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The First George Cross Winners

Discussion in 'History of Britain during World War II' started by Jim, Feb 17, 2007.

  1. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Broadcasting to the nation from Buckingham Palace on September 23 at the height of the Battle of London, King George VI announced the creation of a new honour for civilians in the following words:

    "Many and glorious are the deeds of gallantry done during these perilous but famous days. In order that they should be worthily and promptly recognized I have decided to create at once a new mark of honour for men and women in all walks of civilian life. I propose to give my name to this new distinction, which will consist of the George Cross, which will rank next to the Victoria Cross. and the George Medal for wider distribution."

    The names of the first recipients of the newly-instituted George Cross and George Medal were announced on October 1, 1940. The following details are taken from the official accounts in the London Gazette of the deeds for which the awards were made.

    Thomas Hopper Alderson, Part-time Worker (Detachment Leader), Rescue Parties, Bridlington, received the George Cross for sustained gallantry, enterprise, and devotion to duty during enemy air raids.

    A pair of semi-detached houses at Bridlington was totally demolished in a recent air raid. One woman was trapped alive. Alderson tunnelled under unsafe wreckage and rescued her. Some day’s later two five-storey buildings were totally demolished and debris penetrated into a cellar in which 11 persons were trapped. Six persons in one cellar, which had completely given way, were buried under debris. Alderson partly effected entrance to this cellar by tunnelling 3ft to 14ft under the main heap of wreckage and for three and a half hours he worked unceasingly. Although considerably bruised and in imminent danger from wreckage, coal gas leakage and enemy aircraft, he succeeded in releasing all the trapped persons ...
    On a third occasion some four storey buildings were totally demolished. Five persons were trapped in a cellar. Alderson led the rescue work in excavating a tunnel from the pavement through the foundations to the cellar; he also personally tunnelled under the wreckage many feet into the cellar and rescued alive two persons (one of whom subsequently died) from under a massive refrigerator, which was in danger of further collapse. A wall, three storeys high, which swayed in the gusty wind, was directly over the position where the rescue party were working. Alderson worked almost continuously under the wreckage for five hours, during further air raid warnings and enemy aircraft overhead. By his courage and devotion to duty without the slightest regard for his own safety, he set a fine example to the members of his rescue party and their team work is worthy of the highest praise.

    First civilian to win the George Cross Mr. T. H. Alderson of Bridlington a detachment leader of the town's rescue parties.

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    Temp. Lieut. Robert Davies, Royal Engineers, who was also awarded the George Cross, was the officer in charge of the party detailed to recover the bomb which fell in the vicinity of St Paul's Cathedral.

    So conscious was this officer of the imminent danger to the Cathedral that regardless of personal risk he spared neither himself nor his men in their efforts to locate the bomb. After constant efforts, during which all ranks knew that an explosion might occur at any moment, the bomb was successfully extricated. In order to shield his men from further danger, Lieutenant Davies himself drove the vehicle in which the bomb was removed and personally carried out its disposal.

    Lieut. Robert Davies, who commanded the Bomb Disposal Squad that dealt with the time-bomb outside St Paul’s. It was taken to Hackney Marshes and there exploded

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    Sapper George Cameron Wylie, Royal Engineers, the third recipient of the Cross, was a member of the Bomb Disposal Section engaged upon the recovery of the bomb which fell ill the neighbourhood of St Paul's Cathedral.
    THE actual discovery and removal of the bomb fell to him, Sapper Wylie's untiring energy, courage, and disregard for danger were an outstanding example to his comrades.

    Lance Corporal G C Wylie, of the Bomb Disposal Squad (Royal Engineers) who helped to remove the one-ton unexploded bomb that menaced St. Paul's Cathedral.

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    The George Medal was awarded to the following fourteen men and women for individual or concerted acts of gallantry, Ernest Herbert Harmer, Executive Chief Officer, and Cyril William Arthur Brown, Second Officer, Dover .Fire Brigade, and Alexander Edmund Campbell, Section Officer, Dover A.F.S. In a large-scale attack by enemy bombers on Dover Harbour, fires were started in ships and oil stores. Air raids continued throughout the day. During the attacks all members of the Dover Fire Brigade and Auxiliary Fire Service engaged at the fires did excellent work in difficult and dangerous circumstances and the fires were eventually extinguished. The individuals named above volunteered to return to a blazing ship containing explosives, in which they fought fires while enemy aircraft were still in the neighbourhood.

    Section Officer A. E. Campbell, of Dover A.F.S who is seen being cheered by his colleagues after the announcement of his award of the George Medal for bravery in returning to a blazing ship containing explosives.

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    George Archibald Howe, manager, Shell-Mex and H.P. Ltd., William Sigsworth, manager, Anglo-American Oil Co., Ltd., George Samuel Sewell, engineer, Shell-Mex and H.P. Ltd., Jack Owen, fireman, Kingston-upon-Hull Fire brigade, and Clifford Turner, leading fireman, Kingston-upon-Hull A.F.S.
    During a recent air raid bombs were dropped on an oil depot, petrol tanks being pierced in several places, causing serious fires. Mr. Howe showed outstanding leadership and organization in fighting the fires and conspicuous bravery in entering the tank compound, which contained burning spirit, to open the valves so that the stock could be transferred. He was assisted by Mr. Sigsworth, who also entered the tank compound and who was untiring in his efforts to extinguish the flames. Mr. Sewell led a party of men into the tank compound and was also continually on the tank roof while the gas inside was burning, endeavouring to extinguish the flames by playing foam over the tank top and placing sandbags over the roof curb. Fireman Owen volunteered to operate a hose on the top of an almost red-hot tank after wading through petrol and water to a depth of about four feet. His clothes were thus soaked with petrol and might have caught alight at any moment. Leading Fireman Turner volunteered to assist Mr. Howe in fixing hose on a tank-top surrounded by flames from burning petrol. Their clothes were thus soaked with petrol and might have caught alight at any moment.

    Second-Officer Cyril William Arthur Brown, of the Dover Fire Brigade, is on the extreme right of this group. The Dover firemen and A.F.S. fought fires in ships and oil Stores

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  2. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Miss Sonia Vera Carlyle Straw, Air Raid Warden, Carshalton.
    During an air raid she volunteered to give assistance to the wounded. While the raid was in progress she attended a number of cases of badly injured women and children and treated several persons suffering from shock. She carried on entirely by herself without assistance for a considerable time until help came, and showed great courage and resource.

    Miss Sonia Straw, Air Raid Warden, of Caterham, whose courage and resource during air-raids has been exceptional.

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    Two other women members of' the Civil Defence organizations, Mrs Dorothy Clarke, Ambulance Driver, and Mrs Bessie Jane Hepburn, Ambulance Attendant, both of Aldeburgh. They showed courage of a high order and devotion to duty in rescuing a man badly injured in an explosion.

    Mrs. Bessie Jane Hepburn (right) and Mrs. Dorothy Clarke, ambulance workers, of Aldeburgh, Suffolk, who rescued a man injured in an explosion.

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    William Fisher, Dock Labourer, of Southampton, displayed great gallantry during an air raid.
    He rescued Gunner S. W. Jones, of the 21st Light A.A. Battery, from the Bofors gun-site on the roof of a building about 50 ft. above ground level. In the early part of the raid one man of the gun team was seriously wounded in the face and head. Fire quickly broke out, and in addition to the ammunition which began to explode, ammonia gas fumes were released from a cold storage chamber below. The sergeant in charge of the gun realized the danger to his men and rightly ordered them to abandon the post. It was found impossible to get the wounded man over the parapet wall and down the ladder on to the crane platform.
    Fisher then came up, and without hesitation made a rough seat of a sling rope and fastened it to the hook of the jib crane. After obtaining the assistance of the crane driver, he allowed himself to be hoisted on to the roof of the building. He then attached the sling under the arms of the wounded soldier and waited on the roof until he had been lowered on to the quay. The sling was then detached and returned once more to the roof for the rescuer himself to be lowered. During such time as Fisher was on the roof he was in constant danger from the fire, the gas fumes, and the almost continuous explosions of shells. His conduct throughout was a fine example of initiative, bravery, and coolness.

    Patrick King, Air Raid Warden, of Seaton Delaval.
    During an air raid King was in his shelter when he heard a bomb explode. He ran towards the place where it had fallen and found that two semi-detached houses had almost collapsed. One of these was empty, but in the other was a blind lady who had sheltered under the stairs. King managed to get through the front door and ascertained by shouting that the blind woman, Miss Hannah Wilson, was alive but buried under the debris. He borrowed a fireman's axe from a fireman who was on the spot and pulled some of the debris out of the way with it. Some of the roof timbers were obstructing him so he sent for a saw with which he sawed off lengths and used them as supports to prevent further debris falling as he progressed. He had to struggle for a considerable time through the debris, meanwhile encouraging Miss Wilson and telling her what to do. He managed with considerable difficulty to reach her and to clear the debris off her body, and eventually to bring her out into the open. The house was in imminent danger of collapse and King showed great courage and presence of mind.

    Mr. Patrick King, Air Raid Warden, who rescued Miss Hannah Wilson-a blind woman-from a wrecked house. He is seen receiving Miss Wilson's congratulations

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    Frederick Ernest Rose, Maintenance Engineer.
    He was in charge of the salvage party at the factory at which he is employed. Although a raid was in progress and bombs and debris were still falling, Rose led his two assistants into damaged buildings and, though hampered by flood water and darkness, personally extinguished fires which had been started among some magnesium.
    He then led his men on to another affected area and assisted to check fires which had also broken out there. By his personal courage and coolness he was an outstanding example to others.
     

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