Fred Haller GC (EM exchanger)

b. 29/03/1892 Little Heck, Yorkshire. d. 17/09/1983 Rossington, Yorkshire.

PLACE AND DATE OF GC ACTION: 08/10/1938 Doncaster, Yorkshire.

Fred Haller (1892-1983) was born on 29th March 1892 in Little Heck, Yorkshire, the son of John and Mary Elizabeth Hawler (nee Cooling). By the time of the 1901 Census, Fred’s name had been changed to Haller from Hawler. His father was a farm labourer, and it is possible it was a transcription error which led to Hawler becoming Haller. Fred had two older brother, and following basic schooling, he became a cabinet maker’s apprentice just prior to the First World War.

Fred Haller GC

In 1915, he married Ellen Dobb, and they went on to have three children: Harold, Fred and Dorothy. Soon after their marriage, the couple became the licensees of the White Horse in Mission, near Doncaster. Sadly, Ellen had a massive stroke at the age of 30, and due to her disability, they were forced to give up the pub. Fred decided to take up employment down the mines in order to support his family. He began work at the Rossington Main Colliery, and joined the Doncaster and District Mines Rescue Team.

On 8th October 1938, at Rossington Main Colliery, a driver named Dakin, who was engaged in enlarging the road, went missing. Planks from a fence that shut off a heading due to dangerous amounts of gas had been pushed aside and a light could be seen some distance up the heading. Godfrey and his son, who had been working with Dakin, concluded he must have entered the heading for some reason, so Godfrey’s son went for help while Godfrey turned on a compressed air hose but it did not reach the fence. When Haller arrived he sent for more hosepipe and, taking a singler that was saturated with water, he went up the heading to rescue Dakin, whom he could see some 40 yards away. Advancing cautiously so as not to exhaust himself, he reached the unconscious man and, with considerable effort, dragged him back to the fence, where he arrived in an exhausted condition. There is no doubt that Dakin would have died were it not for Haller’s action.

Haller was awarded the Edward Medal for his gallantry (London Gazette, 20th January 1939). He also received the Carnegie Hero Fund Trust Certificate and a grant for £120 plus an increase in his salary at Rossington. Fred soon returned to work at Rossington following the action. It would not be his only act of gallantry.

In 1946, during alterations being made to enlarge the airway of the Barnsley Bed at Rossington part of the roof fell in and a man became trapped under large blocks of stone. It was obvious another fall could be imminent but two men, Fred Haller and John Grogan began rescue attempts. They had freed the victim when a second and much larger fall occurred. Grogan was buried by the neck by the fall and sustained severe injuries. Fred Haller was also severely injured, but both men were pulled out alive and survived. On 31st January 1947, the London Gazette announced that both men would be awarded the British Empire Medal for their gallantry.

Due to his injuries, Fred was unable to return to work at Rossington underground, and became a Safety Officer above the surface. Fred retired from the mines in the 1950s, and lived happily in retirement in Doncaster. In 1971, he chose to accept the opportunity to exchange his Edward Medal for the George Cross and proudly attended his investiture at Buckingham Palace on 12th July 1972. Fred died on 17th September 1983 and was cremated at Rosehill Crematorium in Doncaster. His GC, BEM, and QEII Silver Jubilee Medal 1977 were sold at auction on 1st March 1984 at Sotheby’s and are in private ownership.