James Scully (GC)

(20/10/1909 - 28/12/1974)

James Patrick Scully (20 October 1909 – 28 December 1974) was an Irish hero whose valourous actions during World War II earned him the George Cross, Britain’s highest award for gallantry not in the face of the enemy. Born in Bolton Parade(off Bolton Street to Thomas and Bridget Scully (nee O’Shaughnessy), he grew up with two brothers and five sisters. In 1911, they were living in Grenville Street. Although many sources online say he grew up in Crumlin, there does not seem to be evidence of this. After completing his basic education in Dublin, Scully sought work in England, where he moved to London at the age of 16 in 1925. There, he found employment as a labourer, working across various parts of the city before the outbreak of World War II.

In 1938, Scully married Mary Hannah, and together they raised a family of five daughters and a son. When World War II erupted, Scully joined the Pioneer Corps, becoming part of the 256th Company under the command of Lieutenant Charles Cummins Chittenden. It was during this time that his bravery shone through amidst the chaos of the war.

On the night of 12–13 March 1941, during the Liverpool Blitz, Scully’s unit was called to action in Birkenhead, Merseyside, where they faced one of the largest raids in the UK. Amidst the devastation caused by enemy bombings, Scully displayed exceptional courage and selflessness. Working tirelessly alongside Lieutenant Chittenden, Scully located a trapped man and woman in a demolished building. Despite the danger of further collapses, Scully remained steadfast, using his body to support a plank and shield the trapped individuals from further harm for over seven hours until they could be rescued.

For his extraordinary bravery and devotion to duty, Scully was awarded the George Cross, announced in the London Gazette on 8 July 1941. He became the first Catholic recipient of this prestigious award and remains the only member of the Pioneer Corps to have received it. Scully’s actions saved lives and exemplified the highest ideals of courage and sacrifice in the face of adversity.

After the war, Scully returned to civilian life, working as a painter and decorator. He continued to lead a humble life, cherished by his family and remembered for his wicked sense of humour. Scully passed away suddenly on the 28th December 1974 while visiting his nephew Brendan Foster MBE, a renowned Olympic runner and BBC commentator, in Hebburn-on-Tyne, England.

James Scully’s legacy lives on, not only through his heroic deeds but also through the values of courage, selflessness, and dedication that he embodied. His medals, including the George Cross, were donated to the Royal Logistic Corps Museum by his daughters, ensuring that his remarkable story continues to inspire future generations.


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Connection with area: Corporal awarded the George Cross who was raised and lived in Crumlin