British Military & Criminal History:
1900 to 1999.
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The First George Cross
The first recipient of a directly awarded George Cross medal was Thomas Hopper Alderson.
Mr. Alderson was born in Sunderland, Co. Durham, during 1903. He was a Detachment Leader, in the ARP.
Brindlington, Yorkshire, suffered a number of incidents at the beginning of the Blitz in September 1940 and Mr. Alderson, together with other members of his section, rescued many people trapped under the wreckage of demolished houses. In just one of these incidents 6 people were trapped in a cellar beneath the debris of two 5-storey buildings which had been totally demolished. Mr. Alderson worked his way into this cellar by tunnelling 13 to 14 feet under the main heap of wreckage and for 3˝ hours he worked in an unceasingly cramped position, and managed to free all the trapped people.
The award of Mr. Alderson's George Cross was published in the London Gazette on 30 September 1940.
Mr. Alderson died in Driffield, Yorkshire, on 28 October 1965. His George Cross is now displayed in the Imperial War Museum's Victoria & George Cross Gallery.
The Youngest GC Recipient
The youngest recipient of a directly awarded George Cross medal is John Bamford, who was aged 15 years 7 months. Mr. Bamford was born in Ilkeston, Derbyshire on 7 March 1937.
The following citation was published in the London Gazette 16 December 1952:
A fire broke out in a house occupied by a man, his wife and six children, and in a very short time was burning fiercely.
John Bamford and his father went downstairs and upon opening the living room door at the foot of the stairs the interior of the room burst into flames. Owing to the intense heat they were unable to get back upstairs to the rest of the family. They ran out through the front door, climbed on to the top of a bay window which gave access to a bedroom, opened the window and helped three of the children and the mother on to the flat roof.
John Bamford and his father then climbed into the bedroom where they could hear the two remaining children, aged 4 and 6, shouting in the back bedroom, situated immediately above the seat of the fire. The bedroom doors at the head of the stairs were enveloped by flames. The father draped a blanket around himself and attempted to reach the children but the blanket caught fire and he was driven back. John Bamford then told his father to go to the back of the house while he got down on his hands and knees and crawled through the flames into the bedroom. His shirt was completely burned upon him but nevertheless he snatched the two young boys from the bed and managed to get them to the window.
He dropped the younger boy from the window into his father's arms but the elder boy struggled from his grasp. Bamford could then have got out himself but he left the window and chased the screaming child through the flames across the room. He eventually managed to catch him and throw him from the window. By this time Bamford was fast losing consciousness. He was terribly burned on the face, neck, chest, back, arms and hands but he managed to get one leg over the window sill and then fell to the ground.
John Bamford displayed courage of the highest order, and in spite of excruciating pain succeeded in rescuing his two brothers.
Most Recent GC Awards
The George Cross has been very rarely awarded since the end of World War Two. Although intended primarily as a civilian award, the majority of awards have been made to military personnel for acts not coming within the scope of a military gallantry award.
Posthumous George Cross Award
The most recent posthumous award of the George Cross was to Staff Sergeant Olaf Sean George Schmid, The Royal Logistic Corps. The following citation was published in the London Gazette dated 19 March 2010:
Staff Sergeant Schmid was a High Threat Improvised Explosive Device Disposal (IEDD) Operator in Helmand from June 2009 until his death in action on 31 October 2009.
He deployed at the height of Operation PANTHER'S CLAW and went immediately into the fray, into one of the most physically draining, mentally intense and hazardous jobs in Helmand. Typically having to deploy on foot, thereby precluding the option of specialist protective equipment and severely limiting the use of remote controlled vehicles, he spent long periods of time in close proximity toVictim Operated IEDs (VOIED) and in the gravest personal danger. Before his death in action he responded to 42 IED tasks, personally dealing with 70 confirmed IEDs. A number of examples illustrate his bravery.
An infantry company based in Wishtan province was isolated by a substantial minefield and the infamous Pharmacy Road, the only resupply route, was blocked by a medium wheeled tractor and another vehicle, both blown up by very large IEDs. Intelligence, unenviable first-hand experience and numerous unexplained explosions from the area indicated that the area of the stricken vehicles was laced with IEDs.
At 0800 hrs on 9 August 2009, as temperatures soared past 45 Celsius, Schmid started work. Within only a hundred metres he found and cleared an IED and once within 100 metres of the vehicles, intent on using a remote controlled vehicle (RCV) and remote explosive clearance devices, he deployed an RCV that struck an IED and was destroyed. Schmid moved forward without hesitation and, well inside the most lethal arc of any device, manually placed explosive charges, clearing a route to within 5 metres of the vehicles. His team then moved to clear a compound adjacent to the stricken vehicles to drag them off the road. When a second IED was found, Schmid made another manual approach and rapidly got rid of it. A new approach to the vehicles from the compound was explosively created for the hulks to be dragged clear. Schmid painstakingly cleared up to both vehicles and his first trip took an hour. He was relying on his eyesight and his understanding of enemy tactics alone. Despite the threat, Schmid again decided against explosive clearance; time was critical so he placed heavy and cumbersome chains onto the stricken vehicles, the riskiest of enterprises given the very high likelihood of booby traps, and the vehicles were finally dragged clear.
As light started to fade, Schmid then personally led a high risk clearance of the road where the vehicles had been, manually disposing of two further IEDs. The clearance had lasted 11 hours. It was physically, mentally and emotionally draining, but the road was open and the company resupplied. The resounding success of this battlegroup operation was entirely due to the heroic, selfless acts of Schmid.
On 8 October 2009 Schmid was tasked in Sangin District Centre to deal with an artillery shell reported by unmentored Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers. On arrival the ANA led him, unsuspecting, directly to the device. He was now not only at grave personal risk but immediately realised that the many unsuspecting civilians around him in the bustling bazaar were also in peril. Time was not on his side. He quickly assessed that the shell was in fact part of a live Radio Controlled IED intended to cause maximum casualties in a well populated area. The nature of the device also meant it was almost certainly over-watched by the bomber controlling it. Without any consideration for his own safety, Schmid immediately decided to neutralise the IED manually. To do this he knew he was employing a render safe rocedure that should only ever be employed in the gravest of circumstances and which is conducted at the highest personal risk to the operator. In an instant, Schmid made the most courageous decision possible, consciously placing his own life on the line in order to save the lives of countless Afghan civilians and demonstrating bravery of the highest order and well beyond the call of duty.
At the end of October 2009 Schmid was involved in an operation near Forward Operating Base JACKSON in Battle Group North's area. Having dealt with three IEDs already that day, Schmid and his team were transiting to another compound when a searcher discovered a command wire running down the alleyway they were using. Schmid and his team were trapped in the alleyway with no safe route forward or back as they did not know in which direction the IED was situated. Knowing that his team were in potential danger, he immediately took action to reduce the hazard. Schmid eventually traced the wire to a complex command wire IED in that it incorporated three linked buried main charges. He was killed whilst dealing with the device. Schmid's actions on that fateful day, when trapped in an alleyway with no safe means of escape, probably saved the lives of his team.
These occasions are representative of the complexity and danger that Schmid had faced daily throughout his four month tour. His selfless gallantry, his devotion to duty, and his indefatigable courage displayed time and time again saved countless military and civilian lives and is worthy of the highest recognition.
Surviving George Cross Award
The most recent award of the George Cross to an individual who survived performing their gallantry was to Colour Sergeant Kevin Howard Haberfield, Royal Marines. The following notice was published in the London Gazette dated 31 July 2015:
The QUEEN has been graciously pleased to approve the award of the George Cross to the undermentioned for Services in the Field:
Colour Sergeant Kevin Howard HABERFIELD, Royal Marines, P040074J.
(To be dated 22 November 2005)
GCs on Display
The Victoria & George Cross Gallery at London's Imperial War Museum contains a good cross-section of George Cross awards. Apart from the medals, they also contain an account of the deed and other items of interest. The following table lists those George Cross' currently located in the gallery.