Jun 15 2011 By William Leece
James Scully was awarded George Cross for rescuing Birkenhead family during Blitz
THE heroism of an Irishman who came to the rescue of victims of the blitz in Birkenhead 70 years ago will be recalled when his medals go up for auction next month, possibly raising as much as £50,000.
Corporal James Scully won the highest award possible for bravery outside combat when he was awarded the George Cross for his part in the long rescue of a family trapped in the ruins of a house in Carnforth Street.
Although Ireland was officially neutral in World War II, Cpl Scully, a 31-year-old Dubliner, was one of thousands of his countrymen who volunteered for the British armed forces.
He was on duty with the Pioneer Corps when a bomb hit the street in Birkenhead on the night of March 13 1941. A man and a women were trapped under the wreckage and Cpl Scully and an officer, Lt Charles Chittenden, started to dig down to get them out.
But the deeper they dug, the more dangerous the work became. Cpl Scully braced himself against the unstable wreckage using a plank to hold the weight, but as the bricks pushed him forward, his body started to give way and his face was pushed into the ground.
Lt Chittenden managed to keep him from smothering – and there the two men stayed for eight long hours while the trapped householders were rescued, knowing that any time the damaged house could collapse completely and kill them all.
Lt Chittenden was awarded the George Medal, but Cpl Scully was given the George Cross, second only to the Victoria Cross as a decoration for bravery.
The episode took its toll on his health, though, and he was discharged on medical grounds in 1943, with his papers referring to it "being the result of great bravery for which he was awarded the George Cross".
He stayed in Britain as a painter and decorator after the war, raising six children, and died suddenly in 1974 aged 65 while visiting his nephew, the Olympic athlete Brendan Foster.
He was also the first Catholic ever to be awarded the GC, and has a troop named after him in the modern Royal Logistics Corps.
His medals, papers and a comic strip recalling his bravery are to be sold in London next month July6by Dix Noonan and Webb, special coin and medal auctioneers, with director Christopher Hill estimating a final sale price of between £40,000 and £50,000.