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VC/GC Diary

Welcome to the Victoria Cross and George Cross Diaries


Here we add daily diary entries on the anniversaries of when the Victoria Crosses and George Crosses were awarded.

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.

By victoriagreen068, Sep 21 2016 05:04AM

The George Cross Diary for 21st September contains no fewer than five different recipients of the George Cross or one of its previous incarnations, including two men who were involved in the same incident of bomb disposal, and the diary begins with a young Welsh miner who was involved in an industrial accident in the South Wales collieries.

Thomas Derwydd Thomas EM/GC was born on 30th June 1912, possibly on the family farm which was called Derwydd Farm in Garnant. He went to the local school until the age of 13 when he decided to go down the mines. He married Margaret Davies and they had a daughter, Mair.

On 21st September 1933, he was working at Brynamman Colliery when there was an inrush of water at the pit. Thomas was working underground at the time. At great personal risk, he assisted a youth who had lost his lamp and was unable, in the darkness and water, to make his way to safety. They both reached a place where several others had gathered. The miners then divided into two groups, one group seeking a way out via an airway and the other via a roadway that was flooded and obstructed by a mass of timber and rails washed down by the water. Thomas took up the rear in the roadway group, which succeeded in reaching safety; he then returned, at considerable peril to himself, to find the other group, which then escaped by the same route. Thomas was the last to leave the pit.

Thomas was awarded the EM (6th February 1934) and returned to the mines following his actions. He would exchange his EM for a GC in 1971. He donated his Edward Medal to the National Museum, Cardiff. He died on 19th July 1984 in Carmarthen and is believed to be buried in the town. His GC is privately held.

John Macmillan Stevenson Patton GC, CBE was born in Warwick, Bermuda on 29th August 1915, the son of John Macmillan Stevenson Patton and his American wife, Katie (nee Studivant) who hailed from Mississippi. When John was just four, his father died of TB, aged just 40, and his mother remarried to Colonel Colin Osborne, who hailed from Ontario, Canada and he moved the family there.

John was educated at Trinity College School and Westdale Collegiate Institute, before beginning studying Chemical Engineering at Queen’s University, Kingston. There he met his first wife Mary Robertson Teskey and they married on 6th April 1940.

While at university, John became an active member of the COTC (Canadian Officer Training Corps). Despite being raised in Canada, he held British and Bermudian citizenship. He and his wife who he called Molly, had four sons, John, Alexander, George and Timothy and two daughters, Julia and Mary. He would later marry a second time to Ann Byrd and acquire two step-children.

At the outbreak of WWII his attempts to enlist failed due to a hammer toe, which he had cut off, and when it had healed, re-applied to the Corps of Royal Canadian Engineers. He was posted to England where he was based with “A” Company, 1 Canadian Pioneer Battalion, at Weybridge, Surrey.

On 21st September 1940, when, despite having no training in delayed action bombs, he volunteered to move to a safe distance an unexploded bomb that had been found in the Hawker Aircraft Factory. Having analysed the situation and studied the bomb, he sent for a truck and a length of cable, and then called for more volunteers. Four members of the Home Guard, Sergeant Tillyard-Burrows, WJ Avery, EA Maslyn and C Chaplain, came forward to help Patton roll the bomb on to a piece of corrugated iron, secure it with cable and attach it to the truck. With Patton sitting on the back of the truck taking care of the bomb, Captain Cunnington drove the truck to a bomb crater, where it exploded a few hours later. The Home Guard men were each awarded the BEM and Cunnington was awarded the George Medal.

Patton’s GC was announced on 13th December 1940, and later in the War he became involved in the Canadian Petroleum Warfare Experimental Unit, improving flame guns and in fuels. He became the expert in flamethrowers. He later served in Egypt, India and Burma. After the War, he returned to Canada, and took a law degree at Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia.

He then returned to Bermuda where he practised law and became a partner in Hallett, Whitney and Patton. He was elected to the Bermudan Legislature in 1956 and became a Cabinet Minister but retired from politics in 1974. He died on 13th May 1996 and was buried in Christ Church, Warwick, a church where he had been an Elder. His medals are privately held.

Geoffrey Gledhill Turner GC, GM was born on 10th September 1903 in Sheffield, the son of Charles and Kathleen St Elphin Turner. His middle name came from his mother’s maiden name. His father was a Chartered Accountant and the family lived in the Ecclesall Bierlow area. He was educated at King Edward VII School, Sheffield from 1911 to 1921. When he left, he joined the family accounting firm. On the outbreak of WWII, he attempted to join the Army, but was discharged on medical grounds, and joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.

On 21st December 1940, at Great Howard Street, Liverpool, a bomb had fallen and needed tackling. It was partly suspended by its parachute, with its nose on the ground floor and the fuse hidden. Great care had to be taken in handling this mine, which weighed nearly a ton. Turner was successful in removing the fuse before it could explode. Then he had to deal with another bomb which fell in Cambridge Street, Seaforth. The bomb itself was badly damaged, and it was essential that it should be cleared as soon as possible as the Liverpool-Southport railway line ran nearby. Turner rigged a wire and moved the bomb as to expose the fuse and fit a safety gag, but the fuse was damaged and only the top half came away, leaving the clockwork and operating the mechanism in the bomb. He then tried to pick out the remains of the fuse with his fingers. He had nearly managed this when the clock began ticking and he retired quickly. There was no explosion, so he waited 5 minutes and returned to finish the work. As soon as he touched it, the clock began again and it exploded, wounding Turner. He would later be awarded the George Medal in 1943, one of only eight men to do so.

Later in the War, he also took charge of a Royal Marine Commando unit in the invasion of Normandy, took part in the capture of Brest and fought with the Commandos in Germany. In 1946, he was invalided from the Navy and became a Director of a firm of manufacturing chemists, Alec Parsons in Oldham. On retirement he moved to Stambourne in Essex with his wife Margaret (nee Benson) whom he married in 1946. Turner died on 9th February 1959 and was cremated at Cambridge Crematorium. His medals are privately owned.

Richard John Hammersley Ryan GC and Reginald Vincent Ellingworth GC are connected by the events of 21st September 1940 at Dagenham, Essex, which tragically would led to both of their deaths and posthumous awards of the GC.

Ellingworth was the elder of the two men, born on 28th January 1898 in Wolverhampton, the son of Frank and Kate Ellingworth. Little is known of his childhood and career before the Royal Navy. He did marry Jessie Day and they had a son. Ryan was 5 years younger than Ellingworth and was a London boy, being born in Kensington on 23rd July 1903. He was from a naval family, his family being Admiral Frank Edward Cavendish Ryan CBE and his mother was Eleanor Stuart Ryan (nee Campbell). He had entered naval college at Osborne in January 1917, became a midshipman in 1921 on the Dunedin and was promoted in 1924 to Sub Lieutenant then to Lieutenant in August 1925. He served in China, before specialising in torpedoes at Greenwich in 1928. At the outbreak of WWII, the two men were stationed at HMS Vernon, Royal Navy Bomb Disposal. Ryan was Lieutenant Commander, and Ellingworth was Chief Petty Officer at the time of the incident at Dagenham.

They had previously dealt with a Type C magnetic mine that fell at Clacton. When the first magnetic mines fell on London, Ryan with Chief Petty Officer Reg Ellingworth GC, came forward without thought for the perilous work of making them safe, although aware of the severe danger. Together they dealt with 6 of these mines, one of them in a canal where they were waist deep in mud and water, making any escape impossible. On 21st September 1940, they went to Dagenham to tackle a mine hanging by a parachute in a warehouse. Tragically it exploded, killing them both. They were both posthumously awarded the GC.

Ryan was buried in Haslar Royal Naval Cemetery at Gosport, and his medals are privately owned. Ellingworth was buried at Milton Cemetery, Portsmouth, and his wife’s ashes were scattered on the grave in 1992. His medals are held by the Imperial War Museum and displayed in the Lord Ashcroft Gallery.

By victoriagreen068, Sep 20 2016 05:12AM

The George Cross Diary for 20th September contains the stories of two recipients who coincidentally have surnames beginning the letter G and also are recipients of forerunners of the George Cross, one of the Empire Gallantry Medal and one of the Albert Medal for Lifesaving.

Reginald Cubitt Graveley EGM/GC was born on 10th March 1914 in Leyton, London, the son of John Graveley and his wife Ethel (nee Cubitt). Reg, as he was known, gained employment with the London General Omnibus Company after leaving school, and was able to join the flying club, where he first learnt to fly. Having a talent for it, he joined the RAF in 1936 under the short service commission scheme. He was then posted to 88 Squadron based at Boscombe Down, Wiltshire.

On 20th September 1939 in the early weeks of the Second World War, he was on a bombing mission to Aachen in Germany, when his Fairey Battle bomber was shot down in flames. Although badly burned, he pulled the observer, Sergeant Everett, from the wreckage and then returned for the air gunner, Aircraftman John. However, he found him dead and unable to lift him from the cockpit. The plane crashed in France.

Graveley was awarded the EGM, which was exchanged for a GC (presented to him at Buckingham Palace on 23rd September 1941), and had to recuperate from his injuries in hospital for 7 months. He then became Senior Photographic Officer to the Photographic Reconnaissance Unit. He then moved to the USA to be Liaison Officer to the US Air Corps. When he relinquished his commission, he joined the Gloster Aircraft Company as a test pilot. By 1945, he had joined Brockhouse. He married Kathleen Rebecca Wolner who originally came from New Zealand. They went on to have two sons, John and Rex.

In 1951, Reg created his own company, Terric Studios which later became Lithograve. On 16th September 1961, Reg passed away at the young age of 47 in Walsall. He was cremated at Ryecroft Crematorium and his ashes were scattered from an aircraft. His medals are held by the Royal Air Force Museum, Hendon.

William Goad AM/GC was born in St Ives, Cambridgeshire on 10th May 1922. He was the 3rd son and 4th child of Tom and Ida Goad (nee Clark). He had two brothers John and James and two sisters Molly and Betty. His father had been a foreman on a farm at Swaversea until he was able to buy his own farm near Stretham.

When Bill was 15, he joined the Navy and saw service in the North Sea, the Atlantic and the Far East and later in the 1950s in Korea. In 1941, he met Sarah Hughes from Glasgow, and they would marry two years later. Her brother Joseph would be awarded the GC for his self-sacrifice in Hong Kong.

On 20th-21st September 1942, he was serving in the Royal Navy aboard HMS Ashanti. When HMS Somali was torpedoed by U-703, the Ashanti came alongside to help rescue the crew. Goad volunteered to be lowered on a line over the side of his ship, into water that was well below freezing, to rescue an unconscious man. A full gale was blowing and there was a very great risk that he would be either washed away by the breaking waves, or swept under the bilge keel of the ship, which was rolling heavily.

Goad retired as a Petty Officer in 1951 but was released to the Reserve from which he finally retired as Chief Petty Officer in 1953. He returned to Cambridgeshire where he joined his brother Jack in the family farm. They then took over the running of the farm after their father’s retirement 8 years later. In the 1970s, he and Sally built their own house, and Bill passed the running of the farm to another family member. He chose not to exchange his Albert Medal for a George Cross in 1971. He finally retired in 1987, but after the death of his wife in 1988, he volunteered as a driver with social services. He died on Christmas Day 1994 and was cremated at Maddingly Crematorium in Cambridge. His ashes were scattered. His medals are held by the family.

By victoriagreen068, Sep 19 2016 05:18AM

The George Cross Diary for 19th September has no direct recipient of the medal for today’s date but does contain the story of a man whose George Cross was announced on today’s date in 1944.

Leonard Verdi (Leon or Ficky) Goldsworthy GC, DSC, GM was born on 19th January 1929 at Broken Hill, New South Wales, Australia, the son of Alfred Thomas and Eva Jane (nee Riggs) Goldsworthy. Leonard was educated at Kapunda High School, South Australia, then went to the Adelaide School of Mines and the University of Adelaide. After graduating he moved to Perth where he joined the American Neon Sign Industry for Western Australia. He ended up working for Rainbow Neon for 46 years. He married Maud E Rutherford on 4th November 1939 and they had a daughter, Pamela. With the outbreak of WWII, he enlisted with the Royal Australian Volunteer Reserve with the rank of Sub-Lieutenant.

He arrived in England two months later where he became a member of the Rendering Mines Safe Section of HMS Vernon, joining other RANVR members on mine defusing duties. His education in physics and electricity stood him in good stead, as did his slim and muscular physique. Alongside two other future GC holders – John Mould GC and Hugh Syme GC – Lieutenant Goldsworthy invented a new diving suit that enabled bomb disposal experts to dive deeper without experiencing decompression problems. His combination of skill and courage meant that he was brilliant at his job.

He was awarded the George Medal on 18th April 1944 for various bomb disposal exploits, including making safe a German ground mine off Sheerness, Kent. It was only the second time ever that such a deadly weapon had been rendered safe underwater. Later that same year, he was awarded the George Cross for further bravery in dealing with dangerous acoustic-type mines. One of these, at Milford Haven in Wales, had been in place for 2 and a half years because no one dared tackle it. Goldsworthy later wrote about the device “like an old soldier an acoustic mine never quite dies: although the batteries run down they don’t run out”. As always, he rose to the challenge, removing first the fuse and primer and, later, the intact mine. Other mines he tackled during this period were at locations ranging from Dorset to West Hartlepool. The citation for the GC on 19th September 1944 said that the award was for “great gallantry and undaunted devotion to duty.”

Late in 1944, Goldsworthy and other bomb disposal experts were seconded to the US Navy in the Pacific. In January 1945, he was awarded his third gallantry medal, this time a DSC for stripping, in 50 feet of water, a German “K” mine in Cherbourg harbour, France. When the War ended, Goldsworthy was the most decorated Australian naval officer of the entire conflict.

Goldsworthy retired as Lieutenant Commander in 1946 and moved back to Perth where he returned to his old job at the Rainbow Neon Sign Company. He worked for the firm in all for over 46 years. After his first wife died, he remarried to Georgette Johnston in 1968. He died on 7th August 1994 aged 85 and was cremated at Karrakatta Crematorium, Perth. His ashes were scattered at sea. His medals are privately held.

By victoriagreen068, Sep 18 2016 06:22AM

The George Cross Diary for 18th September contains four recipients, one a Edward Medallist for an industrial rescue, one a Empire Gallantry Medallist, and two direct George Crosses from the Second World War.

Albert John Meadows EM/GC was born on 6th June 1904 in St Pancras, London, the son of John Edwin Meadows and Elizabeth Jane (nee Gosling). His father was a wine merchant’s porter when he was born. He attended the local school and when he left he went to work at WA Gilbey, Camden, where he would be awarded the Edward Medal for actions on 18th September 1931.

John Gale was cleaning out the residue in an empty cherry brandy vat when he was discovered unconscious by Frederick Wormald, having been gassed by the carbon dioxide generated by fermentation of the residue. Wormald went into the vat but was unable to get Gale out. He then called Leonard Wright and went down a second time, but was himself affected by the gas and had to be helped out by Wright. Wright then tried but he too became unconscious at the bottom of the vat. In the meantime the manager had sent for assistance. Harold Hostler arrived and immediately entered the vat. He succeeded in dragging Wright to a sitting position near the foot of a ladder, but feeling the effects, he had to leave the vat. He tried twice more, finally getting Gale to the bottom of the ladder, but they only got Hostler out. Albert Meadows then volunteered to go into the vat and after two attempts managed to rescue Wright. He then made a third unsuccessful attempt to get Gale, but succeeded on a 4th attempt. Both Gale and Wright recovered from their injuries.

He served with the Royal Army Ordnance Corps during WWII, and was demobbed as a Sergeant in 1946. After the war he returned to WA Gilbey where all in all he worked for 47 years. He lived in retirement in Sussex with his wife Laura Phyllis, who predeceased him. They had no children. Meadows exchanged his EM for a GC. He died on 19th March 1988 in Chichester and was cremated at the local crematorium. His medals are privately held.

The second recipient is Ahmed Muhammad Mirghany EGM/GC of whom very little is known. He was of Sudanese birth but the date is unknown. He was awarded the EGM for his actions on 18th September 1932, when the Nile flooded extensively in Khartoum.

At the height of the Nile flood, at a point where the river is particularly dangerous, even for the strongest swimmer, he rescued three girls from certain death by drowning, the oldest of whom was just 15 years old.

His EGM was exchanged for a GC in 1940, and then little more is known about him, and he died on 25th August 1951 and is believed cremated. His medals are privately held.

Roy Thomas Harris GC was born on 1st August 1902 in Cardiff, Wales. During the Second World War, he worked as an ARP Engineer in the Surrey area. He was awarded the GC for the following incident on 18th September 1940 in Thornton Heath, Surrey.

An unexploded bomb fell into a house on Langdale Road. Massive air raids had begun a few days earlier and the problem of dealing with so many bombs at one time was a new one. Harris dismantled it, this being one of 85 such acts carried out by him. It should be noted here that Harris was not trained for bomb disposal. In 1942 he volunteered for the Royal Engineers. During an inspection, the GC was not recognized by a high-ranking officer, who promptly told him, "We dont allow civil decorations to be worn in the Army." However, when told of the ribbon's significance, the officer apologised.

Harris was awarded the GC. He died on 11th August 1973 in Wolverhampton, and was cremated at Bushbury Crematorium. His medals are held in the Lord Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum.

Michael Flood “Max” Blaney GC was born in Newry, Ireland on 14th November 1910. He was part of the Corps of Royal Engineers during the Second World War who had the task of tackling and defusing unexploded bombs which fell during the Blitz.

On three separate occasions in the Autumn/Winter of 1940 he showed exceptional gallantry, which would ultimately, on the third occasion, cost him his life. On 18th September 1940, a bomb fell in Manor Way, a few yards from the junction with the East Ham and Barking bypass, and failed to explode. Captain Blaney was called to the scene and removed the bomb. On 20th October an unexploded bomb was reported in Park Avenue, East Ham. Unusually it had two very dangerous time fuses,and constituted a very real danger to the public and the Bomb Disposal Section. Blaney personally defused the bomb; it was his usual practice to work alone in these situations. On 13th December he was called to remove the fuse from an unexploded bomb that had fallen in premises abutting Romford Road, Manor Park, several days previously. He had planned to fit a "Q" coil around the bomb but, due to its cumbersomeness, he abandoned the idea and instead attempted to steady the bomb as it was pulled clear. Unfortunately the bomb exploded, killing Blaney and 9 others.

Blaney was posthumously awarded the GC, and buried in Old Chapel RC Cemetery, Newry, Ireland. His medals are held by his family.

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