b. 06/02/1911 Tai Chow Foo, China. d. 24/03/1992 Cassington, Oxfordshire.
DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: Autumn 1940 Chatham Docks, Kent.
John Herbert Babington (1911-1992) was born on 6th February 1911 in Tai Foo Chow, China, where both of his parents Stanley and Jane (nee Long) were medical missionaries. On the family’s return to England, John attended Wyggeston School and then chose to read physics at St Catherine’s College, Cambridge. By the outbreak of World War II, he was teaching physics at King’s College School, Wimbledon.
He immediately volunteered for submarine service, but was rejected, with the presumption being that he was too tall at 6ft 3in. His fall back plan was to go into the field of bomb disposal, a highly hazardous occupation.
In the autumn of 1940, at Chatham Docks, Kent, he volunteered to deal with a very dangerous bomb that was believed to be fitted with an anti-withdrawal device. He was lowered into a 16ft pit where he tied a line to the head of the fuse; under tension, however, the line broke. He again went down into the pit. In all he had to make 3 attempts to remove the fuse before finally directing the lifting of the bomb, which was then taken away. As a result of his action much new information was learnt about this type of bomb.
He was awarded the George Cross on 27th December 1940 and was invested with the medal on 8th July 1941 by King George VI at Buckingham Palace. Despite working in bomb disposal, he survived the rest of the war, spending the time tinkering with various different devices and teaching the skills learnt to others. He was awarded the OBE in 1944. He was demobbed in 1946 at Lieutenant Commander, RNVR. He married Muriel Boswell and they had a son and two daughters.
In civilian life, he returned to education, first as Assistant Education Officer in Hertfordshire, the becoming Headmaster of Diss Grammar School in Norfolk in 1947. In 1951, he took the post of Headmaster at the Royal Hospital School at Holbrook, staying until 1955, when he became Headmaster at Ashlyns School, Berkhamsted, a secondary modern school. He retired from education in 1973, and he and his wife moved to Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.
John passed away, aged 81, on 24th March 1992 in West Oxfordshire. He was cremated on the 27th March and his ashes were scattered in the North of Plot M rose beds at Oxford Crematorium. His medal group including his GC, OBE, Defence Medal 1939-45, War Medal 1939-45, 1953 QEII Coronation Medal and 1977 QEII Silver Jubilee Medal were placed on loan to the Imperial War Museum, and are displayed in the Ashcroft Gallery.
LOCATION OF MEDAL:ON LOAN TO IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: OXFORD CREMATORIUM, OXFORD.
ASHES SCATTERED IN PLOT M.
John Herbert Babington's medals including his GC and OBE on display at the Lord Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum, London (December 2014)