02 October 2011

George Cross: D. A. Copperwheat


Lieutenant, Royal Navy; HMS Penelope

Born: 23 May 1914
Died: 8 September 1992

Citation: The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the Award of the GEORGE CROSS to -
Lieutenant Dennis Arthur Copperwheat, Royal Navy, H.M.S. Penelope.
For great bravery at Malta. During heavy air attacks on Valletta [on 22 March 1942], Lieutenant Copperwheat was sent in charge of a party of men from H.M.S. Penelope to scuttle a Merchantman, laden with ammunition, which was burning in the harbour. Owing to the fires, it was impossible to place scuttling charges in the holds, and they had to be slung over the side of the ship. As they worked, ammunition was exploding all round them from burning stowages on deck. The ship lay 40 yards from the shore, to which the electric cables for firing the scuttling charges could only just reach. Lieutenant Copperwheat sent his working party to shelter, and stayed himself to fire the charges from a position where he was exposed to the full blast of the explosion, which lifted him bodily. But for his brave action the ship must have blown up, and grave damage would have been done to the harbour.
Moreover, much of the ammunition was saved and some very heavy bombs, part of the cargo, were soon afterwards dropped in Italy.

[London Gazette issue 35788 dated 17 Nov 1942, published 13 Nov 1942.]

Note: The ship in question was a Norwegian merchantman, SS Talabot.

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