Charles ‘Jack’ Henry George Howard, GC, 20th Earl of Suffolk & Berkshire, born into the noble House of Howard, possessed extraordinary courage. Jack became an earl at the age of eleven after his father died in WWI in Mesopotamia.
Aged thirty-four, Jack’s courageous spirit led him to execute a daring mission for the British government in 1940 in Paris. Under the noses of the advancing Germans he snatched top French scientists, millions of pounds worth of diamonds, armaments, heavy water (the only kind in the world), and secret documents. His trip back to England from Bordeaux was fraught with danger in mine and submarine infested waters. His mission remained Top Secret throughout the war years and beyond, even to his closest family. His adventure in Paris earned him the nickname of ‘Mad Jack’.
His next chosen mission was again of prime importance and extremely dangerous, a secret more closely guarded than radar. He began working in bomb disposal in close proximity with his secretary Beryl, and Fred, his chauffeur, and the three became widely known as The Holy Trinity. Whenever an unexploded bomb was reported, it was quickly brought to the Earl’s attention, especially if it was tricky. Thirty four bombs were successfully defused by The Holy Trinity and their loyal team of Royal Engineers. The thirty-fifth bomb blew them up.
The Holy Trinity were the only World War II civilian casualties working in Bomb Disposal. King George VI in 1941 awarded the 20th Earl the George Cross for his work for his country, the highest gallantry award for civilians, as well as for members of the armed forces, in actions for which purely military honours would not normally be granted.
CIVILIAN BOMB DISPOSAL EARL Jack Howard and Bomb Disposal in WW2
The extraordinary and little-known story of one of the Second World War’s most remarkable heroes. ‘Jack’ Howard, 20th Earl of Suffolk, formed a three-person bomb disposal team known as the Holy Trinity with his secretary Beryl, and chauffeur, Fred. They successfully defused thirty four bombs, but the thirty-fifth blew them up. The Earl was posthumously awarded the George Cross for his cool courage and noble sacrifice.