Category: George Cross

Bertram Stuart Trevelyan Archer GC

Bertram Stuart Trevelyan Archer (03/02/1915 – 03/05/2015) was awarded the George Cross for extensive work on defusing German bombs dropped on United Kingdom during World War II.

The Citation, recorded in the London Gazette of Issue: 35292, Page: 5653, reads

“The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the award of the GEORGE CROSS in recognition of most conspicuous gallantry in carrying out hazardous work in a very brave manner, to: —
Second-Lieutenant (Acting Lieutenant) Bertram Stuart Trevelyan Archer (126305), Corps of Royal Engineers.”

Stuart  Archer was the only VC or GC (up till 03/02/2015) to reach the age of 100. He passed away on 3rd May 2015 and was cremated at the New Southgate Crematorium.

DRW © 2018. Created 23/08/2018. Image courtesy of Mark Green. 

Updated: 26/08/2018 — 19:26

Frederick Davies GC

Frederick Davies (17/02/1913 –  23/08/1945) was posthumously awarded the George Cross, for his efforts to rescue two sisters from a fire in Harlesden.

The Citation, recorded in the London Gazette of Supplement: 37455, Page: 805, reads:

“The KING has been graciously pleased to award the GEORGE CROSS to:-

Frederick DAVIES (deceased), Fireman, No. 34 (London) Area, National Fire Service.

Premises which consisted of a shop and house of five rooms caught fire. The N.F.S. were informed that two children were in the front room on the second floor. The escape was immediately slipped and pitched to the middle window of this floor. Before it was in position Davies ran up the escape.

At this stage flames were pouring from the windows on the second floor and licking up the front of the building. Upon Davies reaching the window he at once tried to enter but bursts of flame momentarily halted him. Undaunted, however, he climbed into the window with his back to the flames and entered the room. He was seen to endeavour to remove his tunic presumably to wrap it around and protect the children but his hands were now too badly burned for him to do so. During this time Davies was moving around the blazing room in an endeavour to locate the children, and after a short period he returned with a child in his arms whom he handed out of the window. He then turned back into the room to find the other child.

He was next seen to fling himself out of the window on to the escape, the whole of his clothing being alight. He was helped to the ground, the flames on his clothes were extinguished and he was conveyed to hospital suffering from severe burns. Later he died from his injuries.

The gallantry and outstanding devotion to duty displayed by Fireman Davies was of the highest order. He knew the danger he was facing, but with complete disregard of his own safety he made a most heroic attempt to rescue the two children. In so doing, he lost his life”

Neither Avril nor Jean Pike survived the fire. Frederick Davies is buried in Kensal Green Cemetery, London.

DRW © 2018. Created 22/08/2018. Image courtesy of Mark Green

Updated: 26/08/2018 — 19:26

Forest Frederick Edward “Tommy” Yeo-Thomas GC

Forest Frederick Edward “Tommy” Yeo-Thomas (17/06/1902 – 26/02/1964) was a British Special Operations Executive (SOE) agent in the Second World War and was awarded the George Cross for his clandestine work behind enemy lines.  Yeo-Thomas was known by the Gestapo as “The White Rabbit”. 

The Citation, recorded in the London Gazette of Supplement: 37468, Page: 961 reads: 

“The KING has been graciously pleased to award the George Cross to Acting Wing Commander Forest Frederick Edward YEO-THOMAS, M.C. (89215), Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.

This officer was parachuted into France on 25 February 1943. He showed much courage and initiative during his mission, particularly when he enabled a French officer who was being followed by a Gestapo agent in Paris to reach safety and resume clandestine work in another area. He also took charge of a U.S. Army Air Corps officer who had been shot down and, speaking no French, was in danger of capture. This officer returned to England on 15 April 1943, in the aircraft which picked up Wing Commander Yeo-Thomas.

Wing Commander Yeo-Thomas undertook a second mission on 17 September 1943. Soon after his arrival in France, many patriots were arrested. Undeterred, he continued his enquires and obtained information which enabled the desperate situation being rectified. On six occasions, he narrowly escaped arrest. He returned to England on 15 November 1943, bringing British intelligence archives which he had secured from a house watched by the Gestapo.

This officer was again parachuted into France in February, 1944. Despite every security precaution, he was betrayed to the Gestapo in Paris on 21 March. While being taken by car to Gestapo Headquarters, he was badly “beaten up”. He then underwent 4 days continuous interrogation, interspersed with beatings and torture, including immersions, head downwards, in ice-cold water, with legs and arms chained. Interrogations later continued for 2 months and Wing Commander Yeo-Thomas was offered his freedom in return for information concerning the Head of a Resistance Secretariat. Owing to his wrist being cut by chains, he contracted blood-poisoning and nearly lost his left arm. He made two daring but unsuccessful attempts to escape. He was then confined in solitude in Fresnes prison for 4 months, including 3 weeks in a darkened cell with very little food. Throughout these months of almost continuous torture, he steadfastly refused to disclose any information.

On 17 July, Wing Commander Yeo-Thomas was sent with a party to Compiègne prison, from which he twice attempted to escape. He and 36 others were transferred to Buchenwald. On the way, they stopped at Saarbrücken, where they were beaten and kept in a tiny hut. They arrived at Buchenwald on 16 August and 16 of them were executed and cremated on 10 September. Wing Commander Yeo-Thomas had already commenced to organise resistance within the camp and remained undaunted by the prospect of a similar fate. He accepted an opportunity of changing his identity with that of a dead French prisoner, on condition that other officers would also be enabled to do so. In this way, he was instrumental in saving the lives of two officers.

Wing Commander Yeo-Thomas was later transferred to a work kommando for Jews. In attempting to escape, he was picked up by a German patrol and, claiming French nationality, was transferred to a camp near Marienburg for French prisoners of war. On 16 April 1945, he led a party of 20 in a most gallant attempt to escape in broad daylight. Ten of them were killed by gunfire from the guards. Those who reached cover split up into small groups. Wing Commander Yeo-Thomas became separated from his companions after 3 days without food. He continued alone for a week and was recaptured when only 800 yards from the American lines.

A few days later, he escaped with a party of 10 French prisoners of war, whom he led through German patrols to the American lines. Wing Commander Yeo-Thomas thus turned his final mission into a success by his determined opposition to the enemy, his strenuous efforts to maintain the morale of his fellow prisoners and his brilliant escape activities. He endured brutal treatment and torture without flinching and showed the most amazing fortitude and devotion to duty throughout his service abroad, during which he was under the constant threat of death.”

He survived the war and died in 1964 at the age of 61 in his Paris apartment following a massive haemorrhage. He was cremated in Paris and then subsequently repatriated to be interred in Brookwood Cemetery, Surrey, where his grave may be found in the Pine Glade Garden of Remembrance. 

DRW © 2018. Created 21/08/2018. Image courtesy of Mark Green

Updated: 26/08/2018 — 19:26

James Hendry GC

James Hendry (20/12/1911 – 13/06/1941) was was posthumously awarded the George Cross for his self sacrifice  on 13/06/1941 Loch Laggan, Scotland.

The Citation, recorded in the London Gazette of Supplement: 35962, Page: 1511 reads: 

The KING has been graciously pleased, on the advice of Canadian Ministers, to approve the posthumous award of the GEORGE CROSS, in recognition of most conspicuous gallantry in carrying out hazardous work in a very brave manner, 
to: — B.28593 Corporal Jame Hendry.”

No.1 Tunnelling Company of the  Royal Canadian Engineers was tasked with digging the tunnel between Loch Spey and Loch Laggan to supply water to the British Aluminium works at Fort William, when a fire broke out in an explosives store near Loch Laggan.  Corporal Hendry  ordered his colleagues to run to safety and attempted to extinguish the blaze, rather than attempt to escape the inevitable explosion that would have killed more men and stopped work on the tunnel. However it was in vain as the ensuring explosion killed him and Sapper John MacDougall Stewart. Seven more were injured.

James Hendry was buried in Brookwood Military Cemetery (grave reference 31. F. 9.) in Surrey. 

DRW 2018. Created 16/08/2018, image courtesy of Mark Green.

Updated: 26/08/2018 — 19:26

John *Jock” Rennie GC

John *Jock” Rennie (1919 – 29/10/1943) was awarded the George Cross for the gallantry he displayed in protecting others during a training accident at Riddlesworth near Slough on 29 October 1943.

The Citation, recorded in the London Gazette of Supplement: 36529, Page: 2417 reads:

“The KING has been graciously pleased, on the advice of His Majesty’s Canadian Ministers, to approve of the posthumous award of the GEORGE CROSS, in recognition of most  conspicuous gallantry in carrying out hazardous work in a very brave manner, to: —
6.45960 Corporal (acting Sergeant) John Rennie, Canadian Infantry Corps.”

The Citation does not elaborate on the incident, however, it is accepted that: 

“On 29th October 1943, Acting Sergeant Jock Rennie was supervising grenade-throwing by his unit at a Canadian training camp in Slough, then in Buckinghamshire. One grenade had been thrown successfully but a second failed to clear the protective embankment and rolled back to the throwing area. Rennie had time to get clear of the danger but, concerned for the safety of his men, he ran forward and tried to pick up the rolling grenade and throw it clear. However, the grenade exploded as he did so and he was fatally injured. Three other soldiers within 5 yards of the grenade were only slightly hurt.” (Victoriacrossonline)

He was accorded a military funeral and is buried in Brookwood Cemetery in the military section

DRW © 2018, created 14/08/2018. Image courtesy of Mark Green, description of GC action by Victoriacrossonline. 

Updated: 26/08/2018 — 19:26

Wallace (Wally) Arnold Oakes GC.

Wallace (Wally) Arnold Oakes (23/04/1932 – 12/06/1965), a traindriver with British Rail, was awarded the George Cross posthumously for his bravery on 5th June 1965.

The Citation, recorded in the London Gazette published on 15 October 1965, Supplement: 43793, Page: 9767, reads:

“Wallace Arnold Oakes (deceased), Locomotive Driver, British Railway Board Crewe (Sandbach).
Mr Oakes left Crewe driving the steam locomotive of a relief express passenger train. The train consisted of ten coaches and was reasonably well filled with passengers. When about seven miles from Crewe travelling at nearly sixty miles per hour the engine cab was suddenly filled with smoke and flames blowing back from the firebox. The fireman at once climbed through the side window and somehow managed to get on the cab steps where he extinguished his burning clothing by rubbing himself against the plating. He could not see into the cab but realising the brake had been applied he remained on the step until the train stopped. The flames subsided at once and he-entered the cab to find that Oakes was missing; he saw him lying on the cutting slope just ahead of the cab. His clothing was severely burnt and the flesh beneath had suffered similar to an extent described later as 80 percent of the body. Oakes was however still able to speak at that stage but was dazed. The first person to make an inspection of the controls was a fireman from an up train which was stopped to pick up the injured men. He found the brake fully applied, the regulator partly open an the blower valve open. It seems apparent therefore that Driver Oakes instead of quitting the cab as soon as the blow-back occurred remained to apply the brake, open the blower and probably close the regulator partly. The position in which he was found shows that he did not leave the engine until it had come to rest. Mr Oakes must have been aware that to remain at the controls of the locomotive was a grave risk to his own life. Nevertheless he applied the brake full and took all the measures he could to reduce the effect of the blow-back. Mr Oakes gallant action showed that his first thought was for the safety of his passengers and he thereby sacrificed his life, for he died a week later. He set an outstanding example of devotion to duty and of public service.”

Sadly, he was buried in an unmarked grave in St Matthew’s Churchyard, Haslington, Cheshire. Since his death, Wally Oakes GC has had two locomotives named after him, and there is a plaque in his memory at Crewe Railway Station.

The headstone took a campaign through a national Railway Magazine to raise the funds to be erected. It came about through a request that Mark Green had from the magazine for a picture of Wally as his medals were being sold (bought by Railway Museum in York) and they didn’t know he was in an unmarked grave.

DRW © 2018. Created 21/02/2018. Image by Mark Green, used with permission.

Updated: 04/06/2018 — 06:20

Donald Owen Clarke GC

Donald Owen Clarke (05/03/1923 – 08/09/1942) was posthumously awarded the George Cross for his actions on 08-09/08/1942 off coast of Trinidad while a crewman of the tanker San Emiliano.

“On the night of the 8th-9th August 1942, Clarke was serving on board the tanker “San Emiliano” when it was hit by two torpedoes and her cargo of petroleum burst into flames, turning the ship into an inferno. Clarke was trapped in his cabin but fought his way out on deck and boarded the only lifeboat that was still intact. It was full of burnt and wounded men, and he himself was badly burnt on the face, hands and legs. When the boat was lowered onto the sea, it started to drift back towards the flaming tanker and it was evident that it would require a tremendous effort to pull it out of danger. Most of the occupants, however, were so badly injured that they were unable to help. Despite his injuries, Clarke took an oar and pulled heartily for 2 hours without complaint, and only when the boat was well clear did he collapse and then his hands had to be cut away from the oar as the burnt flesh had stuck to it. He died a few hours later of his injuries.”

Clarke’s body was lost at sea off the coast of Trinidad, and he is commemorated on the Merchant Navy Memorial at Tower Hill in London.

 

© DRW 2016-2018. Information from Victoriacrossonline

Updated: 11/01/2018 — 20:49

John Weller EM

John Weller (1889 – 14/12/1978) was awarded the Edward Medal for his actions at Catterick, Wales on 04 February 1944.

“He was 33 years old and working at Catterick Bridge railhead, where he had just finished unloading ammunition from a lorry. He was in a traffic hut when there was an explosion some 30-40ft away; the hut collapsed and he was thrown a considerable distance from it. The explosion was followed by extensive fires in the surrounding area, caused mainly by grenades and incendiary bombs scattered from nearby trucks. Mr Weller, though badly shaken, returned to the hut, which was on fire. He was joined by another man, who, injured himself, was able to assist him to rescue three men from the ruins and carry them to safety.”

(His name on the citation is given as John Weller Brown.)

He is buried in Richmond Cemetery, Richmond, Yorkshire.

© DRW 2016-2018. Created 17/03/2017

Updated: 11/01/2018 — 20:49

Michael Gibson GC

Michael Gibson (06/1906 – 18/10/1940) was awarded the George Cross for his actions on 17 October 1940 in Coventry.

He was 34 years old and serving in the Corps of Royal Engineers when he and Second Lieutenant Alexander “Sandy” Campbell GC were called in to deal with an unexploded bomb which had fallen on the Triumph Engineering Company’s works. War production in two factories had stopped because of it., and a large number of people living nearby had been evacuated. Campbell found the bomb was fitted with a delayed action fuse which it was impossible to remove, so he decided to transport it to a safe place. This was done by lorry. Campbell lay alongside the bomb so that he could hear if it started ticking and could warn Gibson, the driver, to stop and run for cover. Next the two men carried it a mile from Priory Street to Whitley Common, where they successfully made the bomb safe. They were both killed the following day while working on another unexploded bomb.

Following a funeral service at Coventry Cathedral on 25 October 1940, the squad were buried in a collective grave in Coventry’s London Road Cemetery. The squad comprised Second Lieutenant Alexander Fraser Campbell GC and Sappers William Gibson, Richard Gilchrest, Jack Plumb, Ronald William Skelton, Ernest Arthur Stote and Gibson.

© DRW 2016-2018. Created 17/03/2017. Images and information courtesy of Mark Green.

Updated: 11/01/2018 — 20:49

Alexander Fraser Campbell GC

Alexander Fraser “Sandy” Campbell (02/05/1898 – 18/10/1940) was awarded the George Cross for his actions on 17 October 1940 in Coventry.

“He was 42 years old and serving in the Corps of Royal Engineers when he and Sergeant Michael Gibson were called to deal with an unexploded bomb which had fallen on the Triumph Engineering Company’s works. War production in the two factories had stopped because of it, and a large number of people living nearby had been evacuated. Campbell found the bomb was fitted with a delayed action fuse which it was impossible to remove, so he decided to transport it to a safe place. This was done by lorry. He lay alongside the bomb so that he could hear if it started ticking and could warn Gibson, the driver, to stop and run for cover. Next the two men carried the bomb a mile to Whitley Common, where they successfully made the bomb safe. Both men were killed the following day trying to defuse another bomb.”

Following a funeral service at Coventry Cathedral on 25 October 1940, the squad were buried in a collective grave in Coventry’s London Road Cemetery. The squad comprised Second Lieutenant Alexander Fraser Campbell GC and Sappers William Gibson, Richard Gilchrest, Jack Plumb, Ronald William Skelton, Ernest Arthur Stote and Gibson.

© DRW 2016-2018. Created 17/03/2017. Images and information courtesy of Mark Green.

Updated: 11/01/2018 — 20:50
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