b. 27/05/1910 Barton on Humber, Lincolnshire. d. 15/01/1988 Doncaster, Yorkshire.
DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 20/11/1931 Bentley, Yorkshire.
Richard Edward Darker (1910-1988) was born in Barton on Humber, Lincolnshire on 27th May 1910, the son of Richard John Little and Florence May Darker. He had one brother called Ronald and a sister Caroline (sadly she died as an infant). The family lived in the village of Redbourne, and the two boys went to school in nearby Brigg. In 1923, the family moved to Doncaster, Yorkshire and settled in Toll Bar, Bentley, only a couple of miles from Bentley Colliery. Richard took his first job at the age of 15 at the Markham Main Colliery before moving to Bentley two years later.
He trained initially as a pony driver, hauling coal along the pit bottom from the coal face to the shaft. When the incident occurred on 20th November 1931, he was doing this job when the explosion happened. Of the 47 men and boys working at or near the coal face, all but two were either killed or died later. John Ward, the pony driver, who was near an adjacent part of the coal face, was blown off his feet and enveloped in a thick cloud of dust, but as soon as he recovered himself he went on his own initiative towards the face, guiding himself by rails and tubs, and assisted an injured man towards a place of safety. He repeatedly returned to the face and helped to free injured men and bring them away, and continued working for 3 hours until completely exhausted. Darker, Soulsby, Sykes and Yates also displayed great bravery and perseverance in extricating the injured and taking them to safety. They had to work in an atmosphere that was hot and vitiated, with the risk of further explosions. In fact, there were two more explosions in the mine.
Richard was deeply affected by what happened in the mine, and struggled to return to work afterwards. He eventually, despite the support of his then girlfriend, later wife, Edna May Webb, decided to seek employment above ground. He therefore retrained as a stores supervisor. On 20th September 1932, nearly a year after the accident, Richard was amongst four men who received the Edward Medal in Bronze, whilst four others were awarded the Edward Medal in Silver.
In 1934, Richard married Edna at Owston, Yorkshire, and they rented a house in Carcroft near to Edna’s parents. They went on to have three children: Terry, Mavis and Lynn. They lived in Carcroft for twenty years, before relocating to Scawthorpe four miles away. Richard became active in the local community and church, before he was forced to take early retirement from the National Coal Board Central Equipment Stores in Doncaster due to ill-health.
On 14th November 1972, Richard alongside six other miners from the Bentley Disaster, attended an investiture at Buckingham Palace where he received the George Cross. He donated his Edward Medal to the Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery. Richard passed away on 15th January 1988 in Doncaster, and was cremated and his ashes interred with his wife’s at Rose Hill Crematorium, Cantley. His George Cross and 1977 QEII Silver Jubilee medal are proudly held by the Darker family.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: WITH RECIPIENT’S FAMILY.
BURIAL PLACE: ROSE HILL CREMATORIUM, DONCASTER, YORKSHIRE.
Marion Hebblethwaite – Image of Richard Darker GC.