b. 13/01/1903 Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire. d. 26/03/1986 Kidsgrove, Staffordshire.
DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 10/03/1924 Staffordshire.
Harry Wilson (1903-1986) was born on 13th January 1903 in Stoke-on-Trent, the son of Samuel and Dorothy Wilson, who lived in a house called The Views in Mow Cop. He attended local schools until the age of 12 when he gained employment down the Harriseahead Mine and later the pit at Dinnington in Yorkshire.
On 10th March 1924, he was working at the Harriseahead Colliery when there was an inrush of water into the mine. Most of the workmen had already left, but it was discovered that Edwin Booth was missing. He had been working 130yds from the bottom of the shaft, and representations were made to Paling Baker, the manager, that it was impossible to find him. The bottom of the pit was three parts full of water and rising. Baker, though, was resolute: he called for volunteers for a rescue party and Wilson was one of 5 men who stepped forward and went into the mine. They reached a ventilation door which they dared not to open owing to the pressure of water behind it, and they therefore prepared to retreat. Baker insisted Booth could not be abandoned, but Wilson was the only man who agreed to continue the rescue. Baker and Wilson managed to force open the door and allowed the water to escape gradually. They then waded to the place that Booth has been working, reaching him with great difficulty, and all three men were drawn to the surface.
On 22nd August 1924, the announcement was made in the London Gazette of the award of the Edward Medal to Paling Baker and Harry Wilson. He was also awarded the Certificate of the Order of Industrial Heroism and the Certificate of the Carnegie Hero Fund Trust. In 1925 Harry married Mary Jeffries and they had two daughters Betty and Mollie.
Harry did not remain in the mines for the rest of his working career, and in 1938, he took a job with Kidsgrove Council driving the dustcarts. He was also a committed volunteer for the St John’s Ambulance during this time. Harry in his spare time was a keen musician, playing the violin in the North Staffordshire Orchestra, and had a fine singing voice. He also enjoyed amateur dramatics, and his granddaughter, Joy, followed in his footsteps becoming an opera singer.
Following the change in the Royal Warrant in 1971, Harry chose to accept the opportunity to exchange his Edward Medal for a George Cross. He enjoyed a happy retirement in his native Staffordshire, before he passed away on 26th March 1986 aged 83 in Kidsgrove, near Stoke-on-Trent. He was cremated at Bradwell Crematorium. Harry’s George Cross was gifted to the Imperial War Museum by his daughter and is proudly displayed in the Ashcroft Gallery.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: BRADWELL CREMATORIUM, NEWCASTLE, STAFFORDSHIRE.
Harry Wilson's medal at the Lord Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum, London (December 2014)