21 March 1913|
|Died||17 October 1940
|Buried||Gilroes Cemetery, Leicester|
|Years of service||1939–1940|
Bennett Southwell, GC (21 March 1913 – 17 October 1940) was a member of a Royal Navy team carrying out bomb disposal when he was killed during the London blitz. He was awarded a posthumous George Cross.
Southwell was born on 21 March 1913 and enlisted into the Royal Navy in 1939. He was called up for training on 8 June 1940 and proceeded to HMS Ganges. He was then posted to HMS Vernon as part of the Land Mine Disposal Section responsible for bomb and mine clearance work.
Along with and his companion, Sub-Lieutenant Jack Easton, they were called to a mine in Clifton Street, Shoreditch. The street was deserted and the 1,500 pounds (680 kg) mine could be seen dangling from its parachute, wrapped round the chimney of a terraced house.
The pair had to climb through a window into the bedroom, as the mine was blocking the door wedged between a bedstead and the collapsing chimney. Easton set about defusing the mine with Southwell passing him tools through the window. They were working in this way when the rest of the chimney collapsed, setting off the fuse which began to tick. They ran for cover in a nearby air raid shelter but the mine exploded, destroying six surrounding streets and killing Southwell instantly.
Such was the damage that his body was undiscovered for a further six weeks.
Sub-Lieutenant Easton survived and both men were awarded the George Cross.
The King has been graciously pleased to approve the posthumous award of the George Cross for great gallantry and undaunted devotion to duty, to
Ordinary Seaman Bennett Southwell, P/JX.204557.
Theft of medal
Southwell's George Cross medal was stolen from a fete in 1945. Southwell's former employer, Coras Hoisery, had a duplicate made and this was presented to the family in 1948.
In 2003 the original medal appeared for sale at Dix Noonan Auctioneers. It was, at that time, in the Richard Magor Collection. A member of Southwell's family informed the police and the sale was stopped.
The medal was then purchased from the Magor Collection and is now with the family of Southwell.
- The George Cross at Sea, 1939–1945. Accessed 20 November 2007
- Heroes of the Royal Navy, Navy News, October 2007, page 12. Accessed 20 November 2007.
- "Bennett Southwell, GC". George Cross database. Archived from the original on 2007-11-16. Retrieved 2007-11-18.
- "No. 35051". The London Gazette. 21 January 1941. p. 463.