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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 17 2016 07:08AM

The George Cross Diary for 17th September contains a single recipient of the George Cross from the height of the Blitz in London for a daring rescue as an Auxiliary Fireman in the London Auxiliary Fire Service.

Harry Errington GC was born on 20th August 1910 in Westminster, London, the son of Soloman and Bella Ehrengott who were Polish Jewish immigrants from Lublin. They had arrived in the UK in 1908 and anglicised their name to Errington when Harry was born. He had a brother and a sister called Freda. He was educated at the Westminster Jewish Free School and won a trade scholarship to train as an engraver. As a young man he belonged to West Central Jewish Lads’ Club where he excelled at athletics and gym. After the Second World War, he would run the Old Boys section of the Club.

His career as an engraver came to an end when the nitric acid used in the process affected his chest, and he went to train as a cutter with his uncle who was an established tailor with several contracts in Savile Row. He eventually took his own premises and remained in the business until retirement.

For the duration of the Second World War, he volunteered as a fireman with the Auxiliary Fire Service, working at his tailoring business in the day, and checking in for duty with the AFS at night.

On the night of 17th September 1940, he was resting with two other firemen in the basement of Jackson's Garage, which they were using as a makeshift shelter, when the building was hit by a high-explosive bomb. The blast blew Errington across the basement. Although dazed and injured, he made his way back to the other two auxiliaries, whom he found pinned down, flat on their backs, by debris. A fierce fire had broken out and the trapped firemen were in imminent danger of being burnt to death. The heat of the fire was so intense that Errington had to protect himself with a blanket. After working with his bare hands, he managed to release the injured firemen, John Hollingshead and John Terry, and dragged them from under the wreckage and away from the fire. All the while, burning debris was falling into the basement and there was considerable danger of a further collapse. Errington then carried Hollingshead up a narrow stone staircase that was partially blocked with debris into the courtyard, and then made his way through an adjoining building and into the street. Despite the appalling conditions he then returned and brought out John Terry. Both the rescued men survived.

Errington’s award of the GC was announced in the London Gazette on 8th August 1941. Harry had a lifelong interest in the game of basketball and coached an amateur team from Regent Street Polytechnic and was involved in the management of the basketball competition at the Olympic Games in London in 1948. In later years, he became the Vice-President of the UK Amateur Basketball Association, and later, a Life Vice-President. He was also Treasurer of the VC & GC Association from 1981 to 2004. He was also a brother of the Samson Masonic Lodge in London.

Errington ended his days at the Nightingale Home in Clapham, where he passed away on December 15th 2004, aged 94. He was buried at the Cheshunt Jewish Cemetery with a guard of honour from fireman and a representative of The Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women of the UK (AJEX). His medals are held by the Jewish Military Museum in London.

By victoriagreen068, Sep 16 2016 05:07AM

The George Cross Diary for 16th September contains four recipients of the George Cross, all with very different stories of gallantry which led to the award of the Albert Medal, Empire Gallantry Medal or direct George Cross.

David Hwyel Evans AM/GC was born on 28th May 1898 in Carmarthen, Wales. He was the son of Samuel J Evans OBE and his wife, Annie (nee Griffiths). He was brought up on Anglesey and he was educated at Llangefni Grammar School where his father was the Headmaster. He had a brother, Frederick. David became Head Boy of his school, and on leaving at 18, he joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) as a signalman. In the First World War, he served in the 13th Submarine Flotilla and in HMS Trident in the Dover Patrol. He took part in both the Zeebrugge and Ostend Raids which saw a number of gallantry awards.

On the 16th September 1918, he was in Dover, Kent, when there was an explosion amidships on HMS Glatton. The explosion and fire cut off the after part of the ship, killing or seriously injuring all the officers who were on board with one exception. The whole ship could have blown up at any moment. Evans, Lieutenant George Belden, Petty Officer Albert Stoker and Able Seaman Edward Nunn were in boats that were rescuing men who had been blown overboard or jumped into the sea. They proceeded on board on their own initiative and entered the superstructure, which was full of dense smoke, and then went to the deck below. They succeeded in rescuing 7 or 8 badly injured men from the mess deck, as well as 15 men whom they rescued from the superstructure. This work was carried out without gas masks, and, although at one point they were driven out by fire, they proceeded down again after hoses had been played on the flames. They continued until all chance of rescuing others had passed and the ship was abandoned; she was sunk by torpedo as the fire was spreading and it was impossible to flood the magazines. All 4 men were awarded the Albert Medal, but only Evans lived long enough to exchange it for a George Cross.

After the War, Evans resigned his commission and studied for a General Science degree and became Science Master at Radley College from 1923 to 1925, but the call of the sea was strong and he returned to the Navy, and served until 1947 as an Instructor Officer.

In 1947, he was offered a post as a part time lecturer in the Maths Department, and was Warden of the Devonshire Hall of Residence, University of Leeds. He had married Marjorie Elisabeth Lea who hailed from Canada in 1932 and they had a daughter Bronwen. Evans and his wife retired to Yorkshire, and Evans was Honorary Secretary of the Albert Medal Association from 1966 to 1972, and a committee member of the VCGCA from 1972. He died on 8th December 1985 near Ripon, Yorkshire. He is believed buried in Yorkshire. His medals are held by his family.

Very little is known about the life of Abdus Samid Abdul Wahid Golandaz EGM/GC (no image available) including when he was born and where he was brought up. All that is known is his actions on 16th September 1933 at Surat, India which led to the award of the Empire Gallantry Medal.

The river Tapti had swollen to such proportions that one of the sluices in the city wall had been damaged and water was pouring in through it, threatening to flood the city. Golandaz volunteered to dive into the flooded river and ascertain the nature and extent of the damage. He accomplished this brave feat successfully and then blocked the sluice with sandbags at considerable risk to his own life. He owned a fleet of boats, which he often placed at the disposal of the authorities whenever Surat, Rander or the surrounding districts were threatened by floods. In 1930 he rescued the boys of the Government High School and the family of the excise inspector from flooding.

His EGM was automatically exchanged for the GC in 1940, and sadly he passed away in 1949 and is believed cremated. His medals are privately held.

Richard Valentine “Dick” Moore GC, CBE, FIEE, FIMechE was born on Valentine’s Day 1916 in Lambeth, London. He was the only son of Randall and Ellen Moore (nee Keny). He was educated at the Strand School and at London University, where he obtained a degree in Mechanical Engineering. He worked for the County of London Electricity Supply Company from 1936 until war was declared in September 1939.

Commissioned into the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve in 1939, he joined the Naval Unexploded Bomb Department from HMS Effingham, serving as an assistant torpedo officer.

He was 24 years old and serving in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve when the Luftwaffe dropped 25 parachute mines over London, where they caused widespread damage. Moore, with Lieutenant Commander Richard Ryan GC, volunteered to render safe the 17 that did not explode. On 21st September Moore, Ryan and Chief Petty Officer Reginald Ellingworth GC went to Dagenham to deal with several unexploded mines. Moore carefully examined one and found that the fuse ring had become distorted; resorting to the method practised by many disposal men of simply using whatever tool they could find, he borrowed a drill from the factory outside which the mine was lying. He drilled two holes on opposite sides of the ring so that it broke, enabling him to remove the fuse, aware that at any time it could explode. As he was in the process of removing the trigger, Ryan arrived having neutralised another mine. Ryan then went off to deal with the last of the mines with Ellingworth. This was hanging from a parachute in a warehouse 200 yards away. WIthout warning it went off, killing both Ryan and Ellingworth. All three men were awarded the GC.

On leaving the Navy in 1946, Moore worked for the Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell, where he was appointed maintenance manager of the research reactor Bepo. Soon he was drawing on his pre-war experience to conduct a study on whether a larger reactor could produce heat at cheaper prices.

In 1944, he married Ruby Edith Pair and they had three sons, though sadly Ruby died during the childbirth of the third child. Moore died on 25th April 2003 in Warrington, Cheshire and was cremated at Walton Lea Crematorium. His medals are privately held.

Graham Leslie Parish GC was born on 29th August 1912 in Eccleshall Bierlow, Sheffield, the second son of Stephen Owbridge Parish and Ethel May (nee Mundy-Knight). He had an older brother Roland and a younger sister Joan. His father was a Provision Stores Manager but was called up during the First World War. Sadly, Stephen Parish died of malaria in 1918 and was buried in Alexandria War Cemetery, Egypt. His widow, Ethel was working as a milliner at the time.

Graham attended Abbeydale School and then Firth Park Grammar School where he passed his Matriculation at the age of 15, and then went to work in a bookshop. As soon as he was old enough, in 1929, he joined the Sheffield Central Library and worked his way through all the examinations until in 1939 he was promoted to the post of Borough Librarian at Lytham St Annes.

On the outbreak of World War Two, Graham initially didn’t enlist, but he enlisted with the RAFVR in February 1941 after receiving a white feather in the post. In 1942, he joined a Bomber Squadron taking part in nightly attacks in London including the infamous Operation Millenium, the Thousand Plane Raid on Cologne and then on to Essen.

On 16th September 1942, he was navigator of a Wellington bomber being delivered to the Middle East Command. Shortly after take off, the port engine failed and the pilot attempted to return to the airfield, but the Wellington struck a building and burst into flames. All of the crew except Sergeant Parish and a passenger named Flowers, whose legs were broken, succeeded in getting free from the burning aircraft. At the time of the crash Parish was in the astro-hatch and Flowers was by the emergency door in the floor of the bomber. When the blazer subsided, Parish's body was found leaning against the rear gun turret; Flowers was beside him with his arms over the navigator's shoulders. It was clear that Parish had carried him from the emergency door to the rear turret, a distance of 8 yards, presumably in the hope that they could both escape through the turret. Sergeant Parish could have made his escape through the astro-hatch but his unselfish desire to assist Flowers cost him his life.

Parish was buried in Khartoum War Cemetery, Sudan. His medals are privately held.

By victoriagreen068, Sep 15 2016 04:56AM

The George Cross Diary for 15th September contains the story of the first recipient of the new George Cross, and therefore the first civilian to receive the new award.

Thomas Hopper Alderson GC, RSPCA Medal in Gold was born in Sunderland on 15th September 1903 and following his schooling, he became an apprentice at the Seaton Carew Ironworks before he joined the Merchant Navy as an engineer in 1925.

On 23rd December 1932 he married Doris Irene Johnson in St Paul's, Hartlepool, and he travelled the world with the Merchant Navy, particularly to the west coast of the United States. He became an Engineer Officer and obtained his 1st Class Engineer's Certificate. He was discharged from the Merchant Navy in 1934, and soon after he and his wife had a daughter, Pamela.

In 1934-1935, Thomas joined the West Hartlepool Borough Engineers Department and moved to become an employee of the Bridlington Corporation. At the time of his George Cross action, he was in the position of Works Supervisor. He was also Detachment Leader in charge of Rescue Parties. He recruited and trained many local people as volunteers. He became the first civilian to be awarded the George Cross, and his investiture took place on 24th May 1941.

Later in the war, Thomas was involved in the rescue of two horses who were trapped under debris in a stable. For his actions, Thomas was awarded the RSPCA Medal in Gold, a notable double with his GC. During the War, his wife Irene was also busy working at the Bridlington Food Office on the Ration Books.

After the War, he was employed as an Assistant Divisional Surveyor for East Riding of Yorkshire and joined the Rescue Section of the Civil Defence Corps. He was also a keen breeder of pigs and poultry in his spare time.

Alderson died aged just 62 at Northfield Hospital in Driffield, Yorkshire on 28th October 1965, and he was cremated at Woodlands Crematorium in Scarborough. Irene outlived her husband by over 26 years before her death in 1991. Her ashes were scattered to near the site of Thomas'. He is remembered in the Book of Remembrance at the Crematorium. His medals are on loan to the Imperial War Museum and displayed in the Lord Ashcroft Gallery.

By victoriagreen068, Sep 15 2016 04:54AM

The George Cross Diary for 14th September contains the stories of two recipients, both who were involved in an incident on Hornsea Island during the First World War and were both awarded the Albert Medal for Life Saving alongside a third man, who unfortunately didn’t live long enough to exchange his medal for a GC in 1971.

George Fawcett Pitts Abbott AM/GC was born on 18th September 1897 in Nelson, Lancashire. He attended Whitefield School as a child, and there was for a time a portrait which hung of him which is now missing sadly. On leaving school, Abbott went to work for Schofield & Preston & Co Ltd where he was a warp-dresser. He became a founder member of the Warp Dresser's Club. He enlisted with the Royal Naval Reserve (Trawler Section) during the First World War, and was awarded the Albert Medal for his actions on 14th September 1917 on Hornsea Island.

Also involved in that incident was Richard John Knowlton AM/GC who was born on 11th May 1899 in South Stoneham, Hampshire and was just 18 when the incident occurred at Hornsea Island. He joined the Royal Navy as a boy a few years earlier just prior to the First World War.

On 14th September 1917, a seaplane collided with a Poulsen mast and remained wedged in it. The pilot, Acting Flight Commander E.A. De Ville, was thrown on to the aircraft wing and rendered unconscious. Knowlton, with Deckhand George Abbott GC and Seaman Nicholas Ruth AM at once climbed 100ft up the mast, where Ruth, making use of a boatswain's chair, which moves up and down the inside of the mast, was hoisted up another 200ft to where the aircraft was lodged. He then climbed out on to the plane and secured De Ville with a masthead gantline until the other men arrived, then they lowered him to the ground. The three men were well aware of the damage to the mast and the likelihood of the seaplane falling.

All three men were awarded the Albert Medal. Sadly, Rath didn’t live long enough to exchange his GC. Knowlton declined the invitation to exchange his medal and passed away aged 82 on 24th August 1981 in Wolverhampton. He was buried in London Road Cemetery, Salisbury, Wiltshire. His Albert Medal is held by his family.

Abbott during the inter war years, moved to Coventry where he worked in a munitions factory during WWII. Just after the war, he met and married Alice Emily Harris in Bromley, Kent and they moved to Gravesend. They had a daughter called Ruth and George opened a fish and chip shop in Northfleet. In 1961, he moved his family back to his roots in Nelson, and ran a grocery shop for 5 years. He passed away on 10th June 1977 and was cremated at Burnley Crematorium. His ashes were interred at Downham Churchyard, Downham, Lancashire. His George Cross location is unknown as his daughter gave it to a friend and it has since disappeared.

By victoriagreen068, Sep 13 2016 04:54AM

The George Cross Diary for 13th September contains the story of a posthumous recipient of the George Cross, who has the distinction of serving in three different conflicts over nearly half a century, and was also a recipient of the Military Cross and Distinguished Conduct Medal.

William George Foster GC, MC, DCM was born on the 12th December 1880 at sea, and his birth was registered in Portsmouth in January 1881 after the ship docked. His father, George Foster was a Colour Sergeant and in the 1881 Census was living in the Royal Marine Barracks, Forton, Alverstoke, Hampshire with his family which comprised of his wife Mary Ann, three sons, George W R aged 11, Walter H aged 9 and three month old William, and daughters Adelaide M aged 8 and Grace E aged 6. By the next census in 1891, the family had grown by a further 5 children.

William started his working life as a clerk but soon joined the Army and became a career soldier. His first appointment was to the 3rd Volunteer Battalion, Royal Fusiliers. He was called up in February 1900 to serve with the Fusiliers in the Boer War and was promoted to Lance Corporal before sailing to South Africa with the 1st Volunteer Service Company. Being a talented horseman, he transferred to the 2nd Imperial Light Horse in 1901 initially serving as a Trooper and later as Sergeant. When he broke his leg in 1902 he was medically discharged and sent home.

Foster married Lizzie Georgina of Whaddon and they had a daughter Evelyn. Foster then re-enlisted with his former Regiment, and by the outbreak of the First World War, he held the position of Company Sergeant Major with the 4th Battalion. They were one of the first battalions to go to France, and landed on 13th August 1914 and fought at the Battle of Mons ten days later suffering 112 killed or wounded. Foster served during this time and was wounded – and by November 1914, the Battalion had lost 1,900 men and 50 Officers leaving just 170 left on roll. He fought in the Battle of Festubert in May 1915 and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant on the 18th July, later serving as a Temporary Captain from December 1915 to March 1916. He then became an instructor at the School of Musketry at Hythe, Kent, and later transferred to the Army Service Corps as an instructor in riding and horsemanship. He had been awarded the DCM on 23rd June 1915 and MC on 16th May 1916.

By January 1920 he had retired from the Army with the rank of Substantive Captain. He returned to London and then moved to Wiltshire living at Hurstbourne House, Whaddon and worked as a NAAFI Transport Clerk. During the 1926 General Strike he carried out his duties as a Special Constable.

Following the outbreak of WWII, Foster re-enlisted and was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the 7th Wiltshire (Salisbury) Battalion of the Home Guard. On 13th September 1942, at Clarendon Park, Wiltshire, he was instructing a group of recruits how to throw grenades when one of them threw a live grenade, which, instead of going over the top, hit the parapet and rebounded to the throwing position. Without hesitation Lieutenant Foster threw himself on the bomb one second before it exploded. It killed him instantly, but saved the lives of his men.

Foster’s posthumous GC was announced on 27th November 1942. His widow received the GC at an investiture on 2nd March 1943. He is buried in St Mary’s Church, Alderbury, Wiltshire. His medals were bequeathed to the church, and a replica is displayed.

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