By victoriagreen068, Sep 27 2016 05:02AM
The George Cross Diary for 27th September, sadly the final edition to complete a year of diaries, sees just one entry, an Albert Medallist in Bronze recipient for a sea rescue off the coast of Iceland in 1940.
John Henry Mitchell AM/GC, BEM was born on 1st January 1917 in Grimsby, Lincolnshire, the son of John Henry Mitchell and his wife Minnie Selina (nee Parrot). When John was young, the family moved to Fleetwood in Lancashire. His father was a well-known trawler skipper and John junior worked with him and trained as a radio operator and mate for 6 years after elementary education.
When the War broke out, John joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and served on various aircraft carriers and cruisers from December 1939 to April 1946. He married in May 1941 to Evelyn Sparks and they had a son and a daughter.
On 27th September 1940, Chief Engineman Wedderburn fell into the harbour between two trawlers. He could not swim, and was soon unconscious. A seaman who jumped in to save him was soon in difficulties himself. Mitchell, hearing shouting, clambered over a vessel to the quay, ran 100 yards. climbed across two ships and jumped into the water. He seized Wedderburn by his hair, and held up the other man until a rope was passed down. This he secured with a bowling around the now helpless seaman, using one hand, while he supported both men and himself by gripping the rope with his teeth. The seaman was then hauled out of the water by the men in a trawler. Mitchell, although fully clad and wearing sea boots, supported Wedderburn by treading water until a pilot ladder could be lowered. He made the rope fast around Wedderburn, and steadied him as he was hauled out, Mitchell had been in the very cold water for 35 minutes, and was unconscious when rescued.
He was awarded the Albert Medal for his actions on 25th April 1941. Following demobilisation from the Navy in 1946, he joined the Metropolitan Police and became a Constable on 9th April 1948. He moved up the ranks and finally became a Detective Inspector in 1965. He was then appointed to the Stolen Motor Vehicle Investigation Branch.
While with the Met, he was commended three times, firstly in 1957 for “ability and initiative in a case of shopbreaking”, second for “valuable assistance in a murder investigation in 1965 in Antigua”. The third commendation came in 1970 when he was awarded the British Empire Medal. Sadly, Mitchell passed away less than two years later, on 12th April 1972 in Wandsworth. His burial location is not known. His George Cross which he obtained in exchange for his Albert Medal shortly before his death is privately held.