GC Diary 22nd September
By victoriagreen068, Sep 22 2016 04:55AM
The George Cross Diary for 22nd September contains the stories of three recipients of the George Cross, one an ARP Warden who sacrificed himself during a bomb disposal incident in Essex, one an Albert Medallist who saved fellow seaman’s lives in the English Channel, and the brother of a Victoria Cross recipient whose undercover work in Burma led to being executed by the Japanese and the award of a George Cross.
Leonard James Miles GC was born in West Ham, London on 22nd January 1904, the son of John Ruston Miles and his wife Elizabeth (nee Jopnathan). His father was a journeyman gas meter maker at the time of Leonard’s birth. The family lived in Upton Park. Leonard married Constance Louis Bartley and they had a son, Colin Roston Miles. Leonard became a painter and decorator by trade, and when World War II broke out, Leonard signed up for the ARP.
On the night of 21st-22nd September 1940, in Ilford, Essex, he was on duty when he was warned of the imminent danger of an explosion nearby. He could have taken to the public shelter only a few yards away, but instead his sense of duty forced him to run towards the scene to warn members of the public he knew to be in their houses. He had succeeded in warning some of the residents when the explosion occurred, inflicting serious injuries that would prove fatal. While lying awaiting the ambulance, he continued to instruct his colleagues to help others.
He was taken to the King George Hospital, London but died about 24 hours later. He was cremated on 26 September 1940, and his ashes were scattered in the City of London Cemetery on the same day. His medal is held by the Worshipful Company of Skinners.
John Edward Gibbons AM/GC, DSC was born on 26th April 1905 in Burnham, Buckinghamshire. He attended the Quaker School in Sidcot. He married twice, secondly to Maria Nimmo from the island of Ischia whom he met while in command there from 27th October 1943 to 27th February 1945. He had in all six children over the two marriages.
During the Second World War, Gibbons was a Temporary Lieutenant with the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve when on 22nd September 1941 he was in command of a Motor Launch in the English Channel when it struck a mine. He was wounded in the head and thrown overboard into the sea. Despite this, when he was rescued he went at once to save others. He saw a seaman some 100 yards away in the water, and swam to him through burning fuel. His gallant actions saved the seaman's life.
Gibbons was awarded the Albert Medal for Lifesaving and was later awarded the Distinguished Service Cross in 1943. After the War he was involved in salvage operations in the Mediterranean. He moved with his family to South Africa in 1954 where he practised as an irrigation engineer. Gibbons died on 12th November 1971 in Johannesburg, South Africa, just 23 days after the announcement of the Albert Medal/George Cross exchange. Therefore, he was missed off the list of exchange awards. In September 1982, following efforts from Anthony Staunton, the omission was corrected and Gibbons was added to the list of recipients. His family declined the exchange. Gibbons was cremated and his widow scattered his ashes at sea off Ischia. His Albert Medal sadly was stolen and hasn’t been recovered.
Hugh Paul Seagrim GC, DSO, MBE was born on 24th March 1909 in The Vicarage, Ashmansworth, Hampshire, the son of Reverend Charles Paulet Conyngham Seagrim and Annabel Emma Halstead Seagrim (nee Skipper). He had four elder brothers, Charles, Cyril, Derek and Jack. Derek was also killed in action during World War II and was awarded the Victoria Cross in March 1943. Therefore the Seagrim brothers are the only brothers to be awarded the VC/GC combination to date.
Hugh attended Norwich Grammar School as a boarder and then King Edward VI School, Norwich along with his brothers Jack and Derek. All the brothers were gifted sportsmen, football being the forte of Hugh, playing goalkeeper for Norwich City Reserves. He then went to Sandhurst and was commissioned on 31st January 1929 becoming a Lieutenant on 30th April 1931.
Hugh was then appointed to the 5th/6th Rajputana Rifles on 9th August 1931 and transferred to the Kumaon Rifles on 1st April 1937. He was promoted to Captain and became attached to the Burma Rifles in 1940-41. He returned to Staff College in 1941 then returned to the Burma Rifles during the retreat from Burma.
When the Japanese invaded Burma, he was given the task of raising irregular guerrilla forces from the Karens and other groups. The British were driven from Burma by May, 1942, and Seagrim and his force were isolated for a long time. Eventually, Force 136 dropped agents and wireless operators who made contact with his guerrillas in October, 1943.
He was 35 years old and serving in the 19th Hyderabad Regiment (now the Kumaon Regiment), Indian Army. He was the leader of a group known as Force136, which included two other British officers and a Karen officer. They were operating in the Karen Hills. Towards the end of 1943 the presence of this group became known to the Japanese, who commenced a widespread campaign of arrests and torture in order to discover their whereabouts. In February 1944 the British officers (Nimmo and McCrindle) were ambushed and killed. The capture of their equipment furnished the enemy with the information they required about Seagrim's activities and they redoubled their efforts to capture him. The Japanese arrested at least 270 Karens, many of whom were tortured and killed. In spite of this the Karens continued to help and shelter Seagrim, but the enemy managed to convey a message that if he surrendered, they would cease reprisals. Seagrim gave himself up on 15th March 1944. He was taken to Rangoon, along with other members of the group, and on 2nd September, he was sentenced to death, along with 8 others. On 22nd September 1944, he was executed and posthumously awarded the MBE, DSO and GC.
He was buried in Rangoon War Cemetery, Burma and his medals are now on display with his brother Derek’s at the Lord Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum, London.