Bomb disposal George Cross in sale

An extremely rare, if not unique George Cross that was presented in 1940 for bomb disposal during the London Blitz will be offered by London’s Dix Noonan Webb in their auction of orders, decorations, medals and militaria on January 26. Estimated to fetch £30,000-50,000, it is being sold by the recipient’s family.

The group of five was awarded to Sub-Lieutenant J. B. P. Duppa-Miller, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, who was awarded the George Cross for his courage and skill in disarming a highly sensitive and dangerous magnetic mine in Barking Creek on September 23, 1940 during the Battle of Britain.

Sub-Lieutenant Miller and Able Seaman Tuckwell worked up the creek on the last of the ebb in a small rowing boat, and reached the mine by wading in the filth which one of London’s main sewers pours into Roding River. The bomb-fuse and primer holder were taken out there and then; if the clock had started there could have been no chance of escape. They then tried to drag the mine from the mud on to a quay, but the ropes broke. Later, they lifted it by crane and completed its disablement. Both Duppa-Miller and Tuckwell were awarded the G.C. for the Barking Creek Mine operation.

Sub-Lieutenant J. B. P. Duppa-Miller
Sub-Lieutenant J. B. P. Duppa-Miller

Shortly afterwards in December, Duppa-Miller was confronted with a mine far more dangerously situated and presenting even greater personal risk. To render it safe it he would have to lie on his back in a pool of water on the viaduct outside the London Bridge Station, his face six inches from the fuse. If it began to tick, he had 22 seconds in which to remove himself. Twice the ticking started and twice he ran for his life. Both times it stopped. He returned after a cup of tea for a third attempt, conscious that their Lordships would regard this as a situation in which ‘damage could not be accepted’ and decided this time he would have to stay under the mine. His luck held: fuse and primer both fell out and rolled away, and normal service was shortly resumed at London Bridge Station.

After disarming his fifteenth and last mine in Coventry, Duppa-Miller was recommended for a Second Award Bar to his G.C for the London Bridge mine by the First Lord of the Admiralty but, having been informed that ‘there could be no such thing as a “Bar” to the Cross’ – a decision he thought very reasonable – instead received a King’s Commendation for Brave Conduct.

John Bryan Peter Duppa-Miller (born Miller) was born in 1903 at Stechford, Birmingham. He was the son of a city council lawyer and a scholar at both Rugby School and Hertford College, Oxford. He died at Somerset West, South Africa in 1994.

Christopher Mellor-Hill, Head of Client Liaison (Associate Director), Dix Noonan Webb commented: “We are honoured to be asked to find a new home by the family for this outstanding George Cross. Whilst there were other GC’s awarded for bomb disposal operations in WW2, this is the first one we have encountered where the recipient: Lt. Miller was recommended for a bar (a 2nd George Cross) for a further brave act during The London Blitz for which he was subsequently awarded the Kings Commendation for Bravery which still reflected his being honoured with a double gallantry award for his outstanding bravery.”

The medals will be sold together with a length of George Cross ribbon, contained in the George Cross case of issue together with the a note made by John Miller on Jul 13, 1973, which reads as follows: “The ribbon in this box is King George VI’s own personal sample, submitted to him for approval when he instituted the George Cross. My sailor George Tuckwell and I were two of the first recipient’s of the Cross. When you went to the Palace to receive a decoration, you were supposed in those days anyhow, to put the ribbon up on your tunic in advance for some reason. As this decoration had only just been instituted, the ribbon was unobtainable, even at Gieves, the naval outfitters. When the King heard this he gave me his own sample, told me to cut off what was needed for the others, and keep the rest as a memento for myself. The George Cross ribbon, like the Victoria Cross ribbon, normally carries a miniature of the Cross (in this case silver, not bronze) in the centre. At this early stage, no miniatures had been made so for some considerable time we wore the plain blue ribbon alone. And this is why there is no miniature on the King’s sample.”