Personal info

  • Name: Charles Godfrey DUFFIN
  • D.O.B: 25th Mar, 1885
  • D.O.A: 1st Aug, 1936
  • D.O.D: 3rd Jan, 1955
  • Award: George Cross
  • Occupation at time of action: Senior Shipwright Diver, HM Dockyard, Portsmouth
  • Book: The Complete History - Volume 3
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Sources & Acknowledgements



The stresses of the First World War led to political revolution in much of Europe and, in extreme cases, social collapse. Even the victors, Britain and France, were not immune to the economic upheaval and labour unrest resulting from the transition from war to peace and the demobilization of hundreds of thousands of men. This made them extremely nervous of the rise of the Bolsheviks in Russia and they decided to send aid to the anti-Bolshevik forces. However, an Allied North Russia Expeditionary Force had to be withdrawn once it became clear that internal opposition to the Bolsheviks had been defeated. In Britain a postwar boom failed to prove long-lasting and in May 1926 there was a General Strike, triggered by a crisis in the Mining Industry. The Great Depression followed in 1929 and by 1931 Britain was forced to abandon the Gold Standard. In large parts of the country and especially in the traditional industries there was widespread unemployment throughout the 1930s, symbolized by the Jarrow Crusade of 1936. Conditions were much worse on the Continent and the interwar period witnessed the rise of the Dictators. The coming to power in Germany of Hitler in 1933 was to lead inexorably to the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. In the years of increasingly uneasy peace between 1919 and September 1939 only eleven VCs were awarded and of these only one, the award to Captain G P Meynell in 1935, took place outside the period 1919-21. Of the eleven awards, five related to actions against the Bolsheviks, four to actions on the North-West Frontier of India and one to an an engagement in what is now Iraq. The remaining award was that in 1921 to the American Unknown Warrior. Of the Albert, Edward and Empire Gallantry Medals awarded in the same period, 142 recipients lived long enough for their awards to be converted to the GC. The geographical distribution of the actions that occasioned the awards is witness to the Global spread of the British Empire, which reached its widest extent after the First World War. However, some of the awards, for gallantry in India, Egypt and the Sudan, and Palestine, reflected both the stresses in maintaining that dominion and the duties it entailed. After service personnel and policemen, coal miners formed the largest group of recipients, demonstrating the central importance of coal to the British economy and the dangers inherent in securing it. Those who worked in coal and gold mines in India and Africa were also honoured. Both in the mines and in industry as a whole, the threat posed by poisonous gases led to many awards. New industries brought new hazards with them. Other dangers overcome were of a more basic sort. Awards were also made to those who, throughout the Empire, confronted mad elephants, rabid dogs and marauding sharks.


 In August last, a diver, C. Gustar, was engaged under water examining the launching gear below H.M.S. Aurora at Portsmouth. Signals of distress were received, and his stand-by companion diver, G. Brown, went down and found Gustar jammed between the top of a dagger plank connecting the several launching poppets and the bottom of the ship, presumably as the result of an unexpected movement of the poppets. Duffin was immediately sent for, as an additional diver, to co-operate in the rescue work. Gustar was found to be securely wedged, with his head, arms and breast weights hanging over the inboard side of the inside dagger planks and his trunk and legs between the inner and outer planks. In effecting the rescue, Duffin squeezed himself up between the two adjacent dagger planks which were holding Gustar, and with a hand saw cut through the plank (a piece of 15”x 4” Douglas Fir) on one side of the man, while his companion, Brown, released the two 10” eyeheaded screws joining the end of the plank to its succeeding length of plank. By this means the portion of the plank imprisoning Gustar was removed. Duffin next seized Gustar, straightened him and forced him down between his own body and the poppets, towards Brown, who dragged the man down and took him to the surface. The risk to both Duffin and Brown in carrying out this rescue was a serious one, of which both men were fully aware, due to the possibility of the launching poppets at any moment making a movement similar to that which had entrapped Gustar, and both men are regarded as worthy of commendation. The risk was increased because they had to work with all possible haste. The behaviour of Duffin, in particular, whose gallant conduct on a previous occasion received notice, merits special recognition. 

(Supplement to The London Gazette of 29 January 1937. 1 February 1937, Numb. 34365, pp. 701-02)

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