Letters of Tribute about
GEORGE NICHOLSON BRADFORD VC
H.M.S. "Iris II", Royal Navy,
who died on
Tuesday, 23rd April 1918. Age 31.
George Nicholson Bradford, V C, Royal Navy
Remembered with honour
BLANKENBERGHE TOWN CEMETERY, Blankenberghe, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium.
Born on St George's Day 23rd April 1887 at Witton Park in County Durham, George Bradford was killed exactly 31 years later at Zeebrugge upon another St George's Day which will be remembered for many long years in British history.
Tribute from Admiral Viscount Jellicoe, GCB, OM, GCVO.
Admiral Jellicoe was among the first to write to Mrs Bradford a letter of admiration over the heroism which her son had shown in the Zeebrugge attack. He wrote .....
"I remember your son so well, and admired his character as much as his great personal ability; the Service and the Country have indeed lost in him one who could ill be spared. He died, as one would have expected him to die, under circumstances of the greatest gallantry and with supreme self-sacrifice.
The letter to Mrs Bradford ended ... "From one who is very proud to have had so gallant an officer and so perfect a gentleman under his command."
Tribute from Vice-Admiral Sir William Goodenough, KCB, MVO.
Admiral Sir William Goodenough wrote the following testimony concerning the influence which George Bradford's character had over others .....
"George Bradford has not lived in vain, quite apart from the gallant act in which he met his death. He irradiated an influence that must make a difference to many whether they knew it or not. Truth, Honour and Duty were instinctive and unconscious with him, and his firm mind moulded for many a shape and aspect of life that will remain with them always. And with it he combined a simplicity of friendship that made all love him."
Tribute from Vice-Admiral Sir Roger Keyes, Bt., KCB, KCVO, CMG, DSO.
Admiral Sir Roger Keyes wrote the following very touching letter to Mrs Bradford ("Granny B") who was at that time staying at Halstow in Kent .....
"Dear Mrs Bradford,
You wrote to me from Halstow Vicarage so I hope this will be forwarded without delay; but you may hear before my letter reaches you that your very gallant son, George, has been awarded the posthumous Victoria Cross which he so heroically earned on his birthday.
I knew he would eventually get it, because although many actions were performed on that night by officers and men who survived, and by others who gave their lives, amongst the latter your son's act of glorious self-sacrifice stood out, I thought, alone. It will be a very great satisfaction to the many in the Service, who loved him and knew his worth, that he should have been selected with one other to represent the gallant throng who did not survive.
I know how deeply you have suffered in this war, but to have been the mother of such splendid sons must be some consolation to you.
In all sympathy,
I am, yours sincerely,
That gracious letter was dated March 14th, and three days later Mrs Bradford received a telegram from the Admiralty:
"Have much pleasure in informing you that the King has approved the posthumous award of the Victoria Cross to your son the late Lieut.-Cdr. George Bradford."
Tribute from Captain Carpenter, V C, Royal Navy
Almost at once Captain Carpenter wrote to George Bradford's sole surviving brother, a letter which could not fail to be comforting: .....
"One may search historical records in vain to find any instance of more splendid gallantry than that shown by George Bradford.
His supreme contempt for danger and his unforgettable self-sacrifice were typical, not only of those whose deeds gave birth to our traditions, but of himself. George Bradford was not only a great fighter but a great gentleman, a great friend and a great sportsman. His was a most lovable nature. Both in his everyday life and in the manner of his death he has set the rest of us an example of incalculable benefit. I feel that I can speak for my officers and men in Vindictive while recording here our pride at having known and served with your extremely gallant brother."
And much greater detail of George Bradford's heroic part in the Zeebrugge Action may be read in Captain Carpenter's excellent book The Blocking of Zeebrugge
Testimonies to the inspiration derived from George Bradford's life and death could, if it were necessary, be quoted for a long time. Here, however, we provide extracts from letters written only by those who had exceptional opportunities to know him in his daily life.
Tribute from Captain Fullerton, CB, DSO, Royal Navy, who commanded George's ship the Orion
The Captain of George's own ship wrote to Mrs Bradford these words of appreciation: .....
"I can truly say a more honourable, straight, and gallant English gentleman never lived, and his loss is not only great to us, his shipmates, but also to the country and the world. He was beloved by all. . . . I have no doubt you know that your son was picked out from the whole of the 2nd Battle Squadron to command our men."
More than once in writing to his young sister Amy, George Bradford had made reference to 'le Chevalier sans peur et sans reproche', "the Knight without fear and without blemish" mentioned in the contemporary chronicles of Pierre Bayard (1476-1524). So the words of Captain Dreyer in the next letter of tribute are a happy choice.
Tribute from Captain Dreyer, CB, CBE, Royal Navy
Captain Dreyer, who was in command of one of the ships in which George Bradford had served, wrote this: .....
"The whole world is the better for his having lived in it, and all of us who knew him are particularly conscious of this; his noble end is characteristic of his whole life.
I can imagine him climbing the derrick and jumping on the Mole and securing the hawser, in which process he gave his life for his country and his comrades on the Iris, who were waiting under fire for their ship to be secured to enable them to land.
I shall always think of your son as "le Chevalier sans peur et sans reproche."
Tribute from the Chaplain of the Orion
The Chaplain of the Orion
lost a loved and valued friend when George Bradford was killed, and in words that are as sincere as they are touching he wrote of his own and his shipmates' admiration and grief.: .....
"He was so magnificent, so firm and patient and kind that we all, both officers and men, looked to him for guidance and advice. . . The news of his death in the amazingly gallant attack on the German forts came as a great sorrow to every man in the ship. I was besieged wherever I went that morning with inquiries whether the report of his death were true. . .
The Boys, who were George's special care in the Orion, naturally loved him. 'He always had a smile for us' one of them told me the other day, a description of himself which would have amused George, who used laughingly to say he was growing too serious.
For myself I like to think of George as he knelt among the men at communion; he would be there every alternate Sunday, and I am sure that his presence, because of his whole life, was a source of encouragement to many weaker ones, as it was a continual inspiration to myself.