Personal info

  • Name: Michael Paul BENNER
  • D.O.B: 14th Apr, 1935
  • D.O.A: 1st Jul, 1957
  • D.O.D: 1st Jul, 1957
  • Award: George Cross
  • Occupation at time of action: Second Lieutenant, 38 Corps Engineer Regiment, Corps of Royal Engineers
  • Book: The Complete History - Volume 3
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The Grossglockner, Austrian Alps 1 July 1957

1 July 1957

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On 1 July 1957 there was a climbing accident on the Grossglockner, a peak in the Hohe Tauern range north of Lienz in the East Tyrol and the highest mountain in Austria.


 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 non-commissioned 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, Benner 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 Phillips 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. 

(Supplement to The London Gazette of 13 June 1958. 17 June 1958, Numb. 41421, p. 3853)

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