Post memories: Medals presented to man who defused Dagenham bombs go on show
- Credit: Museum of London
Nick Moore, whose dad was awarded the George Cross for his selfless work defusing bombs in the Blitz, remembers his father as a new exhibition recognises his contribution.
A son has paid tribute to his “wonderful” dad who was decorated for defusing three mines in Dagenham.
German forces began to drop naval mines and bombs over London in September 1940 but many failed to explode, posing a stark threat to civilians.
Richard Valentine Moore, who was born on Valentine’s Day in 1916, was one of the naval staff who volunteered to make these unexploded bombs and mines safe – even though he had only received basic training.
Alongside Lieutenant-Commander Dick Ryan and Chief Petty Officer Reginald Ellingworth, he travelled across London, Essex and Kent, defusing unexploded missiles.
On September 21, 1940, Richard, Ryan and Ellingworth were called to Dagenham to defuse three German mines.
While Richard set to work on a mine outside a factory, his colleagues decided to tackle a mine further ahead. Tragically, their mine exploded, killing them both.
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All three men were awarded the George Cross – Lieutenant-Commander Ryan and Chief Petty Officer Ellingworth posthumously – for “great gallantry and undaunted devotion to duty”.
Richard was among the first recipients of the George Cross, an honour which ranks second only to the Victoria Cross.
Remarkably, Richard only shared his memories of the war as he got older.
“He was a wonderful man – very modest,” his son, Nick Moore, said. “He really didn’t talk about the war at all until he got into old age.”
The father and son attended many Victoria Cross and George Cross Association events together, giving Nick a valuable insight into the world of ex-service men.
Decorated ex-soldiers from all over the world, including Canada and Nepal, would reminisce and meet royals.
“I was able to meet other very brave men,” Nick recalled. “All of them were modest men, they didn’t shout about what they did. They were lovely people.
“They felt lucky to be alive as lots of their colleagues had died. They just enjoyed life.”
His dad kept his bomb disposal work extremely secret when he was carrying it out.
Staying with his mother and sister at the time, Richard did not reveal the risks he was taking for his country.
“These chaps just kept everything secret,” Nick explained.
Richard originally studied engineering and after graduating he joined the County of London Electricity Supply Company.
He served with the special mines counter-measures section of the Admiralty until he was appointed torpedo officer of the light cruiser Dido in the Mediterranean in February 1942.
After leaving the Royal Navy with the rank of lieutenant-commander in 1946, he joined the Atomic Energy Research Establishment.
Richard made a huge contribution to society after the war, helping to design the first nuclear power station in the country, Calder Hall. He died in 2003, aged 87.
“I was very lucky to have him as a father, and I miss him very much,” Nick said.
Richard’s George Cross medal is now on show at the Museum of London Docklands in Tower Hamlets.
It forms part of a free display recognising the heroic and little-known role his team played during the Blitz.
The collection also includes an interactive display with a graphic novel and 3D puzzle which aims to make the heroic, historical story relatable to all ages.
Vyki Sparkes, curator of social and working history, said: “This important display allows the museum to recognise the bravery of some of those who volunteered to disable bombs and mines during the London Blitz.”
For more information about the exhibition, visit museumoflondon.org.uk