Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC has had his latest “hero of the month” article published in Britain at War, the country’s best-selling military history monthly magazine.
The March issue of the magazine has four pages on the life and career of Squadron Leader The Reverend Herbert Cecil Pugh GC, who was decorated for courage and self-sacrifice during the Second World War.
Pugh was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, on November 2 1898. Usually known to family and friends as “Cecil”, he served as a medic on the Western Front during the First World War.
Shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, Pugh joined the Chaplains’ Branch of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. In the rank of Squadron Leader, he was decorated posthumously with the George Cross (GC) for incredible bravery on July 5 1941 after a troop ship was hit by an enemy torpedo and started to sink.
When Pugh learnt that some injured airmen were trapped in the damaged hold, he insisted on going to their aid. Indeed, he was lowered by rope below the waterline which, with the ship already taking in water, was, at best, extremely hazardous, and, at worst, suicidal.
Pugh was 42 when he died along with 253 others as the ship went down. His bravery was not recognised until April 1 1947, nearly six years after his death and nearly two years after the end of the war. It was then that Pugh’s posthumous GC was announced in The London Gazette.
Lord Ashcroft’s articles for Britain at War over the past ten years have been largely based on excerpts from his seven books on gallantry: Victoria Cross Heroes, Special Forces Heroes, George Cross Heroes, Heroes of the Skies, Special Ops Heroes, Victoria Cross Heroes Volume II and Falklands War Heroes.
Lord Ashcroft is a military historian who has lectured extensively on courage and his various medal collections.
Lord Ashcroft’s latest article appears in the March issue of Britain at War which is on sale now.