At 4:30pm on 15th March, Manor Church in Galleywall Road, Bermondsey was the venue for the presentation of Frank’s medal to his mother and father. It was presented by the Scout Commissioner for London, General Sir John Shea with Councillor George Henley in attendance. The emotion of the presentation is plain to see in the picture below. At the same event, a number of other Scouts were also given awards.
The presentation was recorded by British Movietone and published on 20th March 1941. The clip starts a few seconds in after pressing play.
Video source: British Movietone News on YouTube
THE BRONZE CROSS
The Bronze Cross is the highest gallantry award the Scout Association can award and is known as “The Scout’s VC”, a reference to the well known Victoria Cross; the highest British Military Decoration.
Like other organisations, Scout awards are made against a set of criteria as shown in the extract from Policy, Organisation & Rules (POR) which contains everything the Scout Association members are governed by.
A recommendation would of been passed to the Awards Committee containing all the detail of his actions. Sadly, the original recommendation has been lost, only the commendation survives which is far more vague in detail.
The Scout Booklet “They Were Prepared” (see earlier) published a list of Scout Association awards so far granted as of 30th June 1941. Although they didn’t know it then, in 1941 they were only about a quarter of the way through the war. Bermondsey groups are a feature of the list.
In the same way that British military medals are graded, so are the Scout medals. So like a Victoria Cross is senior to a Conspicuous Gallantry Cross, so the Bronze Cross is senior to the Silver and Gilt Crosses.
THE 1939-1945 DEFENCE MEDAL
The Defence Medal was awarded to those not in direct combat during World War Two, but who made a contribution to the defence of the United Kingdom at home or overseas. It was created in May 1945 to be awarded to the military and workers in the listed civilian occupations.
The medal ribbon is flame red bordered by green to signify the enemy’s attacks and destruction wrought on the green and pleasant land with the thin black stripes signifying the black out when no lights could shine outside at night for fear of guiding enemy bombers.
Greatly paraphrasing the criteria for awarding the Defence Medal, Scouts like Frank would be entitled to the medal if they met the following:
Civil Defence service in non-operational areas subjected to air attack
Completed three years of service between 1939 and 1945
- Civil Defence service in non-operational areas subjected to air attack
- Completed three years of service between 1939 and 1945
- If service was brought to an end before the period of three years service has been completed, either by death due to enemy action when on duty, or by injuries entitling the candidate to a Wound Stripe
“One thing which always pleased me was the cheery, scouting way in which they tackled everything, and that despite bombs and flying-bombs or rockets, scouting in Bermondsey and Rotherhithe never stopped. Sometimes meetings had to be held in shelters, etc., but we kept our scouting going. I was very proud of that.”Mr H.K. Wiggell, Albany (Southwark) Scout District Commissioner
FRANK’S RESTING PLACE, NUNHEAD CEMETERY TODAY
Fittingly, Frank’s grave is immediately adjacent to the memorial maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission detailing the names of WW2 combatants who are buried in Nunhead.
The circle with a dot is the tracking sign for “Gone Home” and is on Robert Baden Powell’s grave in Kenya. Baden-Powell, or BP, found the Scout movement and was the first, and only, Chief Scout of the World. “Gone Home” is used to signify a member of the Scout movement who has died.
FRANK REMEMBERED, SCOUTS REMEMBERED
There are so many stories of Bermondsey’s experiences in World War Two, yet it is still surprising that not more is known about what Frank did which is why the research continues.
There are no local memorials that we know of, but Frank’s name is recorded on the roll of honour held by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and in the WW2 Roll of Honour on-line at http://www.scoutsrecords.org
Southwark News published an article on 2nd January 2015 which outlined the story as it was known at the time.
Don’t forget that Frank is only the best known of the Scouts who were killed in service. There are at least two further Bermondsey Scouts that were killed in 1941 shortly after Frank’s award, Scout Harry Hughes (17) and Scout Fricker, not to mention the large numbers who must have been injured.
The leaflet “They Were Prepared” also listed British decorations members of the Scout Association had received as of 30th June 1941.
There are two other well documented tales of bravery at Dockhead.
The Priest’s house at Dockhead was the scene of more destruction and exceptional bravery later in WW2 in 1945. A V2 rocket landed on Parker’s Row and destroyed the building killing three priests instantly. One priest and the house keeper lay trapped within the building. One of the Heavy Rescue Squad, Ted Heming, was lowered into the ruins, hanging upside down for some considerable time as he worked to release them. For this he was awarded the George Cross.
Gillian Tanner was in the Auxillary Fire Service and based at Dockhead Fire Station. She drove a lorry containing petrol through the bombs and fires of the Blitz for hours on end keeping the fire engines topped up so that they could continuously pump at the huge fires that burned following the bombing raids. For this she was awarded a George Medal.
RESEARCH & ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
I had thought this was going to be really easy, researching what happened to a recipient of Scouting’s highest award. In the end, I ended up talking with people in the local area and across the world who are listed below in no particular order
The memories of local people
16th Bermondsey Scout Group
1st Facebook Scout Group
Southwark Local History Library and John Hook’s air raid documentation
London Metropolitan Archives
Scout Association Awards Committee
British Library sound archive
Rotherhithe & Bermondsey Local History Society, notably Stephen Humphrey
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Vicar of St James’ Church Bermondsey
The Most Holy Trinity Church Dockhead
London Screen Archives – Nothing found
British Movietone News on YouTube
Neil Bright who found newspaper articles at Southwark Local History Library
“Bermondsey at War” by James D. Stewart
“They Were Prepared” published by the Scout Association in 1941
“The Left Handshake” (1949) – Book about the work of Scouts in WW2
Frank would still recognise Scouting today, but that is not to say we are stuck in the past – Scouting continues to evolve teaching a mixture of skills for the Internet age mixed in with traditional Scout skills.
Scouting provides a stimulating environment where children from all backgrounds join together in a life of adventure, discovery and learning.
The skills they learn will serve them well in their adult life.
If you are in Southwark go to http://www.southwarkscouts.org.uk/join-us/ and find out about the sections, all of which take boys and girls. If you are anywhere else in the UK, go to http://www.scouts.org.uk