Thursday, April 5, 2018

"Where my men are, I have to be."

Herbert Cecil Pugh, GC, MA
02 Nov  1898 - 05 Jul 1941
The George Cross is the United Kingdom's second highest award for heroism. Second only to the Victoria Cross.

It is awarded "for acts of the greatest heroism or for most conspicuous courage in circumstance of extreme danger", not in the presence of the enemy, to members of the British armed forces and to British civilians.
The George Cross was instituted on 24 September 1940 by King George VI. At this time, during the height of the Blitz, there was a strong desire to reward the many acts of civilian courage. The existing awards open to civilians were not judged suitable to meet the new situation, therefore it was decided that the George Cross and the George Medal would be instituted to recognize both civilian gallantry in the face of enemy action and brave deeds more generally.

Announcing the new award, the King said:

In order that they should be worthily and promptly recognized, I have decided to create, at once, a new mark of honour for men and women in all walks of civilian life. I propose to give my name to this new distinction, which will consist of the George Cross, which will rank next to the Victoria Cross, and the George Medal for wider distribution. (Source)

In my post on Tuesday, Courage, faithful reader RHT447 brought up the story of the four U.S. Army chaplains who lost their lives in World War II when the transport they were aboard, the USAT Dorchester, was torpedoed by a German submarine in the North Atlantic. The four men perished while administering to the other men aboard without regard for their own safety, going so far as to give their life vests to men who had none.

They went down with the ship, praying and singing hymns. A story which I will write about later, and soon, such bravery is something we honor and remember here at The Chant. At least we try very hard to do so.

While researching that story, I stumbled across the story of the Reverend Cecil Pugh, the chap pictured in the opening photo. This is a story that is no doubt unfamiliar to most of my American readers but should be (I hope) well known in the British Isles.

You can read what one survivor recounted here and also see the text of Reverend Pugh's citation for his George Cross, which reads -
The Reverend Herbert Cecil PUGH, M.A. (Oxon.), Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (deceased).

The Reverend H. C. Pugh, after seeing service in this country, was posted to Takoradi and embarked on H.M.T. Anselm, carrying over 1,300 passengers’, for West Africa at the end of June, 1941. She was torpedoed in the Atlantic in the early hours of the 5th July, 1941. One torpedo hit a hold on Deck C, destroying the normal means of escape.

Mr. Pugh came up on deck in a dressing gown and gave all the help he could.

He seemed to be everywhere at once, doing his best to comfort the injured, helping with the boats and rafts (two of these were rendered unserviceable as a result of the explosion) and visiting the different lower sections where the men were quartered. When he learned that a number of injured airmen were trapped in the damaged hold, he insisted on being lowered into it with a rope.

Everyone demurred because the hold was below the water line and already the decks were awash and to go down was to go to certain death.  
He simply explained that he must be where his men were.  The deck level was already caving in and the hold was three parts full of water so that, when he knelt to pray, the water reached his shoulders.  Within a few minutes the ship plunged and sank and Mr. Pugh was never seen again.

He had every opportunity of saving his own life but, without regard to his own safety and in the best tradition of the Service and of a Christian Minister, he gave up his life for others.

The Reverend had served in World War I as well, serving as a medical  orderly with the South African Army. Here was a man who knew war, and knew it well, yet he elected to return to the service, this time as a chaplain.

Ministering to his men, Reverend Pugh gave his life.
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. - John 15:13 KJV
As Anselm's bow settled lower in the water, Pugh turned his attention to his fellow-airmen injured and trapped in one of the converted holds. He told some Royal Marines to lower him on a rope into the hold, insisting "Where my men are, I have to be". The Marines tried to dissuade him, but Pugh insisted "My love of God is greater than my fear of death" so they did as he insisted. Once in the hold he knelt to pray with the trapped men, with seawater already up to his shoulders. (Source)
He remains with his flock, somewhere in the depths of the Atlantic until that day when the sea shall give up her dead.

Godspeed Reverend, perhaps we shall meet in that clearing at the end of the path. I salute you Sir!
And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. Revelation 20:13 KJV

You can read more about the Reverend Pugh here.


  1. Such bravery and faith..... a good number of remarks listed under that first source from children and grandchildren of men on that ship. I think only dementia will take this posting from my memory......indeed Godspeed Reverend Hugh.

  2. Disgusted with myself to misspell a name....

    1. Perhaps the dust was in your eyes? (We all mistype at times.)

  3. "Military folks don't put it all on the line for the flag or patriotism or Mom and apple pie. They do put their life on the line for their comrades. That defines honor for me." Not bad.

    "Where my men are, I have to be." So much better, Reverend Pugh, so much better. Rest in Peace, Sir.

  4. I'm too big of a coward or not enough of a believer to do what he did--probably both..

    1. I think most of us probably fall short in those areas Virgil.

  5. Only from a loving God could such men come. As with Christ, Reverend H. C. Pugh was placed on this earth for just that purpose. The comfort he provided the dying and the inspiration he provided for the living was his purpose in life. If we all could know just what our purpose on earth was.

  6. I get fighting in a Forlorn Hope, to protect retreating men or to do the Ragnarok thing by going down while taking as many of the bastards as you can with you. If that's how I'm gonna go down, then sign me up. All-Father, here I come (as long as the All-Father is God, and the whole Norse thing's been Christianized, saints and all.)

    But to willingly lower yourself to death, with no chance of fighting to escape? Nu-uh. I know my limits. Or do I? That is the thing. We can say that, but to be put to the test is another thing entirely.

    I hope, as I die, I have half the courage and strength of spirit of all the immortal chaplains, Hugh, the 4 in your upcoming story, and all the others who sacrificed so much for the safety of their fellows' immortal souls.

    Heaven is a shiny special place with men like these up there.

  7. "But to willingly lower yourself to death, with no chance of fighting to escape? Nu-uh."

    Point taken.

    Are projecting ourselves into his circumstance, which for us would be total strangers? What if it was our family down in that hold? Could be that would tip the scales. God willing, none of us will ever have to find out. And next time I'm having a bad hair day, I will try to stop and think to myself "No, not really".

    Sarge, thanks for the honorable mention.

    1. I listen to my readers, sometimes you get a post from something a reader said.


  8. Thank you for making this fine human being known to me.

    Thanks for the post.
    Paul L. Quandt

  9. Wow.

    And the kids these days eat Tide Pods.


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