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Bertram Stuart Trevelyan ARCHER, GC,OBE, ERD and Two Bars (Living Recipient)

No. & Rank at the Time of Action:126305 Second-Lieutenant (Acting Lieutenant)

Unit/Occupation: Corps of Royal Engineers, Bomb Disposal

Date and Place of Birth: 3rd February 1915, Hamstead, London

Family: Son of Bertram George Reine Archer (who was an electrical engineer and owned his own business), and Francis Maud Archer (nee Hatfield). Archer married Kathleen Matilda Hatt (known as Kit) in 1939, they have one son, Ian Stuart Trevelyan Archer, ARIBA, AADip,(Hons), and two daughters, Deidre Marjorie Strowger and Melanie Patricia Archer.

Early Life: Archer qualified as an ARIBA at the youngest age permitted as an Architect, at 21, in July 1936. He worked in Grays Inn, initially with Ingram Son and Archer (Archer name added to firm after BSTA qualified). Archer continued working with this partnership all his working life apart from the time he spent in the Army. Before the war he served with the Honourable Artillery Company.

Date and Place of GC Action: 2nd September 1940

The London Gazette: 30th September 1941

Citation: "The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the award of the GEORGE CROSS in recognition of most conspicuous gallantry in carrying out hazardous work in a very brave manner, to:-

Second-Lieutenant (Acting Lieutenant) Bertram Stuart Trevelyan Archer (126305), Corps of Royal Engineers."

Account of Deed: Lieutenant Archer had been employed on bomb disposal since June 1940 and had dealt with over 200 bombs. He had enjoyed unbelievable immunity from death and shown sustained nerve and courage of the highest order. On 2nd September 1940 he was called out with his section to deal with a whole stick of unexploded bombs which had fallen in the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company's refinery at Llandarcy, near Swansea. Several tanks of oil were on fire, which added greatly to the danger and difficulty of the work. Whilst tackling the most dangerous of the bombs two of the others exploded and it was obvious that the one on which they were working might do likewise at any moment. They continued working on it, however, for several hours until Lieutenant Archer had removed the fuse and rendered the bomb harmless.

Remarks: From July 1940 onwards the Luftwaffe began attacks on British ports and industrial cities. Initially a high proportion of high-explosive bombs were used, of which more than 90 percent exploded on impact causing civilian casualties and extensive damage. The remainder did not explode, either because they were fitted with delayed action fuses or had a faulty mechanism. In each case the residual threat resulted in evacuation of everyone in the immediate vicinity and brought local industry and communications to a halt. Archer, then a Royal Engineers subaltern, commanded Number 104 Bomb Disposal Section deployed in South Wales. Apart from risking being blown to pieces while attempting to defuse or move an unexploded bomb, he and his bomb-disposal teams faced the problem of new German fuses specifically designed to prevent their bombs being made safe. Consequently, he was instructed to send to the War Office examples of new enemy fuses and the anti-handling devices found with them, On 15 July 1940 four 250 kilogram bombs fell on St. Adian airfield in South Wales but did not explode. Archer went at once to the scene and decided that as four bombs in one group had failed to detonate, they were probably all booby-trapped. He supervised the excavation of each bomb individually, had them lifted carefully onto a lorry and drove them personally to a piece of open ground where they were detonated, This dealt with the immediate, threat to the airfield but taught the team nothing about the fuses used: A month later an unexploded 250 kilogram bomb was found at Moulton, also in South Wales, so Archer had the ground cleared around it until the fuse pocket was visible. He identified the fuse as a type No. 50 required by the War Office for experiments, but was unable to get it out of the bomb casing in the usual way by drawing it clear with a cord.

He therefore moved his team to a safe distance and prised it out using a pick head: Ten days later he recovered a No. 38 fuse from a bomb which had fallen within Port Talbot Docks. A heavy raid on the night of 2 September started fires at the Anglo-Iranian Oil refinery near Swansea. Amongst six huge oil tanks four unexploded bombs were discovered. Two had fallen a relatively safe distance from the tanks, one lay partly buried between two of them and the fourth had bored a shaft to the concrete foundations of a tank containing oil not on fire. Archer decided the fourth bomb presented the gravest threat and tackled it fast. His team began digging to make the shaft wide enough to allow him to get to the fuse. After an hour's work, one of the two more distant bombs exploded, followed by the second one a few minutes later. With the ever-present thought that the bomb in the shaft would be the next to go, the diggers worked until Archer could slide down the shaft. He found a 250 kg bomb with a split in its casing, through which he could see the fuse stretched across the centre of the bomb like the rung of a ladder. Ordering his team to take cover, he unscrewed the fuse filler-cap, scraped out the explosive and cautiously began to extract the fuse. As he did so, there was a sharp crack of a detonator which would have set off the fuse if he had not already removed the explosive.

The fuse and the secondary mechanism were collected and sent to the War Office, where it was later found that that the secondary device was an anti-handling construction known as a 'Zus 40'. This was a vital discovery, as it was the first example of the complete mechanism and provided important information for bomb-disposal men on how to counter the device. Archer continued his brave work during the rest of 1940. On five other occasions he extracted new or unknown types of fuses from unexploded bombs, as well as preventing damage to a wide variety of installations by defusing bombs.

Additional Information: He continued to serve with bomb disposal units and commanded No. 12 Company as Major at the end of the war. After demobilization Archer returned to his career as an architect. In 1947 Capt (Hon Maj) BST Archer GC (126305) Royal Engineers was awarded the Efficiency Medal (Territorial) (LG 20.3.47, p.1318).In 1950 he re-joined the Army Emergency Reserve and later served with 137th Bomb Disposal Regiment, RE (AER). In 1953 he was selected to command No. 142 Bomb Disposal Regiment as a Lt. Colonel. LtCol BST Archer GC ERD (126305), Corps of RE, Army Emergency Reserve was awarded the OBE (Mil) in the London Gazette on 10th June 1961, p.4149.

He was appointed Honorary Colonel Bomb Disposal Regiments in 1963. Archer was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1970. In 1977 he received the Queen's Silver Jubilee Medal. In late 1980's Archer's son, Ian, joined the partnership, which was renamed Archer and Son. Stuart Archer finally retired in 1995 and his son continues the practice. Archer has been Chairman of the VC and GC Association since August 1994.

Stuart Archer represented the VC & GC Association at the Queen Mother's Funeral in April 2003

Final Rank: Colonel

Other Decorations/Medals: OBE, Army Emergency Reserve Decoration and two Bars

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