Vivian “Bob” Hollowday GC (Direct Recipient)

b. 13/10/1916 Ulceby, Lincolnshire. d. 15/04/1977 Bedford, Bedfordshire. 

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 02/07 and 08/1940 Cranfield, Bedfordshire.

Vivian “Bob” Hollowday (1916-1977) was born on 13th October 1916 in Ulceby, Lincolnshire, the son of Carl Victor and Annie Louisa Margaret Hollowday (nee Portus). Carl was an engineer like his own father was before him. Vivian attended Caistor Grammar School and Worksop College after which he joined the firm of Arthur Richardson & Sons in Nottingham.

Vivian “Bob” Hollowday GC

In 1936, Carl Hollowday left England, never to return on the Cunard ship, RMS Scythia, from the Huskisson Dock in Liverpool. He would spend the rest of his life in South America and Malaya. This decision by Vivian’s father was probably driven by grief, as Annie passed away in 1934 from kidney failure and anaemia after 19 years of happy marriage. Vivian, it is believed, never saw his father again after he left in October 1936. His father would later re-marry whilst overseas. 

Vivian enlisted with the RAF Volunteer Reserve on the outbreak of World War II on 5th September 1939. He joined up with 14 Flying Training School at Cranfield in Bedfordshire, and he was billeted to live with the Church family.

On 2nd July 1940, when, returning to camp, he witnessed an aircraft crash and burst into flames. He rushed to the site and made his way through the wreckage; finding the pilot’s clothes were on fire, he put out the flames with his bare hands. Had the pilot, Sergeant Noel Davies not been killed instantly in the impact. Hollowday’s action would in all probability have saved his life.

This is not a single action of gallantry performed by Vivian Hollowday. Just over a month later in August 1940, when once again he was returning to camp, an aircraft spun to the ground and exploded. Hollowday immediately went to the crash site. There was a second explosion and ammunition was bursting around all the time, but despite this be borrowed a gas mask, wrapped two sacks over himself and spent some time in the flames, making four attempts before releasing the first occupant. He then re-entered the burning wreckage and successfully removed the second. All three crew, however, were already dead.

For these two actions of incredible gallantry, Vivian Hollowday became the first non-commissioned officer of the RAF to be awarded the George Cross (London Gazette, 21st January 1941). He was invested with his GC at Buckingham Palace on 12th May 1942. He continued to serve in the RAF until he was demobbed in March 1946.

In post-war civilian life, he was fortunate that Mr Church, the gentleman he was billeted to live with at Cranfield, worked at a company called Quenby Price and Vivian had taken an interest in the business. As a result, Vivian gained employment with them after demobilisation. On 6th September 1948, Vivian married Beatrice Mary Wright (nee Geldart), and there were no children in their marriage. He worked his way up the company of Quenby Price, who were millers and grain merchants, and eventually the company changed its name to Bob Hollowday Agricultural in the 1970s.

In later life, Vivian became President of the Military Medallists League, a supporter of the Royal Chelsea Hospital, actively involved with the Royal Society of Saint George, and was a member of the Legion of Frontiersmen. He was also an active Committee Member of the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association. Vivian worked hard right up to his death, and he passed away in Bedford Hospital on 15th April 1977. He was cremated at Bedford Crematorium. His ashes were then taken to Rawdon Cemetery near Leeds, where they were scattered over “Daffodil Hill”. His widow, Beatrice, had her ashes scattered there after her death in 1990. 

Vivian’s medals including the GC, 1939-45 Star, Africa Star, Italy Star, France and Germany Star, Defence Medal 1939-45, War Medal 1939-45 with oak leaf and 1953 QEII Coronation Medal were stolen until in 1985 Sotheby’s advised the Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood that the medals had been consigned for sale. With this sale was a duplicate group of his medals but these were returned to the Chancery. The originals were then sold to the RAF Museum, Hendon. Contained also with his medals were a number of unofficial “Veterans Association” medals including the Cross for European Confederation, Australian Bronze Medal, the Belgian Albert 1st Merit Cross. He was also given the Freedom of the City of London in 1966.






Terry Hissey – Image of the Book of Remembrance at Bedford Crematorium.

Derek Hollowday and Rachel Carpenter – Numerous Images on this page of Vivian “Bob” Hollowday GC and Noel Davies.