b. 15/03/1897 Portobello, Edinburgh, Scotland. d. 02/02/1947 Birmingham.
DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 26/07/1929 Skiathos, Greece.
George Paterson Niven EGM/GC was born in Portobello, Edinburgh on 15th March 1897, the son of Angus McKenzie Niven and Mary (nee Gordon). His father was a Railway Signalman and George followed his career into the Railways until on 17th August 1913 he joined the Royal Navy as a Boy 2nd Class at HMS Ganges.
During the First World War, he joined HMS Crescent and HMS Collingwood, and signed up for 12 year’s adult service in 1915. He was promoted to Able Seaman later that year. Following the Great War, he served aboard HMS Revenge (1921-22), HMS Glorious (1922-23), HMS Valiant (1923-24), HMS Hood (1925) and eventually joined the HMS Devonshire.
On 25th July 1929, HMS Devonshire was carrying out full calibre firing when at the first salvo there was a massive explosion in X turret, which blew off the turret roof. Marine Albert Streams was the only man in the gun turret not killed or badly wounded. He climbed to the top of the turret but, on looking down and seeing the conditions, he climbed back into the smoke and flames, notwithstanding the grave risk of further explosions. He then helped evacuate the dead and wounded; when all were removed, he collapsed. Anthony Cobham GC then took stretcher parties, including Niven, aft and ordered one crew to follow him and the other to rig hoses. On reaching the turret, they assisted the men who were on fire. Cobham and Niven did what they could for them and then went into the turret, where there was still a lot of cordite burning fiercely.
Niven and Cobham were awarded the EGM, which was eventually exchanged for the new George Cross in 1940. He was flown to London to receive his GC alongside Cobham in 1942. Niven died in Birmingham on 2nd February 1949 and is buried in an unmarked grave in Yardley Cemetery, Birmingham. His medals including his GC, 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20 and Victory Medal 1914-19 are privately held.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: PRIVATELY HELD.
BURIAL PLACE: YARDLEY CEMETERY, YARDLEY, BIRMINGHAM.
NO IMAGE AVAILABLE
Niven's sadly unmarked grave in Yardley Cemetery (September 2015)
A cross placed on Niven's grave by Kevin Brazier and myself in September 2015