b. 13/10/1916 Ulceby, Lincolnshire. d. 15/04/1977 Bedford.
DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 02/07 and 08/1940 Cranfield, Bedfordshire.
Vivian “Bob” Hollowday (1916-1977) was born on 13th October 1916 in Ulceby, Lincolnshire, the son of Carl Victor and Annie Louisa Margaret Hollowday (nee Portus). Carl was an engineer like his own father was before him. Vivian attended Caistor Grammar School and Worksop College after which he joined the firm of Arthur Richardson & Sons in Nottingham.
In 1936, Carl Hollowday left England, never to return on the Cunard ship, RMS Scythia, from the Huskisson Dock in Liverpool. He would spend the rest of his life in South America and Malaya, and following a divorce from Annie, he remarried and set up home with his new wife in South Africa. Vivian, it is believed, never saw his father again after he left in October 1936. As a result, Vivian was totally devoted to his mother who sadly died two years earlier in 1934.
Vivian enlisted with the RAF Volunteer Reserve on the outbreak of World War II on 5th September 1939. He joined up with 14 Flying Training School at Cranfield in Bedfordshire, and he was billeted to live with the Church family.
On 2nd July 1940, when, returning to camp, he witnessed an aircraft crash and burst into flames. He rushed to the site and made his way through the wreckage; finding the pilot's clothes were on fire, he put out the flames with his bare hands. Had the pilot, Sergeant Noel Davies not been killed instantly in the impact. Hollowday's action would in all probability have saved his life.
This is not a single action of gallantry performed by Vivian Hollowday. Just over a month later in August 1940, when once again he was returning to camp, an aircraft spun to the ground and exploded. Hollowday immediately went to the crash site. There was a second explosion and ammunition was bursting around all the time, but despite this be borrowed a gas mask, wrapped two sacks over himself and spent some time in the flames, making four attempts before releasing the first occupant. He then re-entered the burning wreckage and successfully removed the second. All three crew, however, were already dead.
For these two actions of incredible gallantry, Vivian Hollowday became the first non-commissioned officer of the RAF to be awarded the George Cross (London Gazette, 21st January 1941). He was invested with his GC at Buckingham Palace on 12th May 1942. He continued to serve in the RAF until he was demobbed in March 1946.
In post-war civilian life, he was fortunate that Mr Church, the gentleman he was billeted to live with at Cranfield, worked at a company called Quenby Price and Vivian had taken an interest in the business. As a result, Vivian gained employment with them after demobilisation. On 6th September 1948, Vivian married Beatrice Mary Wright (nee Geldart), and there were no children in their marriage. He worked his way up the company of Quenby Price, who were millers and grain merchants, and eventually the company changed its name to Bob Hollowday Agricultural in the 1970s.
In later life, Vivian became President of the Military Medallists League, a supporter of the Royal Chelsea Hospital, actively involved with the Royal Society of Saint George, and was a member of the Legion of Frontiersmen. He was also an active Committee Member of the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association. Vivian worked hard right up to his death, and he passed away in Bedford Hospital on 15th April 1977. He was cremated at Bedford Crematorium, and it is believed that his ashes were scattered on Daffodil Hill in Rawdon Cemetery, Leeds, where his mother is buried.
Vivian’s medals including the GC, 1939-45 Star, Africa Star, Italy Star, France and Germany Star, Defence Medal 1939-45, War Medal 1939-45 with oak leaf and 1953 QEII Coronation Medal were stolen until in 1985 Sotheby’s advised the Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood that the medals had been consigned for sale. With this sale was a duplicate group of his medals but these were returned to the Chancery. The originals were then sold to the RAF Museum, Hendon. Contained also with his medals were a number of unofficial “Veterans Association” medals including the Cross for European Confederation, Australian Bronze Medal, the Belgian Albert 1st Merit Cross. He was also given the Freedom of the City of London in 1966.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: RAF MUSEUM, HENDON, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: BEDFORD CREMATORIUM, BEDFORD. (ASHES WERE SCATTERED AT DAFFODIL HILL, RAWDON CEMETERY, LEEDS, YORKSHIRE),
An old image of Vivian Hollowday's medals when they were on display at the
Royal Air Force Museum, Hendon (not currently displayed).
Vivian Hollowday GC's entry in the Bedford Crematorium Book of Remembrance
(picture courtesy of Terry Hissey)
Vivian Hollowday's Birth Certificate
Sotheby's March 1986 for the sale of Vivian's medals.
On the RAF George Cross Memorial, St Clements Danes, London.
George Cross Citation
Pictured on the day of his investiture with an unknown Army Training Cadet.
Dennis Alves' Grave - Bury Cemetery, Huntingdonshire
Edward Mortimer's Grave - Bury Cemetery, Huntingdonshire
Noel Davies' Grave - Cleethorpes Cemetery
Noel Francis Lloyd Davies, RAF
Noel Francis Lloyd Davies, RAF
The telegram informing Noel's parents of his tragic death despite the heroic efforts of Vivian Hollowday GC
All images on this page are used with the permission of Derek Hollowday and Rachel Carpenter who remember with fondness and admiration for their relatives, Vivian Hollowday GC and Noel Francis Lloyd Davies, RAF.
Hollowday pictured with Odette Sansom Hallowes (right) and Dorothy Thomas GC (left). Picture: Derek Hollowday