GREENE William Edward
7th Queens Own Hussars
Inspector, Mounted Squadron, Bombay City Police
25713, Bombay Command, Legion of Frontiersmen
Gazetted 6 February 1945, p753 No 42-H Dated New Delhi the 6th February 1945 His Imperial Majesty, The King, Emperor of India has been Graciously pleased the following award FOR BRAVE AND DISTINGUISHED SERVICE in connection with the Bombay Docks Explosion on the 14th April 1944 William Edward GREEN, Esquire. No 25713 of the Bombay Squadron Legion of Frontiersmen. Frontiersman Green was in the Colaba Military Area, Bombay, when he heard the first explosion which occurred as the result of the fire on the “SS FORT STIKINE”. He went immediately to the docks, a considerable distance away, and began rescue work, sustaining injuries as the result of the second explosion. Having received first aid treatment, he went inside Victoria Dock, where the explosion had occurred and where already many ships were burning fiercely, together with many sheds, and thick clouds of smoke made conditions of rescue work coupled with the dust, most hazardous and difficult. After helping several injured seamen to safety he learnt that several survivors aboard a burning ship lying at No 7 berth, with one Royal Navy Rating volunteer he made his way through a blazing shed to the quayside, and found that a ship had broken away from her moorings, and drifted away from the dockside. He called to the seamen who were seen amidships to jump into the water, saying that this was the only way he could rescue them, the ship being well ablaze, the seamen being afraid to do so. However he and his companion themselves jumped into the dock to encourage them, calling on them to do likewise, which they eventually did but only one of them was able to swim. Eventually GREEN and his companion rescued the two who could not swim and assisted them up a ladder which had been fixed into the quayside, thence to safety. All of this time the ship’s defensive ammunition was exploding around them, and floating on the surface of the water there was a large amount of burning cotton, oil and debris. GREEN then continued with his other rescue work, making his way alone to Prince’s Dock, where he helped to rescue a Coolie who had been lying for a considerable time with a heavy sheet of metal pinning him down. At about 5.30am on the 15th April GREEN collapsed from exhaustion, was given first aid and was assisted out of the docks. After a brief period he returned to the dock area and continued to assist in rescue work on the 15th and 16th of April. Frontiersman GREEN who is 50 years of age acted with the utmost promptitude and initiative on hearing the first explosion. Throughout his rescue work he showed a complete disregard for his own safety, and an unsurpassable perseverance and devotion to duty in circumstances of extreme danger.
(Signed) E.M JENKINS,
By Order of the Governor of BOMBAY
Secretary to The Governor of BOMBAY
British War Medal
William Green was born in 1894, joined the 7th Queens Own Hussars at the age of 17 and was sent to India
and saw service in Mesopotamia in the First War. He wanted to follow a family tradition and join the Police
force, but was not tall enough, so he returned to India where height regulations were not so strict and he enlisted
in the mounted branch of the Bombay Police.
In 1936 he also joined the thriving Bombay Squadron of the Legion of Frontiersmen which had three troops
in Bombay and district. He gained a reputation within the Police for outspokenness. He was also determined
to treat the indigenous population and his native colleagues with respect. This did not find favour with some
senior officers and he eventually found himself landed with a desk job.
William Green decided on positive action and made contacts with the local barracks where he negotiated,
even at the age of 50, the promise of a commission in the Military Police. On the morning of April 14th 1944, he
then persuaded a doctor to provide him with a certificate that he was no longer fit for police duties.
Bombay was a vital supply harbour for the war against Japan and it was crammed with ships of all allied flags. One of these was the Fort Stikine which had left England seven weeks earlier loaded with aeroplanes, stores, ammunition, explosives (and two million pounds in gold bars). She was not flying, as she should have been, a suitable flag to warn that she was carrying explosives and give her the priority for unloading. This was possibly an attempt to prevent sabotage, but in the event it was probably unsuccessful in that. At 1.30 p.m. smoke was reported coming from the port side, and the Bombay Fire Brigade, unaware of the amount of munitions on the ship, rushed on board. The Fort Stikine was a floating bomb which exploded with catastrophic results creating a tidal wave. William Green, still wearing his uniform as sub-inspector, was in the area and started to co-ordinate the efforts of random groups of men, until a second explosion occurred which blew him off his feet, blinding his left eye, deafening his left ear and shattering the fingers of his left hand. When he eventually recovered consciousness he continued organising until the pain from his crushed fingers forced him to seek aid and have them bandaged. Accompanied by a young seaman, Waugh, he swum through the water in the dock around many bales of burning cotton and persuaded some terrified seaman aboard another blazing ship to jump into the water as it was the only way to save them. Green and Waugh rescued two who could not swim and helped them to the quay. All this time ammunition was exploding all around them. The smoke and oil in the water made Green's already damaged eyes worse, but he continued, next helping an Indian who had been trapped under a sheet of metal. William Green then collapsed around 5.30 a.m. on the 15th, and went to hospital for brief treatment and rest and a change of clothes. He returned to assist with rescue throughout the rest of the 15th and the 16th April. All the ships around the Fort Stikine were seriously damaged and the disaster flattened a square mile of the dock area of Bombay. The injuries he received prevented William Green receiving the promised commission in the Military Police. He worked in a Government department until 1948 when he returned to England to live in Norwich, always active with the St. John Ambulance Brigade, Civil Defence and re-forming the Legion of Frontiersmen in Norwich, becoming enthusiastically involved with the Canadian Division. He would quote the Persian "Khuda Hafiz e Shuman bashad" which he translated as "may God be your Guardian", a form of "God Guard Thee" the motto of the Legion of Frontiersmen taken from General Gordon's ring. William Green always signed off his letters "Khuda Hafiz". .
Information: Correspondence from William Green, G.M
"The Fort Stikine Disaster", Coin and Medal News, February 1985
"Disaster in Bombay Harbour" Melbourne (Australia) Herald, November 1957
Citation awarding the George Medal to William Green, February 1945