b. 25/11/1892 Manchester. d. 04/11/1972 London
DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 11/09/1940 London.
Dr Arthur Douglas Merriman (1892-1972) was born in Manchester on 25th November 1892, to parents Harry and Elizabeth Merriman (nee Oldershaw). He had a sister, Jessie, and for the early part of his life, the family lived with his grandfather William Merriman at 41 Hampden Street in Ardwick. His grandfather was a Baker’s Clerk at the time of the 1911 Census, and his father was working as a warehouseman in a cotton factory. Arthur was educated at the Municipal High School and Municipal College in Manchester, before studying at the University of Manchester for a year, completing his studies in 1912. He then began a three year Maths- Natural Sciences Tripos degree at Downing College, Cambridge, graduating in 1915. He decided on a career in academia, and became Science Master at Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School in Crediton, Devon.
As the Great War was raging around him, he decided to “do his bit” and in June 1917 enlisted with the Army Ordnance Corps. With his education, he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant and served as an Inspecting Ordnance Officer. He arrived in France in April 1918 and was promoted to Acting Captain. He only saw action for seven months before the Armistice, and was demobbed in May 1920. Following the end of the war, he married Ivy Gladys Taylor. He then returned to his career in academia, and had a Master of Arts degree conferred on him by Cambridge University.
He then became Senior Science Master in Kings Norton Secondary School in Bimingham, and also lectured in Engineering Science at evening school in Sparkhill Technical Institute. He stayed in Bimingham until 1926, when he took a post in the North East, becoming Principal of the County Technical School in Wallesend. In 1927, he attended the University of Lille in France, where he obtained his Doctorate. He was also awarded a Master of Education degree by Durham University in 1937.
On the outbreak of World War II he took up a position in an organisation known as the “Directorate of Scientific Research”. They were involved in the research, development and dissemination of bomb disposal methods and specialised equipment. All members of this department were volunteers, and Dr Merriman became a Senior Experimental Officer working in the Directorate, and although he was supposed to be office based, he strayed into the world of bomb disposal. On 28th July 1940, he removed three fuses from 50kg bombs at Yarmouth, Isle of Wight. Over a ten day period in August 1940, he defused 17 bombs across the country. He also served on the Unexploded Bomb Committee (UXB) under Dr Herbert Gough. Dr Merriman worked closely on this committee with Flight Lieutenant Eric Moxey on apparatus to remove fuses from bombs. Sadly Moxey was killed on duty on 27th August 1940, and later awarded the GC.
On 11th September 1940, he was serving as a part time experimental officer in the Directorate of Scientific Research when he was called to a bomb that had landed in Regents Street, Central London. Together with Dr H.J. Gough and Captain Kennedy, he used a new device to steam out the explosive from the bomb. The bomb was ticking, and it was decided that all they could do was get as much explosive out as possible before it went off. Their timing was perfect; they went on working until the very last minute. The bomb exploded 4 hours later, but the explosion only caused some broken windows. He was only supposed to be part time with office duties but got called out to a bomb.
For this incident, Dr Merriman was awarded the George Cross (announced in the London Gazette on 1st December 1940), though due to his busy schedule, he was not formally invested with the medal until 17th November 1942. In December 1940, he was given a commission with rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Several promotions followed until he reached the rank of Colonel in July 1943. By October of that year, he was on the staff of the Engineer-in-Chief at General HQ Middle East.
Merriman’s work saw him recommended for the CBE, but this was downgraded to OBE because of his substantive rank. By March 1944, he was back in the UK working as a Superintendent for the Ministry of Supply at Fort Halstead, Kent. He worked there alongside Sir John Rowlands GC MBE. His expertise saw him sent on a special intelligence assignment in Russia and Germany.
He was demobbed in October 1946 but he continued to work at Fort Halstead as a civilian Principal Scientific Officer. He then became Registrar-Secretary of the Institution of Metallurgists on 20th April 1948, a position he held until his retirement in 1957. In his retirement he worked as a consultant in the steel industry and education in metallurgy. Sadly, his wife Ivy passed away in August 1965 (they had a son and a daughter) and two years later, he remarried to Hilda Loveridge. in 1969 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Surrey.
Dr Merriman died in hospital in London on 4th November 1972, aged 79, and he was buried with his first wife in Streatham Park Cemetery. During his lifetime, Dr Merriman wrote several books and held many fellowships. In 2013, his medal group including his GC, OBE, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, and French Legion d’Honneur as well as several WWII campaign stars and medals sold at auction for £70,000 to an private buyer.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: STREATHAM PARK CEMETERY, LONDON.
Picture - Kevin Brazier
Merriman's medals prior to auction sale in 2013.
Cemetery Plan courtesy of Kevin Brazier