Donald Fletcher GC (EM exchanger)

b. 17/01/1902 Ecclesall, Yorkshire. d. 22/08/1986 Derby.

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 10/09/1925 Creswell Colliery, Derbyshire.

Donald Fletcher EM/GC was born in Sheffield, Yorkshire on 17th January 1902. He was the son of Henry and Louisa Fletcher (nee Hall). He attended school in Sheffield, Worksop and Firbeck. At the age of 13, he left school to become a grocer’s apprentice. After two years, however, he turned to farming as a career. He decided to change career again at the age of 20 and became a miner, firstly at Kiveton Park Colliery and then moved to Creswell Colliery in Derbyshire in 1924.

Donald Fletcher GC

On 10th September 1925, a heavy fall of rock completely buried a miner named Cooper. Some of the larger pieces of the roof became interlocked, affording him some protection from the full weight of the fall, and thus prevented him being crushed to death. Efforts were made to see where Cooper was lying, and it was found that his head was near the edge of the fall, so that it was possible to free it from debris. His shoulders were next freed but his body and legs were held fast. The only way to extricate him was for someone to crawl under the debris and gradually stone by stone, release him from the debris. Donald Fletcher at once volunteered for this task and was successful after two hours of continuous work. Great patience and skill were required, and in the course of the work Fletcher’s body was completely under the fall with his head close to Cooper’s feet. Throughout the task, Fletcher was exposed to the risk of being crushed to death either by a second fall or by a settling down of the first fall, but he performed his task skilfully and without regard for his own safety.

Fletcher was awarded the Edward Medal (London Gazette 14th January 1926), and stayed in mining until 1935 when he decided to become an insurance agent. In 1937, he married Mildred Rodgers and they went on to have a son. Having been in a reserved occupation on the land during WWI and too old in WWII he never served in the Forces, and in 1948, he joined the civil service, working for the Department of Health and Social Security until his retirement in 1968. In 1971, he accepted the invitation to exchange his Edward Medal for the George Cross, and donated his EM to the Derby Museum. He died on 22nd August 1986 in Derby, at the age of 84, and was cremated at Markeaton Crematorium where his ashes were scattered in the Garden of Remembrance. His George Cross was auctioned at Dix Noonan and Webb on 17th September 1999 and is in private ownership.