Thursday, October 21, 2010

Albert Dolphin - New Cross Hospital Hero 1940

Tuesday's Telegraph reports that Lord Ashcroft has a new book out called George Cross Heroes - the George Cross being awarded since 1940 for acts of civilian bravery. The literary efforts of the Conservative Party's bankroller and tax avoider are not normally a subject of interest in the Transpontine milieu, but it does apparently feature an entry on a genuine local hero:

'ALBERT GEORGE DOLPHIN

Rank/title: Mr

Unit/occupation: Hospital porter

Date of bravery: September 7 1940

Gazetted: January 17 1941

On September 7 1940 – the start of the Blitz − Germany switched tactics. It halted its successful blanket bombing of Britain’s RAF bases and instead targeted, first, London and then other British cities. As darkness fell, wave after wave of planes swept over London, dropping their bombs predominantly in the east of the capital.

Some 430 people died that night. Among them were four nurses who had been killed when a bomb landed on the South Eastern Hospital in New Cross, south London. The victims had been standing on the ground floor of the kitchens of Ward Block 1.

Another nurse, who had been in the ward kitchen on the first floor, had been thrown through the collapsing floor and had ended up in the passage of the ground floor. She was still alive, but seriously injured, and her legs had been trapped by some of the falling masonry. Those who rushed to help her included Albert Dolphin, a 44-year-old hospital porter.

Dolphin was a married man who had worked at the hospital for more than 20 years. As he and others worked frantically to free the nurse, one of the surrounding walls gave a loud crack. The would-be rescuers had time to move away and all of them, except Dolphin, retreated. Instead, the porter flung himself over the woman’s body. In doing so, Dolphin took the full weight of the falling masonry and was killed.

His selfless act was not in vain. The nurse was later pulled, alive, from the rubble, and Dolphin’s posthumous GC was announced just over four months later, his citation ending: ‘There is no doubt that Dolphin, although aware the wall was about to collapse, deliberately remained where he was and threw himself across the nurse’s body in an endeavour to protect her. This he succeeded in doing at the cost of his own life.’

Albert Dolphin is listed on a memorial mural in Lewisham Shopping Centre. The Deptford Ambulance Station now stands on the site at 1 New Cross Road. For similar stories, see Deptford's and Lewisham's Local Heroes from the Blitz at WW2Talk.

2 comments:

mike guilfoyle said...

I was very pleased to read the account of Albert Dophins heroism and his posthumous award of the George Cross. I believe that he was buried in Brockley & Ladywell Cemetery(unconfirmed) and I would be appreciative if any readers have further information on this so that we can tell his story on the Friends of Brockley & Ladywell Cemetery website.. Mike Guilfoyle -FOBLC

Garry said...

Hi Mike,

I am Albert Dolphin's grandson, I believe my grandfather was buried in Hither Green cemetery rather than BLC. Garry Collier