With such Coventry suffering such devastating attacks from the Luftwaffe during the Blitz, it is perhaps unsurprising that a number of rescue workers were awarded George Crosses for their valour.  

Brandon Moss GC

One of the most damaging strikes on the English city occurred on the night of November 14­–15, 1940, when German bombs fell for 11 hours straight. That evening, Brandon Moss was in charge. Throughout the Second World War, he served in the armed forces as a Special Constable. He stepped outside at night to assist during air strikes after working a 12-hour shift in a factory.

Moss frequently came close to death because of the dangers of his role. A house was destroyed during the attack on the 14–15th of November by a direct hit. Moss cleared a tunnel to the three victims trapped inside despite the danger of additional attacks. In extremely hazardous circumstances, including collapsing debris and a gas leak, he led a rescue team. The other rescuers gave up when things got too dangerous. But Moss continued to travel alone. All three of the occupants were eventually set free thanks to his heroic efforts.

Moss later discovered that there were several other people trapped in the adjacent property. Reaching them once more required taking a chance on collapsing beams and falling debris from the bombed-out house. Moss spent the entire night working alone to save them while battling extreme tiredness. From 11 p.m. one night to 6 a.m. the following, Moss made "superhuman" efforts to save these folks. While he was working, more explosives rained down, and a delayed-action device was rumoured to have fallen nearby.

Moss became the first Special Constable to get a George Cross the following month. For the remainder of the war, he resumed his risky volunteer duties. In 1948, he retired from the Special Constabulary, and he passed away in Coventry at the ripe old age of 90.

Brandon Moss’s George Cross is on display in the Lord Ashcroft Gallery: Extraordinary Heroes at IWM London.

Michael Gibson GC

Sergeant Michael Gibson was transferred from the Durham Light Infantry to the Royal Engineers not long after the Second World War began. He was assigned to the Birmingham-based No. 9 Bomb Disposal Company. It was in charge of handling unexploded bombs in the West Midlands.

On September 14, 1940, a Luftwaffe raid on Coventry left two unexploded bombs in a manufacturing complex there. They were dealt with by Sergeant Michael Gibson and other members of his company. Fortunately, no one was hurt when one of the devices detonated. Gibson's team then set to work removing the second explosive from the wreckage. They suddenly heard it make "an unusual hissing noise." It appeared very likely that it might explode at any moment. Gibson, who was fully aware of the risks, despatched the rest of his team to safety while working by himself to remove the fuse. He was successful in doing this, and the bomb was taken out of the plant, saving many lives.

Michael Gibson received a George Cross in recognition of his valour on September 14. After another air strike on Coventry a month later, he was back in action. Gibson went to deal with a 550-lb bomb that was taken from a housing development on October 18 along with six other bomb disposal specialists. They moved it there so they could disarm it. However, the device detonated as they were unloading it, killing everyone. Coventry has a monument honouring Michael Gibson's valour throughout the war.

Michael Gibson’s George Cross is on display in the Lord Ashcroft Gallery: Extraordinary Heroes at IWM London.

Further reading