Lieutenant George Albert Cairns VC

On 13 March 1944 at Henu Block, Burma, during an attack on a hill-top held by the Japanese, which turned into 'an extraordinary melee', Lt Cairns was attacked by a Japanese officer, who, with his sword hacked off Cairns's left arm. Cairns shot the officer, picked up his sword and continued to lead his men, slashing left and right with the captured sword. He killed and wounded several of the enemy before he himself fell to the ground having been bayoneted twice. A week later he died of his wounds but his action so inspired his men that the Japanese were completely routed, a very rare occurrence at that time.

George Albert Cairns was born on 12 Dec 1913, in London. He worked in a bank in Sidcup and married his wife Ena there in 1941. He was commissioned into the Somerset Light Infantry but was attached to the South Staffords, a Chindit Battalion. He is buried in Taukkyan War Cemetery in Burma. There are memorials to him at Whittington Barracks, Lichfield and St Mary's, Brighstone, Isle of Wight. His Victoria Cross was not gazetted until 20 May 1949, the last VC of the Second World War to be gazetted. The reason for the delay was that General Wingate had the recommendation with him when his plane went down. The crash site and Wingate's body could not be reached until the war was ended, and two of the witnesses had died in the meantime. The award of the medal owes much to the efforts of Mr Ena Cairns and her MP, Mr G D Wallace who persuaded the War Office to act. The medal is in the Museum of the Staffordshire Regiment in Whittington.

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by Stephen Luscombe