b. 16/04/1897 Guildford, Surrey. d. 02/10/1966 Sompting, Sussex.
DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 23/09/1940 Loughton, Essex.
Stephen John Tuckwell (1897-1966) was born on 16th April 1897 in Guildford, Surrey, the son of James and Ellen Elizabeth Tuckwell (nee Portsmouth). James Tuckwell was a Local Board Labourer, and Stephen was one of five children, with three sisters and a brother. Little is known of Stephen’s childhood and schooling, before on 16th April 1915 (his 18th birthday), he joined the Royal Navy as J21294 for a period of 12 years. Prior to his enlistment he was working as a milk seller.
He served on a number of ships during his 12 years service, with his last posting being to HMS Vernon on 15th April 1926 for a year before he was discharged just before his 30th birthday, and he immediately signed onto the Reserve. Between the wars it is thought that he may have been a bus driver as some of the medals in his group are usually given to them.
On the outbreak of World War II, as a member of the Reserve, he was immediately called up. He joined the Mine Disposal Team and began working with Temporary Sub-Lieutenant John “Jack” Duppa-Miller. On 23rd September 1940 at Loughton, Essex, he and Temporary Sub Lieutenant John Duppa-Miller had to deal with a mine that was buried in the mud. They got a canoe and went looking for the mine and found it nose down in the mud. Tuckwell was ordered to stay at a safe distance but he refused, arguing that as Duppa-Miller would be working under at least a foot of water he would need Tuckwell to hand down the tools. They managed to get one fuse out, but could not reach the other; if the clock had started, there would have been no chance of escape. Then they appealed to some crane drivers who had come to see what was happening, and they volunteered to help. Ropes were placed around the mine and it was dragged out slowly onto the wharf. The removal of the final fuse was carried out.
As a result of their actions, on 14th January 1941, the London Gazette announced the award of the George Cross. As part of the recommendation for the GC, there were other incidents recorded of Stephen’s gallantry. In November 1940 he helped Electrical Lieutenant Jenner with a very difficult mine in Coventry, with an unexploded bomb 10 yards away. A month later, in December 1940, he helped Sub-Lieutenant Fenwick in Manchester with a mine which required great gallantry and seamanship. Finally, on 3rd January 1941 in Cardiff, he helped Sub-Lieutenant Reid to deal with another difficult mine. He received his GC at Buckingham Palace from King George VI on 8th July 1941.
Later in the war, he was responsible for steaming out main charges from mines in a Hampshire quarry. Little is known about Stephen’s post-war life, though sadly his later years were marred by bouts of ill-health caused by the chemicals he had been exposed to as part of his mine disposal work. He spent his final years in Sussex, before he passed away on 2nd October 1966, aged 69, in Sompting. Stephen’s final resting place is not known sadly. His medals including his GC, 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, Defence Medal 1939-45, War Medal 1939-45 with King’s Commendation oakleaf, 1953 QEII Coronation Medal, Royal Naval Reserve Long Service and Good Conduct Medal and Road Safety Medals are privately held.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: PRIVATELY HELD.
BURIAL PLACE: UNKNOWN – DIED IN SOMPTING, SUSSEX.