Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (5 July 2011)
Date of Auction: 5th July 2011
Sold for £72,000
Estimate: £40,000 - £50,000
The outstanding ‘Liverpool Blitz’ G.C. group of three awarded to Corporal James Scully, Royal Pioneer Corps, who shielded a trapped couple from debris for an entire night, all three finally being saved after seven hours of frantic work by a rescue team - he remains the most highly decorated member of his Corps
George Cross (No. 13039555 Cpl. James Patrick Scully, 8th July 1941), in its Royal Mint case of issue; War Medal 1939-45; Coronation 1953, minor contact wear, generally good very fine or better (3) £40,000-50,000
FootnoteG.C. London Gazette 8 July 1941:
‘When houses were demolished by enemy action, a rescue party under the direction of Lieutenant Chittenden went to the incident and a search was made for trapped people.
Corporal Scully located a man and a woman and, with great difficulty, he managed to penetrate the debris and get to where they were buried. Lieutenant Chittenden followed him. Wood was obtained to use as props to shore up the debris, but there was no means of cutting it into proper lengths.
A rescue party then arrived with tools to cut some wood into more suitable lengths for shoring. All available help was mustered and the men worked tremendously hard in their efforts to clear away the wreckage. Corporal Scully remained with the trapped persons and prevented any more debris falling on them. A long plank was inserted to take most of the weight but as a result of further falls the props began to sway out of position. There was a very real danger of the mass of debris falling down and burying the injured persons. Realising this, Corporal Scully placed his back under the plank to try to prevent the props from giving way completely. He steadied them for a time but gradually the weight increased until the props slipped. This left Corporal Scully holding one end of the plank and Lieutenant Chittenden supporting the other. Corporal Scully could have got away at this stage, but he knew that if he did so the debris would fall and probably kill the trapped persons, so he stayed under the plank. Gradually the weight increased and forced Corporal Scully down until he lay across the trapped man. Lieutenant Chittenden who was still holding one end of the plank reached over and supported Corporal Scully’s head to prevent him from being suffocated by having his head pressed into the debris. He managed to keep Corporal Scully’s face clear, but he was fast becoming exhausted. Despite this, he kept up his spirits and continued to talk encouragingly to the woman. The man was unconscious nearly all the time. Corporal Scully remained in this position throughout the night until, more than seven hours later, the rescue party were able to rescue him and the casualties.
When they first entered the house, Lieutenant Chittenden and Corporal Scully knew there was a grave risk of injury or death as the high walls nearby appeared about to collapse at any moment. Had this collapse occurred, they would have been buried under many tons of debris. Corporal Scully risked his life to save the two people and, though the position looked hopeless, Lieutenant Chittenden stayed with him.’
Lieutenant C. C. Chittenden was awarded the George Medal.
James Patrick Scully, who was born in Dublin in October 1909, enlisted in the Pioneer Corps in Belfast in January 1941 and was serving in 256 Company, Pioneer Corps, at the time of the above related incident in Carnforth Street, Birkenhead, on the night of 13-14 March 1941. Liverpool-Birkenhead suffered one of the biggest raids of the U.K. that night, aircraft from Luftflotte 3 dropping 58 tonnes of H.E. and over 4,000 incendiaries - this on the back of a larger raid on the 12th, when 264 people in Birkenhead were killed.
Scully was actually recommended for his G.C. by the Chief Constable and the Mayor of Birkenhead, but the C.O. of 46 Group, Pioneer Corps, Temple Gray, quickly leapt into action on learning of the approval of the award from the G.O.C. Western Command, as recounted in Marion Hebblethwaite’s One Step Further - The George Cross:
‘I then heard that Scully was to be presented to the King so I arranged for him to be fitted out by a skilled tailor. He was taken by a Sergeant to Liverpool and put on a train to London.
There he was met by an R.S.M. from the Brigade of Guards who took him to the War Office. Here he was quizzed by a number of Generals before being taken into a room and fitted with a new outfit supervised by two tailors.
The R.S.M. then gave him a light lunch in a Whitehall restaurant with no alcohol and they were driven to Buck House. He was taken up to see the King, George VI, who asked him to sit down, was very kind, listened to his story and pinned the George Cross on him remarking that it was only the second one to be awarded. With his escort he then had an enormous high tea and was taken to a cinema; after a few drinks he was put on the train to Liverpool thoroughly bewildered by his crowded day. Warned by a message of his E.T.A., an escort of a Sergeant and four men was arranged to meet him, as it was thought his Irish temperament might have caused trouble but on arrival he was sound asleep.
I visited the Company next day and heard his story verbatim, he told it in a fine Irish brogue with considerable wit. Then he was given a fortnight’s leave, and set off for Eire in the correct civilian suit. As usual with most of the Irish on leave he did not return at the end of his leave. He had the usual run of explanations from the mother, the doctor and the priest, but eventually he turned up and settled down to prove himself the good soldier he was.’
Scully was discharged in May 1943 as ‘ceasing to fulfil Army Physical Requirements Para. 390 (xvi) King’s Regulations 1940, being the result of great bravery for which he was awarded the George Cross’ (his discharge certificate refers).
After the War, Scully became a painter and decorator, and raised a large family with his wife Mary, namely a son and five daughters who produced the happy couple 17 grandchildren. Blessed with a wicked sense of humour and adored by his children, he died suddenly in December 1974, while visiting his nephew Brendan Foster, the famous runner, at Hebburn-on-Tyne.
James Scully was the first Catholic recipient of a George Cross and is commemorated by a sculpture at Simpson Barracks. A Troop of the modern-day Royal Logistics Corps is also named after him.
Sold with a quantity of original documentation, including the recipient’s Soldier’s Service and Pay Book; Buckingham Palace Coronation Medal 1953 certificate; membership certificate for the Royal Society of St. George; two or three portrait photographs, and the cover feature of the Hornet of January 1967, featuring the recipient’s G.C.-winning exploits.