Stanley William Sewell GC (EGM exchanger)

b. 16/12/1906 Enfield, Middlesex. d. 25/05/1969 Enfield, Middlesex.

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 18/01/1940 Waltham Forest.

Stanley William Sewell (1906-1969) was born on the 16th December 1906, in Enfield, Middlesex. He was the eldest child of William (born 1882 in Nazeing Essex) and May Florence Sewell (nee Smith). His grandparents were William and Sarah. William senior was born in Great Munden, Hertfordshire in 1847. William and Sarah had moved from Hertfordshire about 1880 firstly to Nazeing in Essex and then the family had settled in Enfield, Middlesex.

Stanley W Sewell GC

Stanley William in WW2 was working at the Royal Gunpowder factory in Waltham Abbey, as an explosives worker, known as a Hillman. Waltham Abbey had been producing gunpowder from at least the 17th century, and later it became the leading English producer. In WW2 it was the sole producer of RDX (Research Department Explosives), a nitroamine, used in the bouncing bomb.

He was 33 years old and working at the Royal Gunpowder Factory on 18th January 1940, when an explosion ripped through the no. 5 mixing house, killing the three men working there as well as two men working in no. 20 stove nearby. Leo O’Hagen , Stanley Sewell and William Sylvester were working in no. 2 washing house only 150yds from the explosion, which damaged the hot water and air services, where over 1,000lbs of unstable nitroglycerine was being processed. The three men stood by their post for some two hours until the services were restored and then continued their work until the whole charge had been brought to a state of stability. During this time there were further explosions. Had they fled for safety, it is highly probable that the whole charge of nitroglycerine under their care would have exploded, killing many more people.

Stanley was awarded the Empire Gallantry Medal of the Civil Division on 6th February 1940, later exchanged for a George Cross following its creation in September 1940. When interviewed by the BBC about the incident he was told “I should think that was an interesting experience.” His response was simple, “Yes very interesting.” Stanley married and had a daughter.

Stanley died on 25th May 1969 in Enfield, Middlesex, where he lived all of his life, though his final resting place is unknown. His GC was sold at Hamilton’s in October 1980 and then again in November 1996 at Spink’s, London for £2,300. It is still in private ownership.