Just four Australian personnel have been awarded the George Medal and Bar.
Sold with a superb photograph album recently assembled from Lieutenant-Commander Cliff's original, together with related negatives, the whole providing a remarkable record of many of his more famous Mine Disposal incidents in the U.K. between May 1941 and August 1943, with a wide range of subject matter and informative captions; together with the Boer War and Great War Service Group of Four to Lieutenant R.C. Cliff, A.I.F., late Cape Artillery, with related Dress Miniatures and Badges, the K.S.A. renamed.
O.B.E. London Gazette 18.4.1944 'For gallantry and devotion to duty'.
G.M. London Gazette 9.6.1942. Recommendation states 'On 11.5.1941 an unexploded parachute mine was reported as having dropped on a two-storey building in the Leather Market at Bermondsey. The mine was eventually found completely covered by debris, and Lieutenant Cliff had to make his way through and below this debris to reach it. When he was about to commence operations another mine or bomb detonated nearby, completely burying him in wreckage and rubble. Lieutenant Cliff realised full well that this detonation was more than liable to have started the clockwork fuse in the mine with which he was dealing. With the greatest difficulty he managed to escape from under the debris by which he was buried, and immediately continued his operations on the mine which he successfully rendered safe. A further instance of the difficulties and onerous conditions under which he was working is provided by the fact that it was necessary to demolish the walls of the building before the mine could be removed.
On 2.7.1941, a "G" type Mine dropped at Leysdown, Isle of Sheppey. "G" Type Mines are dropped without parachutes, and, if they do not explode on impact, nearly always bury themselves deep in the ground. Moreover they contain not only a magnetic unit, which is presumed to be alive, but also an anti-handling device operated by a photo-electric cell. It is therefore necessary to work at the bottom of a deep hole and in darkness. In this instance the mine was badly damaged by its fall, making it even more dangerous, and was buried 24 feet down in clay soil. Lieutenant Cliff found that the clay had found its way under the cover of the mine and had shorn off the top plate of the switch. In consequence he worked on through a series of electric shocks and sparks due to the damaged switch, not knowing whether these were going to detonate the mine. He eventually removed the damaged switch by sheering off the six screws which held it. He then had to remove the bolts holding the magnetically alive unit with a hacksaw owing to their damaged condition. However, after nearly a month of hard and hazardous work he succeeded in rendering the mine safe.
Between August to October, Lieutenant Cliff also successfully dealt with three other mines in the Thames Estuary District, which were endangering oil tanks at Thames Haven. These mines were covered with water and mud and were buried about 8 to 16 feet down. In each instance coffer dams had to be erected and the water pumped out, and each took between a fortnight and a month to recover. These mines were particularly dangerous, as previous attempts had been made to countermine them.
Lieutenant Cliff was assisted throughout by Lieutenant Charles Graham Tanner, R.N.V.R. as "Learner", and the excavating and timbering was done by Lieutenant Lombard and 22 B.D.S Group, Section 216, to whom the greatest credits were due. In dealing with these incidents, Lieutenant Cliff showed the highest qualities of courage, resource, and devotion to duty'.
Bar to G.M. London Gazette 20.11.1942 'For gallantry and undaunted devotion to duty'.
Lieutenant-Commander Geoffrey John "Jack" Cliff, O.B.E., G.M., of Sydney, was born on 14.8.1907, and entered the R.A.N.V.R. on 6.1.1941 as a Sub-Lieutenant on the strength of his peacetime occupation as a Civil Engineer for Shire Council, Coonabarabran, N.S.W. Following preliminary training at F.N.D. (H.M.A.S. Cerberus), he proceeded to the U.K. and commenced the work for which he was most suited - bomb disposal. As a member of the small Admiralty-based Rendering Mines Safe Section he was given command of a party from 22 Bomb Disposal Company, Royal Engineers, and, with Lieutenant C.G. Tanner, R.N.V.R., as his "Learner", was employed between August and October 1941 in dealing with three parachute mines which were endangering oil tanks at the important Thames Haven fuel installation in Essex. Thus ensued a series of dangerous operations which resulted in his first G.M. (See above Recommendation).
In the summer 1942 Cliff was summoned to Belfast to deal with a number of devices still outstanding from the heavy bombing in April the previous year. Several mines were recorded as having fallen in the city sewage works, and one very unsavoury task involved locating and recovering a mine from the soft mud flats adjacent to the settling tanks and outfall. He then learnt from eye-witnesses that another mine had fallen in the Central Basin Reservoir. Cliff duly drained the reservoir and during this operation dragged from the water a parachute confirming the presence of a mine. 'By 14 June, the tail had been uncovered and Lieutenant Cliff decided that the mine was almost certain to be active and it would be dangerous to reduce the water level any further, so he stopped the pumps, approached the mine in a small dinghy and finally reached it by wading through the mud. Finding the mine case to be in wobbly condition and working with his hands in the water, he was able to remove the bomb fuse and main primer without undue force but could not reach the detonator which was too deeply submerged. Attaching a line, he took it to the shore and started to pull the mine... but shortly after it began to move, the detonator was heard to fire, proving that the mine was indeed alive and, had it not been defused, would most likely detonated when moved. Working in mud and water as he was, his chances of escape would have been minimal at best.' Cliff was awarded a Bar to his G.M. and elevated from M.B.E. to O.B.E.
In late 1944 Cliff and his heavily decorated subordinate, Lieutenant L.V. Goldsworthy, G.C., G.M., D.S.C., R.A.N.V.R., with whom he worked on a number of jobs in the U.K., returned to Australia to work as B.N.L.O. with the U.S. Navy's Mobile Explosives Investigation Unit No. 1, being responsible in this capacity for examining and reporting on captured Japanese ordnance in the Pacific Theatre.
Reference source: Dragons Can Be Defeated, Major Henderson, G.M., 1983.