John Bridge GC GM* (Direct Recipient)

b. 05/02/1915 Culcheth, Warrington, Cheshire. d. 14/12/2006 Sunderland.

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION:  30/08 – 02/09/1943 Messina, Italy.

John Bridge (1915-2006) was born on 5th February 1915 in Culcheth, near Warrington, Cheshire, the son of John Edward and Mary Bridge (nee Taylor). He was one of seven children, with two brothers and four sisters. He attended Leigh Grammar School and in 1934 began a degree at King’s College, London, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science with Honours in 1936. The following year, he completed a Bachelor of Science Special Honours degree in Physics and took his Teacher’s Diploma in 1938.

John Bridge GC GM*

Over sending out over 100 applications for teaching posts, he eventually secured employment at a Secondary Modern School close to home. Shortly afterwards, he took a temporary post at Leighton Park Quaker School in Reading. Due to the fact he didn’t have an Oxford or Cambridge background, his headteacher didn’t give him a long term contract. He took another temporary contract at Firth Park Grammar School, Sheffield, where not long after he started he was offered a permanent post.

On the outbreak of World War II, he enlisted with the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and was called up with 7 others to become the first Bomb Disposal Team – they called themselves the First 8. He attended to his first bomb just five weeks after leaving his first teaching post in Sheffield. By December 1940, he was awarded the George Medal for “gallantry and undaunted devotion to duty”, and less than six months later, on 17th May 1941, he dealt with a bomb in a sluice valve chamber between docks at Falmouth, Cornwall. Bridge climbed down and managed to thread a rope to be able to hoist the device to the surface where it could be defused. He was awarded a Bar to his George Medal for this action, becoming the first recipient of a GM and Bar in the armed services.

Bridge’s continued work in bomb disposal led to on 20th June 1944 the award of a George Cross. He survived the war, and was demobilised as Lieutenant Commander of the RNVR. In 1945, when he considered he was back in a “safe” job, he married his long-term girlfriend, Frances Jean Patterson and they subsequently had three daughters. His “safe” job was not exactly true as he was disposing of mines off the English coast.

After WWII, he returned to education and became Assistant Education Officer for Southport in 1947 then Director of Education for Sunderland Borough Council from 1963 to 1976 after which he retired. After his retirement, he purchased Derwent Hill, near Keswick, Cumbria as an Outward Bound Centre with accommodation for 30 children. It is now a flourishing centre for over 3,000 children.

John died on 14th December 2006, aged 91, and was cremated at Sunderland Crematorium. His ashes were scattered in the Lake District near to Derwent Hill. His medals including his GC, GM and Bar, 1939-45 Star, Italy Star, France & Germany Star, Defence Medal 1939-45, War Medal 1939-45 with King’s Commendation for Brave Conduct oakleaf, 1953 QEII Coronation Medal, 1977 QEII Silver Jubilee Medal and 2002 QEII Golden Jubilee Medal were donated to the Imperial War Museum, London and are displayed in the Ashcroft Gallery.