Michael Flood “Max” Blaney GC (Direct Recipient)

b. 14/11/1910 Newry, Northern Ireland. d. 13/12/1940 Manor Park, Essex.

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 18/09, 20/10 and 13/12/1940 Essex.

Michael “Max” Blaney (1910-1940) was born on 14th November 1910 in Newry, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, the son of Charles and Alice Catherine Blaney (nee Flood). He was one of six children in total. His father, who was a recipient of the OBE, originally came from County Antrim, whilst his mother originated from County Down. Little is known of Michael’s childhood and schooling, though he entered the University College, Dublin in 1929.

Michael F “Max” Blaney

Whilst at university, he was notable for his boxing prowess, winning the Bantamweight title in 1929, and the Lightweight title the following year. In 1931, Max, as he more commonly became known, performed his first act of gallantry when on holiday with his parents at Sandycove, County Dublin. Whilst they were walking on the seafront, cries were heard that a boy was drowning. Running across the road, stripping off his coat, Max plunged into the water, and succeeded in pulling the young boy named Carroll to shore. Guests from the hotel performed artificial respiration on the boy and he recovered.

Max went to graduate as a Bachelor of Engineering, and gained employment on Newry Borough Council as a roads engineer. As someone born in Northern Ireland, he had no obligation to join the armed forces following the outbreak of World War II in 1939. He chose not to follow this trend however, and on 26th March 1940 he was granted an emergency commission as a Lieutenant and was sent to France. He was slightly wounded in action, and on his return to England, he transferred to the Corps of Royal Engineers as part of their bomb disposal group on 5th September 1940.

On 18th September 1940, a bomb fell in Manor Way, a few yards from the junction with the East Ham and Barking bypass in Essex, and failed to explode. Captain Blaney was called to the scene and removed the bomb. On 20th October an unexploded bomb was reported in Park Avenue, East Ham. Unusually it had two very dangerous time fuses,and constituted a very real danger to the public and the Bomb Disposal Section. Blaney personally defused the bomb; it was his usual practice to work alone in these situations. On 13th December he was called to remove the fuse from an unexploded bomb that had fallen in premises abutting Romford Road, Manor Park, several days previously. He had planned to fit a “Q” coil around the bomb but, due to its cumbersomeness, he abandoned the idea and instead attempted to steady the bomb as it was pulled clear. Unfortunately, the bomb exploded, killing Blaney and 9 others.

Max’s body was returned to Northern Ireland, and he was buried in a family grave in the Old Chapel Roman Catholic Cemetery, Newry. Max’s George Cross is held proudly by the Blaney family.