for the 1914 Star or the 1914-15 Star, and to most persons who had already qualified for the British War Medal. It was awarded to all New Zealand troops serving overseas, except for those who arrived in Samoa after 30 August 1914 and those serving in Great Britain only. It is also sometimes referred to as the "Allied War Medal", because the same basic design and double rainbow ribbon were adopted by 13 other allied nations. The bronze oak leaf insignia recognises that they were Mentioned in Despatches.
  • The Silver Jubilee Medal 1935 - This silver medal was issued to celebrate the silver jubilee of King George V (1911 - 1935).
  • Coronation Medal 1937 - Issued to celebrate the Coronation of King George VI in 1937.
  • Royal Naval Reserve Decoration - Granted for 15 years commissioned service (sub lieutenant and above) in the Royal Naval Reserve, active service in wartime counting double.