Cecil Francis Kelly GC (EGM exchanger)

b. 1900 or 1901 India. d. 23/11/1948 Calcutta, India.

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 06/05/1936 Calcutta, India.

Cecil Francis Kelly (1900/01 – 1948) was born in India in circa 1900-1901, though the exact date of birth has not been determined. Little is known of his parents, except that his father Patrick Kelly was killed in a motor car accident when he was an infant, and his mother Mary quickly re-married and became Mrs Woodward. Cecil, who had a sister, Ethel Mary, was educated at St Francis Xavier College in Calcutta (now Kolkata), and trained to become a surveyor.

Cecil F Kelly GC

Cecil was an excellent sportsman and played field hockey both for India and England. On 1st March 1927, he married Violet Gertrude Mary Simpson, and they had two sons, Peter Emslie Cecil and Patrick Arthur Charles, both of whom followed their father’s excellence in the sporting field. Patrick captained Cheshire at Cricket and Hockey, whilst Peter played Rugby Union for the All India XV.

In 1928, Cecil and his new wife travelled to England, and lived in Bayswater, London for a short time. In the early 1930s, they returned to Calcutta where they lived at 233 Lower Circular Road from 1933 to 1948. Cecil became an Assistant River Surveyor in the Port Commissioners Office in Calcutta.

On the 6th May 1936, he was acting as pilot of two Port Police launches, with Inspector George Adamson, escorting a cargo of defective dynamite being taken for destruction up the River Hooghly in a barge. The barge proved unseaworthy, and after travelling 15 miles up the river was in danger of sinking. Adamson and his men’s only responsibility was for escorting the cargo, but despite this they tried, at great personal risk to themselves, to keep the barge afloat by bailing water from 7pm until midnight, when it was found necessary to beach the barge. In spite of the dynamite exuding nitroglycerine. Adamson worked with two sergeants indefatigably in the water and the dark to guide the barge ashore by hand. This took 5 and a half hours. The barge was then partially unloaded, but the last 2 tons could not be moved because of its dangerous condition, and the barge was refloated, towed into deep water and sunk. Kelly supervised the handling of the barge throughout and without his skilled assistance the feat could not have been accomplished. He remained in the barge while it was towed off the beach and, until it was safely sunk, supervised its handling in the current with the aid of two launches.

On 29th January 1937, the London Gazette announced the awards of the Empire Gallantry Medal of the Civil Division to both Cecil Kelly and George Adamson. Cecil held the award for three years, when after the creation of the George Cross in September 1940, all EGM holders were able to exchange their medals. Sadly Cecil’s life was relatively short, as following the Second World War, his health began to decline and he was forced to move into Harrington Nursing Home in Calcutta, where he died on 23rd November 1948. He was buried in the family plot in the Catholic Cemetery in Calcutta, though extensive searches have thus far been unsuccessful in locating it. His George Cross is privately held.