Charles Smith GC (EM exchanger)

b. 17/12/1908 Wigan, Lancashire. d. 25/10/1987 Blaydon, County Durham.

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 03/01/1940 Askern, Yorkshire.

Charles Smith (1908-1987) was born on 17th December 1908 in Ince, near Wigan, Greater Manchester, son of William and Rachael Smith, and was educated at St William’s Roman Catholic School. He attended the school until he was 13, when he became a miner. He eventually ended up working at Askern Main Colliery in Yorkshire.

Charles Smith GC

On 3rd January 1940, there was a roof fall at Askern and Charles Liversidge was buried. Smith and Matthew Thompson were on hand and at once started rescue work. The colliery agent, Mr Gwyn Morgan, arrived a few minutes after and took charge of the operation. They played a prominent part in the dangerous work of clearing away the debris. With great difficulty a way was cleared under the fall, and it was found Liversidge was completely buried except his head and shoulders. His arms were pinned by rocks and a steel bar. Morgan managed to free his arm. All three men managed to free him, and on 28th June 1940, the London Gazette announced that Gwyn Morgan was to be awarded the Edward Medal in Silver, with Matthew Thompson and Charles Smith being awarded Edward Medals in Bronze.

Soon after the incident at Askern, Charles chose to enlist in 60 Regiment Royal Artillery, and served in Burma, rising to the rank of Sergeant. On his return and demob, Charles’ war wounds meant that he was unable to work in the mines in Durham, and was forced to return to Yorkshire where he did find employment. Unfortunately, this was short-lived as his injuries were too painful for the physically demanding work. Charles was forced to seek an above ground position and he took a job as a banksman at Stargate Colliery, Royton-on-Tyne, working there from 1946 to 1961. He then moved to work in the stores at Derwenthaugh until his retirement in 1973.

Charles, who had married Louisa Turner and had two children, Erle and Betty, chose to exchange his Edward Medal for the George Cross following the change in the Royal Warrant in 1971. Following his retirement he settled in the North East of England. On 25th October 1987, Charles Smith GC passed away in Blaydon, County Durham. He was cremated at Mountsett Crematorium and his ashes were interred at Blaydon Cemetery with his wife who had pre-deceased him in 1977.

Charles’ GC, 1939-45 Star, Burma Star, Defence Medal 1939-45, War Medal 1939-45 and 1977 QEII Silver Jubilee Medal are privately held.