James Scully's $115,000 George Cross medal blitzes World Record


Corporal James Scully of the Royal Pioneer Corps may not be a name known to many, but it should be.

His bravery in the face of extreme danger during the Second World War, in March 1941, was something which rightly led to him being declared a hero.

He was awarded one of the highest possible honours a soldier could be given, when he was bestowed with the legendary George Cross medal in 1953. It is second only to the Victoria Cross.

That medal was sold yesterday, July 5, by specialist medal and coin auction house Dix Noonan Webb, and unsurprisingly for this famous item with its amazing history, it reached a price of £72,000 ($115,000).

Not only would such a thing be of massive interest to any militaria collector or museum, but because of its rarity and context, medals of this type will always make strong alternative investments.

The act of courage which earned him his place in history was carried out during the heavy bombing of Birkenhead in Liverpool, on Merseyside.

On the night of March 13 and 14 1941 a huge raid, one of the biggest suffered by Britain in the war, was enacted by aircraft from the Luftflotte 3, one of the primary divisions of the German Luftwaffe.


The George Cross is the highest civilian
honour in the British Commonwealth

More than 58 tonnes of explosives and 4,000 incendiaries were dropped and hundreds were killed. Scully and another member of the Corps, Lieutenant Chittenden, were part of a rescue team searching for trapped people after the attack.

As the London Gazette reported on 8 July 1941, "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.


Such was Scully's fame that he was even featured in this rare comic

"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."

Corporal Scully risked his life to save the two people and, though the position looked hopeless, Lieutenant Chittenden stayed with him. Such 'outstanding gallantry' is something you don't see very often.

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.

It was sold along with original documentation, a Buckingham Palace Coronation Medal 1953 certificate, two or three portrait photographs and the cover feature of The Hornet comic book from January 1967, featuring Scully's legendary exploits.


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