Victoria_Cross_of_canada

THE

 

TO THE VICTORIA & GEORGE CROSS

COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE

victoria_cross george cross

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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b. 06/08/1922 Canterbury, Kent. d. 14/12/1994 Thanet, Kent.

 

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 20/06/1947 Malta.

 

Phillip Robert Stephen May (1922-1994) was born on 6h August 1922 in Canterbury, Kent, the only son of Frederick Arthur and Jessie May (nee Sayer). He had a sister Gloria. His father served in the Royal Navy and was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal in 1944. Phillip attended Simon Langton Grammar School in Canterbury from the autumn of 1934 after completing his primary education at Wesleyan Methodist Primary School. In 1935, he joined the Naval League Cadets and then from 1938-1939 worked as an apprentice electrical engineer in Canterbury.

 

He had a keen desire to go to sea, and in 1940 he joined the Merchant Navy as a Deck Boy on MV Port Hunter and sailed around the world. On his return he joined the Royal Navy as T124 Seaman, with a specialism in degaussing mines. During the remainder of the war years, he served on a number of ships cable laying, repairing pipe work and clearing underwater mines. He reached the rank of Chief Petty Officer on HMS Bullfinch.

 

On 29th June 1946, he married Dorothy (known as Dee) Steed, and they went on to have four children, Stephen, Julia, Vincent and Virginia. In 1947, he chose to revert to being a Leading Seaman on HMS St Margarets, which was about to undertake the dangerous task of clearing mines from the Mediterranean.

 

On 20th June 1947 off the coast of Malta, a Chief Petty Officer entered a cable tank and was overcome by gas. The first lieutenant, boatswain and 4 ratings entered the tank to rescue him and were all overcome themselves. May then entered the tank and, in a series of rescues, secured a line around each of the 7 men, so enabling them to be hauled on deck. After the third rescue May was so exhausted that a ship mate offered to relieve him, but he himself was overcome and required rescuing. May therefore continued his work until it was finished. He saved the lives of 7 men, though sadly the chief petty officer died later.

 

Shortly after being demobbed from the Royal Navy, he was gazetted for the award of the Albert Medal in Bronze for Life Saving at Sea on 21st November 1947. He was presented with his medal at Buckingham Palace on 10th February 1948. Returning to civilian life, he became an electrical engineer, and travelled the world for the next 20 years, working mainly in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. In 1971, following the change in the Royal Warrant, Phillip chose to exchange his Albert Medal for a George Cross. Unusually, Phillip chose to retain his Albert Medal alongside his GC.

 

When Phillip retired in 1980, he and his wife Dee bought a wooden ketch, rebuilt her, and lived aboard her. They travelled the world until she was destroyed by a fire in 1987, and the couple returned to England. Phillip was an active Freemason and was a Brother of the St Augustine Chapter in Canterbury. In his final years, he began work on a book about Freemason holders of the Victoria Cross and George Cross. Sadly, Phillip passed away on 14th December 1994 in Thanet, Kent, before it was completed.

 

Phillip was cremated at Thanet Crematorium, and his ashes were scattered in the Garden of Remembrance. His wife Dee chose to pass the manuscript of her late husband’s book to a local publisher, and he edited it, and finally “Beyond the Five Points” was published. Phillip’s medals including his GC, 1939-45 Star, Atlantic Star, Africa Star, Burma Star, Italy Star, War Medal 1939-45, 1953 QEII Coronation Medal, 1977 QEII Silver Jubilee Medal and 1992 Malta Commemoration Medal are privately held. There is also a road named after him in Chatham, Kent.

 

LOCATION OF MEDAL: PRIVATELY HELD.

BURIAL PLACE: THANET CREMATORIUM, MARGATE, KENT.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Philip Robert Stephen May

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“The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the award of the Albert Medal for gallantry in saving life at sea to: —

 

Leading Seaman Phillip Robert Stevens MAY, CSP/R.225814.

 

H.M. Cable Ship ST. MARGARETS was lying at Hay Wharf, Malta on 20th June 1947 when a Chief Petty Officer, entering No. 2 cable tank, was overcome by gas. The First Lieutenant, the Boatswain, and four ratings entered the tank to rescue him and were themselves all overcome.

 

Leading Seaman May then entered the tank, and, in a series of rescues, secured a line with a timber hitch round each of the seven men, so enabling them to be hauled on deck. He did this 'by taking deep breaths, and holding them. Speed was essential, and to have waited for apparatus would have been fatal. He made six separate attempts and although the first victim of the gas died later, he was able to save the lives of all those who had followed him.

 

After his third venture, Leading Seaman May was himself so exhausted by the fumes and exertion that a ship-mate offered to relieve him, but he himself was overcome and required to *be rescued. May therefore continued his gallant work single handed until the task was completed. Seven men owe their lives to his selfless bravery and determination.”

25th November 1947 -

transcribed by Terry Hissey