Victoria_Cross_of_canada

THE

 

TO THE VICTORIA & GEORGE CROSS

COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE

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b. 07/08/1896 Dereham, Norfolk. d. 10/01/1982 Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire.

 

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 27/10/1918 Le Cateau, France.

 

Geoffrey Rackham (1896-1982) was born on 7th August 1896 in Dereham, Norfolk, the son of a farm bailiff, Frank Rackham, and his wife, Harriet. The family was a large one, with eight children in all (4 brothers and 3 sisters), and by 1901, they lived at Deephams Farm in Edmonton, Middlesex. The family was wealthy enough to have a domestic servant living with them.

 

Geoffrey attended Latimer Secondary School in North London from 24th April 1912 until 29th July 1913. On 16th June 1915, he joined the Army Service Corps, and was commissioned on 23rd May 1917. He saw action on the Western Front, and was attached to the 545th Siege Battery of the Royal Garrison Artillery when he was awarded the Albert Medal.

 

On 27th October 1918, Geoffrey was awoken by a fire alarm, and hurried to the scene where a lorry laden with shells and cartridges had caught fire. He found the flames 3-4ft high were issuing from the petrol tank of an ammunition truck loaded with shells. He put the cap on the tank, jumped into the driver's seat, started up the engine and drove the burning truck away from the rest of the convoy, while shells were exploding. Then he helped to put the fire out. By his prompt action he undoubtedly saved many lives. He was invested with his AM by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 9th May 1919.

 

Rackham was demobbed with the rank of Lieutenant on 24th November 1921, and joined the Associated Equipment Company Limited (AEC) whose most famous vehicles were the red London buses. Geoffrey’s brothers John and Phillip were Chief Engineer and Sales Manager respectively at the company while another brother John, had worked for Kirkstall, Leyland and Yellow Coach in the USA. In 1926 Geoffrey moved to and became Sales Manager at Shelvoke & Drewry (S&D) at Letchworth, Hertfordshire, a firm which specialised in building, among other vehicles, refuse collection lorries. In 1928, he became Sales Director of S&D.

 

In 1949 Geoffrey left to concentrate on a contract cleansing firm that he had started in Letchworth. In 1960 he sold the business and retired. In 1966, he became a founder member of the Albert Medal Association, which later was merged into the VC and GC Association in 1972. In 1971, Geoffrey had chosen to exchange his Albert Medal for a George Cross, and was invested with the GC on 6th March 1973 at Buckingham Palace.

 

Geoffrey had married Betty Scurfield, whose brother was Commander Bryan Gouthewaite Scurfield DSO OBE AM RN who was awarded the AM in May 1937 while a Lieutenant Commander on HMS Hunter. Sadly he was killed as a POW in 1945 by an Allied bombing raid. Geoffrey and Betty had two daughters, Pauline and Jennifer. Betty died in 1962.

 

Geoffrey died on 10th January 1982 in Queen Victoria Hospital, Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, and he was cremated at West Herts Crematorium and his ashes were scattered. There is no memorial to him there. His medals including the GC, 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, and 1977 Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal are now in the Royal Logistics Corps Museum, Camberley, Surrey.

 

LOCATION OF MEDAL: ROYAL LOGISTICS CORPS MUSEUM, CAMBERLEY, SURREY.

BURIAL PLACE: WEST HERTS CREMATORIUM, WATFORD, HERTFORDSHIRE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Geoffrey Rackham AM

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Geoffrey Rackham's medals at the Royal Logistic Corps Museum, Camberley, Surrey. (Picture - Thomas Stewart).

“The KING has been pleased to award the Albert Medal to Second Lieutenant Geoffrey Rackham, Royal Army Service Corps, M.T., attached 545th Siege Battery, Royal Garrison: Artillery, in recognition of his gallantry in saving life in France in October last.

 

At Le Cateau on the 27th October, 1918, a lorry (one of a convoy of seven) laden with shells and cartridges caught fire. Lieutenant Rackham, who was awakened by the fire alarm, hurried to the scene of the fire in his pyjamas to find that flames three to four feet high were issuing from the petrol tank. He put the cap on the petrol tank, jumped into the driver's seat, started up the blazing lorry and drove it, while cartridges were exploding, to a place of safety, afterwards helping to extinguish the flames. By his prompt and courageous conduct, serious damage, and in all probability loss of life, was averted; for the other loaded lorries were close by, and some 130 men of the battery were only thirty yards distant.”

3rd January 1919

transcribed by Terry Hissey