b. 02/03/1906 Malmsbury, Wiltshire. d. 12/05/1941 Erith, Kent.
DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 1939 - 12/05/1941 Erith, Kent.
Charles Henry George “Jack” Howard (1906-1941) was born on 2nd March 1906 in Malmsbury, Wiltshire, the eldest son of Major Henry Molyneux Paget and Marguerite Hyde Howard (nee Leiter). His father was the 19th Earl of Suffolk and 12th Earl of Berkshire who was killed in action in Iraq on 21st April 1917 whilst serving with 1st Wiltshire Battery, Royal Field Artillery, and is buried in Basra War Cemetery. Jack had two brothers, Cecil John Arthur and Greville Reginald Charles, who served in the Royal Navy. Jack succeeded to his father’s title at the age of 11, and inherited the family estate at Charlton Park.
Jack attended Radley School from 1921-1923, where he excelled at chemistry and engineering. He then decided to take a gap year before possibly going to university, and sailed around the world as a deck hand on a clipper, the “Mount Stewart”. On his return, he had decided to enlist with the Scots Guards. However, his time with the Regiment was short, as he was invalided out in 1927 due to rheumatic fever which would cause him health problems for the rest of his life. He then took a trip to Australia where he purchased a sheep station but this was not a financial success, and he returned to England in 1930 where he took on the responsibility of his family estate.
He soon realised that he wanted to return to his love of science, and he went to Edinburgh University in 1934. In March of the same year, he married Mimi Forde-Pigott. She was an actress known by her stage name Mimi Crawford. She gave up the stage after her marriage and they had three sons: Michael, Maurice and Patrick. In 1937 Jack graduated from Edinburgh with a first class degree in Pharmacology.
When the Second World War broke out, Jack volunteered and began what was to become two very important years. His first appointment was to the Directorate of Scientific Research, under Dr J H Gough which, on account of him being able to speak fluent French, took him to France as his secretary and driver. He gathered many contacts and intelligence whilst in France.
Jack returned to London and whilst there, was taken to see what could be done with an unexploded bomb. The challenge appealed to him and he volunteered for bomb disposal research. He was appointed to head Gough’s newly-created Directorate of Scientific Research Experimental Unit. With his assistant Frederick Hards and his secretary, Eileen Morden they became a tight knit team – known as the Holy Trinity – though the team numbered in seven in total.
The team’s primary work was to investigate and make trials of the methods required for dealing with new types of unexploded bombs. With a specially equipped van he would go straight to the location of an unexploded bomb, and set about dismantling and examining the weapon. He would then work out ways to defeat the booby traps and other devices incorporated in them. On 12th May 1941, they took an old and rusted bomb that had been collected from a bomb dump in Erith, Kent, the previous day, and went to examine it. The bomb exploded unexpectedly, killing Howard and his two assistants. He was awarded a posthumous GC and his two assistants the King's Commendation for Brave Conduct.
Jack was buried in St John the Baptist Churchyard, Malmsbury, Wiltshire, though the GC doesn’t appear on his headstone. His George Cross is not publicly held.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: PRIVATELY HELD.
BURIAL PLACE: ST JOHN THE BAPTIST CHURCHYARD, MALMESBURY, WILTSHIRE.
Picture - Kevin Brazier