Frank Emery Nix GC (EM non-exchanger)

b. 22/04/1914 Tibshelf, Derbyshire. d. 08/08/1996 Chesterfield, Derbyshire.

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 18/04/1944 Pilsley, Derbyshire. 

Frank Emery Nix (1914-1996) was born on 22nd April 1914 in Tibshelf, Derbyshire, one of seven children of George Henry and Jemima Nix (nee Lee). Frank was educated at Alfreton Road School, Tibshelf, but left at the age of 14, to become a coal miner at Williamthorpe Colliery. He was following in a long standing family tradition as his grandfather, father, uncles and brothers all worked in the mines. Frank was a clever young man and his headmaster had tried to get his father to allow him to stay in education to no avail. Indeed, Frank worked the night shift down the pit, and took a second job as a projectionist at a local cinema.

Frank E Nix GC

Frank was keen to better himself, and attended Mansfield Technical College and obtained his Overman’s Certificate. By 1930, he was working at Tibshelf Bottom pit moving from there to Pilsley in 1939, where in 1940 he became Pit Deputy.

On 4th April 1942 he married his childhood sweetheart Kit (Katherine) Nix, his cousin. Until after the war, they lived with Frank’s parents. They had one son, Peter Curzon. On 18th April 1944, he was working at Pilsley when a “bump” occurred at the coal face on which Ernest Vickers and another man were cutting coal with a compressed air machine. As a result, the flamper over the bars from the left side of the cutter was broken for a distance of 35 yards, the roof lowering about 8in. Vickers’ head was pinned against the edge of the conveyor pans. His workmate was unable to get past the machine to help, so he called for assistance. Frank Nix had three men with him behind the machine, two of whom slid down the pans and placed a prop in order to take the weight off the trapped man. Nix followed them down but, seeing that nearly all the props within 10 yards of the accident were broken, he sent the others back and went himself to where Vickers was trapped. With the aid of a third man, he worked his way down the face side, resetting the broken props as he went. By this time the roof had lowered to about 15in from the floor, and this made it extremely difficult. After setting 12 props Nix was in a position about 3 yards from Vickers, but owing to a fall of earth was unable to see him. He began clearing the earth. After reaching Vickers it became obvious that the only way to free him was to lighten the bar. This could only be done by breaking the flamper with a hammer, working with care for fear of another cave-in. He managed to pull Vickers clear and saved his life.

For his heroic actions, Frank was awarded the Edward Medal on 21st November 1944. He was invested with his EM by King George VI at Buckingham Palace on 16th February 1945. He continued to work at Pilsley until it closed in 1957. He remained in the industry as a Deputy with the National Coal Board, working at pits such as Morton, Holmwood and based at Markham Main. Frank finally retired in 1979 after giving 51 years of service in the coal industry. In 1971, having been given the opportunity to exchange his Edward Medal for a George Cross, he politely declined, becoming the last living person to wear the medal.

Frank passed away on 8th August 1996 in Chesterfield, Derbyshire. For many years, he laid in an unmarked grave. His wife died in 2003 and is buried with him. In 2022, his grave was finally marked with a headstone thanks to funding from the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association. His EM and QEII Silver Jubilee Medal are privately held.