Medals of a Blitz bomb disposal hero are being sold for £50,000

Medals of a Blitz bomb disposal hero who saved a huge chunk of London’s railway network when he defused a German mine outside London Bridge station in 1940 are being sold for £50,000

  • Sub-Lieutenant John Duppa-Miller acted after a mine landed in a viaduct in 1940
  • It started ticking two times – on both occasions he ran but it did not detonate
  • He returned for a third try after a cup of tea and managed to deactivate it 
  • He was awarded the George Cross and received King’s Commendation for Brave Conduct for his ‘strongest nerve and nearly superhuman devotion to duty’

Sub-Lieutenant John Duppa-Miller, of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve

The bravery medals of a Blitz bomb disposal hero who saved a large chunk of London’s rail network are being sold by his family for £50,000.

Sub-Lieutenant John Duppa-Miller, 37, laid in a pool of water with his face just six inches from the fuse of a German mine, which had landed in a viaduct outside London Bridge station on the night of December 8, 1940.

On two occasions the device started ticking and he ran for his life, knowing it could explode at any moment, but on both occasions it stopped before detonation. 

S/Lt Miller, of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, then came back for a third attempt after a calming cup of tea and managed to deactivate it.

The viaduct carried lines to Cannon Street, Charing Cross and London Bridge, and the blast would have wiped out the electrically operated signal box.

Had the device gone off, he would surely have been killed and that part of London’s rail infrastructure would have been critically damaged.

S/Lt Miller was awarded the George Cross and received the King’s Commendation for Brave Conduct for his ‘strongest nerve and nearly superhuman devotion to duty’.

His medals are going under the hammer with London-based auctioneers Dix Noonan Webb on January 26. 

S/Lt Miller was born in Birmingham in 1903 and worked in local government education before World War Two, then volunteering to become a bomb diffuser as the conflict broke out. 

He lived in Ethiopia and Kenya post-war, working on education and marketing boards in both countries, before going on to spend his retirement in South Africa and dying aged 91 in 1994.

Pictured: John Duppa-Miller (right) with a large bomb. S/Lt Miller had disarmed dozens of bombs during World War Two single-handedly, including one lodged in a warehouse

Pictured: The Thames Estuary during the first mass air raid on London, Tower Bridge stands out against a background of smoke and fire, 7th September, 1940

S/Lt Miller had disarmed dozens of bombs during World War Two single-handedly, including one lodged in a warehouse.

On another occasion, he and his comrade Able Seaman George Tuckwell tackled a highly sensitive magnetic mine lodged in Barking Creek.

At low tide, the device popped out of the mud so they rowed towards it in a canoe boat, before wading through filth in a sewer to reach it.

The pair initially tried to drag the bomb on to the quay but the rope broke, so they had another go, lifting it by crane and then disabling it.

He later said of the operation: ‘We pulled the rope over to the mine, made it fast round one end of the carcase, signalled the crane, and the huge cylinder was dragged slowly over the mud to the foot of the wharf.

‘Tuckwell and I, the mine and the canoe all came out of the creek together on the end of the cable, and the final stages of the work were completed, in rain, but nevertheless in comparative comfort.’

Christopher Mellor-Hill, head of client liaison at Dix Noonan Webb, said: ‘We are honoured to be asked to find a new home by the family for this outstanding George Cross.

Sub-Lieutenant John Duppa-Miller, 37, laid in a pool of water with his face just six inches from the fuse of a German mine, which had landed in a viaduct outside London Bridge station on the night of December 8, 1940 (pictured: London Bridge in 1927) 

Christopher Mellor-Hill, head of client liaison at Dix Noonan Webb, said: ‘We are honoured to be asked to find a new home by the family for this outstanding George Cross’ (pictured)

Pictured: John Duppa-Miller’s George Cross ribbon given to him by King George VI

‘Whilst there were other George Crosses awarded for bomb disposal operations in World War Two, this is the first one we have encountered where the recipient, Lt Miller, was recommended for a bar for a further brave act during The London Blitz.

‘For this act, he was subsequently awarded the Kings Commendation for Bravery which still reflected his being honoured with a double gallantry award for his outstanding bravery.’

His citation describing the London Bridge incident reads: ‘The clock had already started and stopped twice. He (S/Lt Miller) explained this to the station-master, returned to the mine and, utterly regardless of consequences, removed the bomb fuze and rendered the mine safe.

Pictured: Sub-Lieutenant John Duppa-Miller’s George Cross case

‘On investigation it was found that the bomb fuse itself was leaking, consequently the pressure horn was quite useless as a safety arrangement.

‘The mine was, therefore, in a highly dangerous state throughout the whole operation, including those periods when Lieutenant Miller thought the pressure horn was effective.’

S/Lt Miller was appointed secretary of the Admiralty’s Interdepartmental Committee on Anti-Submarine Weapons in 1941, developing the ‘Hedgehog’ weapon.

He remained in post until the end of the war and then was in charge of disposing of German stocks of underwater weapons.  

S/Lt Miller’s medal group consists of the George Cross with Bar, Defence and War Medals, Coronation 1953; Jubilee 1977.

It is being sold with a length of George Cross ribbon and a note by S/Lt Miller revealing it was provided by King George VI.

It states: ‘The ribbon in this box is King George VI’s own personal sample, submitted to him for approval when he instituted the George Cross.

‘My sailor George Tuckwell and I were two of the first recipients of the Cross.

‘When you went to the palace to receive a decoration, you were supposed in those days anyhow, to put the ribbon up on your tunic in advance for some reason.

‘As this decoration had only just been instituted, the ribbon was unobtainable, even at Gieves, the naval outfitters.

‘When the King heard this he gave me his own sample, told me to cut off what was needed for the others, and keep the rest as a memento for myself.

‘The George Cross ribbon, like the Victoria Cross ribbon, normally carries a miniature of the cross (in this case silver, not bronze) in the centre.

‘At this early stage, no miniatures had been made so for some considerable time we wore the plain blue ribbon alone.

‘And this is why there is no miniature on the King’s sample.’ 

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