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Monday 9 December 2019

George Cross awarded to Irish hero of the Blitz could raise £50,000 at auction


A George Cross won by an Irish hero of the blitz could raise as much as £50,000 (€55,000) when it goes under the hammer in London on Tuesday.

The gallantry of Corporal James Patrick Scully, from Crumlin, was so conspicuous that he was even immortalised in the iconic DC Thomson-published comic The Hornet.

A copy of the comic, other papers and medals will be part of the lot sold by Dix Noonan & Webb (DNW), the premier specialist coin and medal auctioneers.

It's 70 years since the Dubliner came to the rescue of victims of the blitz on Merseyside. Cpl Scully was just 31 when he was presented with the highest award possible for bravery outside combat for his part in the long rescue of a family trapped in the ruins of a house in Birkenhead. He was the first Catholic to be given the award.

He was a member of the Pioneer Corps and on duty when a German bomb was dropped and detonated at Carnforth Street in Birkenhead on the night of March 13, 1941.

A man and a woman were trapped under the wreckage and Cpl Scully and an officer, Lt Charles Chittenden, moved quickly to try and dig them out of the wreckage of their home.

But as they dug, the building became increasingly unstable. Cpl Scully braced himself against the teetering masonry using a plank to hold the weight, but as the bricks pushed forward his body started to give way and his face was pushed into the ground

Lt Chittenden managed to keep him from suffocating and the two men, knowing the building could give way at any time, still stayed for eight long hours until the householders were eventually rescued.

Lt Chittenden was awarded the George Medal, but Cpl Scully was given the George Cross, second only to the Victoria Cross as a decoration for bravery.

The citation was published in the London Gazette on July 8, 1941, and noted: "Had this collapse occurred, they would have been buried under many tonnes of debris. Cpl Scully risked his life to save the two people."

He paid a heavy price for his bravery and was later discharged on health grounds.

He made his life in Britain, had a family of six children and worked as a painter and decorator. He died suddenly in 1974 while visiting his nephew, the former Olympian and now BBC athletics commentator Brendan Foster.

Sunday Independent

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