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VC/GC Diary

Welcome to the Victoria Cross and George Cross Diaries


Here we add daily diary entries on the anniversaries of when the Victoria Crosses and George Crosses were awarded.

GC Diary 23rd September

By victoriagreen068, Sep 23 2016 05:28AM

The George Cross Diary for 23rd September contains three recipients, one a young girl who was awarded the Albert Medal for fighting off a cougar in Canada, and two bomb disposal men who were awarded GCs for actions in different locations during the Blitz.

Doreen Ashburnham-Ruffner AM/GC was born at Ashburnham Hall, the family seat on 13th May 1905, the grand-daughter of Sir Anchitel Ashburnham and daughter of Lawrence "Tufty" and Rosalie Winifred (nee Barnard) Ashburnham. Early in her childhood, her family emigrated to Canada and settled near Cowichan Lake on Vancouver Island.

She was awarded the Albert Medal at the age of just 11 on the 23rd September 1916, when she and Anthony Farrar, who was just 8, tackled a cougar. They were the youngest recipients of the Albert Medal and were presented with their medals by the Duke of Devonshire. At the age of 25, she moved to the USA where she learnt to fly, play polo and raised show horses in Italy.

In February 1945 she married Sydney Jackson Ruffner and they had one daughter called Djinn. She chose to exchange her Albert Medal (which she donated to the Canadian War Museum) for a GC which she received in Ottawa in November 1974. She died in California on 4th October 1991 and was cremated. Her GC and other awards are now in the Lord Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum.

John Bryan Peter (Jack) Duppa-Miller GC was born on 22nd May 1903 in Stechford, Birmingham, the eldest son of Brian Stothert Miller and Mary (nee Sadler). They were living in Birmingham because Miller’s father was an in-house lawyer with the Birmingham City Council. John entered Rugby School in 1916 and boarded in School Field House. He was Head of School from 1921-22 and then matriculated at Hertford College, Oxford.

In 1926, he married Barbara, daughter of Viscount Buckmaster who had been the Liberal Lord Chancellor, and shortly afterwards, the newly-weds moved to Lagos in Nigeria. Their time there was brought to an abrupt end when John contracted malaria and they were forced back to England. Shortly afterwards, John decided to train for ordination at Cambridge, and became a Roman Catholic. The couple had three sons, Hilary (known as Hal), Michael and David, but sadly the marriage didn’t last and the couple divorced. John remarried in 1944 to Clare Harding.

Miller was already 37 when he volunteered for the Navy in August 1940. He decided to volunteer for bomb disposal and was soon put to work in the middle of the Blitz. On 23rd September 1940, he was called with Able Seaman Stephen Tuckwell GC to deal with a mine that was buried in the mud. They got a canoe and went looking for the mine and found it nose down in the mud. Tuckwell was ordered to stay at a safe distance but he refused, arguing that as Miller would be working under at least a foot of water he would need Tuckwell to hand down the tools. They managed to get one fuse out, but could not reach the other; if the clock had started, there would have been no chance of escape. Then they appealed to some crane-drivers who had come to see what was happening, and they at once volunteered to help. Ropes were placed around the mine and, with the assistance of the crane-drivers, it was dragged slowly out of the creek and on to the wharf. The removal of the final fuse was carried out in comparative comfort. He was recommended for a Bar to his GC by the First Lord of the Admiralty, which would have made him the first and indeed only GC and Bar, but it was not approved.

After the War, John and Clare moved back to Africa, this time to the East. He became Inspector-General of Education in Haile Selassie’s Imperial Administration, establishing the new University of Addis Ababa. They then moved to Kenya where he served for 10 years in the Government education service. In 1972, after Clare’s death, John returned to England, where for a time, he lived with his son Hal, and then moved to a rest home in Devon. John would then marry a third time to a South African woman called Greta Lanby from Cape Town. Greta had heard about John from a friend who had stayed with Hal Miller, and she came to Devon, found John and six weeks later they were married. John and Greta then returned to South Africa, where John died on 15th December 1994 in Somerset West. John was cremated and his ashes were scattered at sea. His medals are held by the family.

Stephen John “Jack” Tuckwell GC was born on 16th April 1897 in Guildford, Surrey, the son of James and Ellen Elizabeth Tuckwell who lived in the Holy Trinity Parish of the city. He would have three sisters and one brother.

Stephen joined the Navy on 16th April 1915 for a period of 12 years. He had been working as a Milk Seller before then. He served on many ships and his last posting was to HMS Vernon on 15th April 1926 for a year when he was discharged and immediately signed on to the Reserve.

He then became a bus driver before the Second World War broke out, and as member of the Reserve, he was called up. He became part of the Mines Disposal Team, working with Jack Duppa-Miller GC and was awarded the GC alongside him for the incident described above. Later in the War, he was responsible for steaming out main charges from mines in a Hampshire quarry.

During his later years, he suffered from the after-effects of the chemicals he had been exposed to during his mine disposal work. He died on 2nd October 1966 in Sompting, Sussex. His final resting place is unknown at this time. His medals are privately held.

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