02 September 2012

George Cross: M. P. Benner


Second Lieutenant, Royal Engineers

Born: 14 April 1935
Died: 1 July 1957, The Großglockner, Austria

Citation: The QUEEN has been graciously pleased to approve the posthumous award of the GEORGE GROSS to the undermentioned in recognition of great gallantry:—

Second Lieutenant Michael Paul BENNER (448764), Corps of Royal Engineers.

In Austria during the summer of 1957, Second Lieutenant BENNER was in command of a party of noncommissioned officers and men training in moving and living in mountainous country. On the 1st July, after a week in the mountains, he led six of his men on a traverse of the 12,400 feet Grossglockner. The summit was successfully reached at 6 p.m. after the long ascent but a storm had caused delay and made conditions unexpectedly difficult. In preparation for a descent by the ordinary route, which normally is not difficult, the party unroped.
Second Lieutenant BENNER led the way down a ridge closely followed by Sapper Phillips. The storm and the lateness of the hour made the steps, kicked in the snow, icy and slippery. Sapper Phillips missed his foothold and began to slide down a fairly steep snow slope. Seeing this, BRENNER [sic] jumped out of his own secure foothold on to the open slope and caught the falling man, holding him with one hand and endeavouring with the other to dig his ice-axe into the snow. This he could not succeed in doing. Both men slid down the slope together until they disappeared to their death over the steep face of the mountain.
In making his attempt to intercept Sapper Philips this gallant young officer took, as he well knew, a desperate risk. As the two gathered speed down the slope he must have realised that he could save himself only by releasing his grasp of Sapper Phillips' arm but he did not do so. He held on to the last, struggling to obtain a grip in the snow with his feet and axe.
With supreme courage and devotion he sacrificed his life endeavouring to save his companion.

[London Gazette issue 41421 dated 17 Jun 1958, published 13 Jun 1958.]

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