Margaret Vaughan (later Purves) GC (AM exchanger)

b. 25/11/1934 Cardiff, Wales. d. 13/09/2021 Chippenham, Wiltshire.

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 28/05/1949 Sully Island, Wales.

Margaret Vaughan (later Purves) (1934-) was born on 25th November 1934 in Cardiff, Wales, the only daughter of James and Dorothy May Vaughan (nee Powditch). Her father was an Inspector and later Detective Chief Superintendent in the Police Force in Cardiff, and at one point Kenneth Farrow GC worked in the same division. Margaret attended Penarth County Grammar School and as a teenager dreamt of going into politics.

Margaret Purves (nee Vaughan) GC

On 28th May 1949, Margaret was on holiday at Sully Island, Wales, when she saw a group of Scouts were being cut off by the rising tide. Most of the boys got safely across, but two of them were forced off the causeway by the strong tide. The Scout Leader, Tony Ress, returned to help Richard Wiggins, but became exhausted in the struggle. Margaret, who was supposed to be recovering from having had her appendix removed, but went to the beach instead, saw the difficulties they were in. She swam towards them over a distance of 30yds, against strong currents, and on reaching them she towed Wiggins to shore while he supported himself by holding on to her and Ress. About 10ft from shore a lifebelt was thrown, into which Wiggins was placed, and the three reached shore safely. Meanwhile, 13 years old John Davies had safely reached the mainland when he saw his friend, who was unable to swim, being forced away from the causeway into deep water. He stripped down and went to the causeway to help his friend. He swam out and reached his friend and held him up. They shouted for help, but by the time a boat could reach them, they had drifted apart. Davies’ friend was rescued, but Davies died.

On 1st November 1949, the London Gazette announced the awards of an Albert Medal to both Margaret Vaughan and John Howard Davies (posthumous). At the end of her schooling, Margaret wished to go to university but financial constraints meant it was not possible and she turned to a career in nursing.

When she was 17, she began training at the London Hospital, qualifying in 1951, then taking additional qualifications in midwifery. In 1957, after working in both London and her native Cardiff, she joined the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps which would enable her to travel the world. She was posted to Aldershot, Mauritius, Kenya, Catterick and Hannover in Germany. It was whilst she was in Germany that she met her future husband, Captain John Purves of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME). They went on to have three children – Alison, Rebecca and James. Their family life saw them often on the move due to their army careers, and Margaret held various jobs including nursing in Singapore, card-punching for the Inland Revenue in Ottawa, Deputy Editor of REME “Craftsman” Magazine, and, back in Germany in 1977, became sister in charge of the medical centre at Minden Garrison.

In 1971, following a change in the Royal Warrant, Margaret had chosen to exchange her Albert Medal for the George Cross, and attended a re-investiture from Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace. She donated her Albert Medal to the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff. In 1981, Margarret became Secretary to the Chaplain’s of Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe in Brussels. In 1983, John and Margaret retired to Wiltshire, where she decided to finally venture into politics. She became a Town Councillor and Wiltshire County Councillor for the Conservative Party, but lost her seat to the Liberal Democrats in 1989.

Following the signing of the Maastricht Treaty in 1996, she left the Conservatives and joined the Referendum Party led by James Goldsmith. She stood in the 1997 General Election for North Wiltshire but lost to the Conservatives. After Goldsmith’s death later that year, she remained with the Democracy Movement until 2006. Since then, she was part of the Freedom Association, campaigning against over-governance of Britain.

Margaret was a founder member of the Albert Medal Association and worked hard to bring the recipients’ deeds to the notice of the George Cross Committee before the exchanges were agreed in 1971, and was a keen member of the VC and GC Association, regularly attending the reunions every two years. Margaret passed away in her care home in Chippenham on 13th September 2021 aged 86 after a short illness. Her funeral was held on 6th October 2021 and the Victoria Cross and George Association was represented by Peter Norton GC, Tony Gledhill GC and the Secretary of the VCGCA, Rebecca Maciejewska.