b. 30/08/1911 Highgate, London. d. 24/01/1944 Lazio, Italy.
George Allan Mitchell (1911-1944) was born in Highgate, London on 30th August 1911, and attended Farmer Road Boys School, Leyton, East London. The school was later renamed George Mitchell School. George enlisted as a Private in the London Scottish (Gordon Highlanders) Regiment prior to the outbreak of World War II. George was part of the 1st Battalion, London Scottish, which was posted to Italy in the latter part of 1943 as part of the invasion. By the latter part of January 1944, the main Damiano Ridge became a priority for capture.
In Italy on the night of 23rd and 24th January 1944, a Company of the London Scottish was ordered to carry out a local attack to restore the situation on a portion of the main Damiano ridge. The Company attacked with two platoons forward and a composite platoon of London Scottish and Royal Berkshires in reserve. The Company Commander was wounded in the very early stages of the attack. The only other officer with the Company was wounded soon afterwards. A section of this Company was ordered by the Platoon Commander to carry out a right flanking movement against some enemy machine guns which were holding up the advance. Almost as soon as he had issued the order, he was killed. There was no Platoon Sergeant. The section itself consisted of a Lance Corporal and three men, who were shortly joined by Private Mitchell, the 2-inch mortarmen from Platoon Headquarters and another private.
During the advance, the enemy opened heavy machine gun fire at point blank range. Without hesitation, Private Mitchell dropped the 2-inch mortar which he was carrying, and seizing a rifle and bayonet, charged, alone, up the hill through intense spandau fire. He reached the enemy machine gun unscathed, jumped into the weapon pit, shot one and bayonetted the other member of the crew, thus silencing the gun. As a result, the advance of the platoon continued, but shortly afterwards the leading section was again held up by the fire of approximately two German sections who were strongly entrenched.
Private Mitchell, realising that prompt action was essential, rushed forward into the assault firing his rifle from his hip, completely oblivious of the bullets which were sweeping the area. The remainder of his section followed him and arrived in time to complete the capture of the position in which six Germans were killed and twelve made prisoner. As the section was reorganising, another enemy machine gun opened up on it at close range. Once more Private Mitchell rushed forward alone and with his rifle and bayonet killed the crew.
The section now found itself immediately below the crest of the hill from which heavy small arms fire was being directed and grenades were being thrown. Private Mitchell’s ammunition was exhausted, but in spite of this he called on the men for one further effort and again led the assault up the steep and rocky hillside. Dashing to the front, he was again the first man to reach the enemy position and was mainly instrumental in forcing the remainder of the enemy to surrender. A few minutes later, a German who had surrendered, picked up a rifle and shot Private Mitchell through the head.
George Mitchell VC is buried in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Minturno War Cemetery ( also known as the New Military Cemetery, Sessa Arunca ) overlooking the Garigliano River and Damiano Mountains, which he had done so much to capture.
Following Private George Mitchell’s posthumous award of the Victoria Cross for his heroic action in northern Italy, it was invested by King George VI at Buckingham Palace on 17th July 1945 and placed into the care of his family. In 1949 his brother placed the VC into the custodianship of the Farmer Road Boys School, Leyton, East London, which was renamed the George Mitchell School in his honour in 1959. However, owing to its value the Victoria Cross has always been kept in a safe. In March 2006 George Mitchell’s nephew came to an agreement with his old regiment, the London Scottish ( Gordon Highlanders ), where they would purchase the George Mitchell Victoria Cross group for the sum of £150,000, the money going towards providing a mobile classroom with job search facilities that will also be used to provide computer training located at the George Mitchell School.
At a ceremony held at the Regimental Headquarters of the London Scottish Regiment, the Victoria Cross awarded to Private George Mitchell was handed over to the regimental museum by the Headmistress of the George Mitchell Secondary School on a long term loan. The medal is due to be auctioned at Morton & Eden Auctioneers in London for an estimate of £250,000-£300,000 on 24th February 2024.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: AT AUCTION ON 24/02/2024 AT MORTON & EDEN.
BURIAL PLACE: MINTURNO WAR CEMETERY, ITALY.
PLOT III, ROW H, GRAVE 19
Kevin Brazier – Images of the Cemetery Map, and of the Mitchell VC Medal at the London Scottish Museum.
Thomas Stewart – Images of the Mitchell VC Grave, reverse of the Mitchell VC, and Mitchell’s name on the Drill Hall Memorial, London Scottish Museum.