Kerin Freeman ... writer

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THE CIVILIAN BOMB DISPOSING EARL

Charles ‘Jack’ Henry George Howard, GC, 20th Earl of Suffolk & Berkshire, born into the noble formidable House of Howard, possessed extraordinary courage. He was the progeny of an English aristocrat and the daughter of Levi Z Leiter, a Jewish-American millionaire who owned half of Chicago. Jack became an earl at the age of eleven after his father died in WWI in Mesopotamia. 

The foundations of Jack's life consisted of a rich experience gained, briefly, in the Scots Guards, as a cadet on theMount Stewart at the age of seventeen, as a farmer and lumberman in Australia, as a student at the University of Edinburgh where he achieved a first for the university: a first class honours degree in Pharmacology, and as an Earl speaking in the House of Lords on the Cancer Bill.

At 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 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 defuzed by The Holy Trinity and their loyal team of Royal Engineers. His experiments led to the development of a cutting tool used to remove the Zus 40 anti-withdrawal device that plagued bomb disposal officers during the 1940s and beyond. The thirty-fifth bomb blew them up. Jack had just turned thirty-five. He was often heard to say: “You can’t play puss-puss with a bomb. You’ve got to be tough with it; otherwise the devil will trick you.”

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. Beryl and Fred received Commendations for Brave Conduct.

John Masefield, the Poet Laureate, wrote of Jack: “…The beauty of a splendid man abides."

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