Geoffrey Riley GC (AM exchanger)

b. 20/11/1929 Huddersfield, Yorkshire. d. 16/01/2005 Huddersfield, Yorkshire.

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 29/05/1944 Digley Valley, Yorkshire.

Geoffrey Riley (1929-2005) was born on 20th November 1929 iin Huddersfield, Yorkshire, the only son of Donald and Lily Riley (nee Battye). His father was an electrician who worked for the Holmfirth Urban District Council. Geoffrey passed the 11+ examination and attended Holme Valley Grammar School. Geoffrey was just 14 when the incident occurred that would lead to the award of the Albert Medal.

Geoffrey Riley GC

On 29th May 1944, after a thunderstorm, followed by a cloudburst, the River Holme became a raging torrent 50ft wide and over 15ft deep, flooding surrounding land and buildings. Riley saw 76 year old Maude Wimpenny, who had taken refuge on a low wall. She was surrounded by flood water that was rapidly rising. He first attempted a rescue by walking to her along the wall, but she would not leave her position. He then entered the water and rescued her from the wall, which later collapsed; he was only a moderate swimmer, and struggled to bring her to safety through the flood until he became exhausted. His father then went to his assistance, but all three were swept away into the river. Geoffrey was sadly the only survivor.

On 3rd October 1944, Geoffrey was awarded the Albert Medal in Bronze (Land), and was presented with his medal a month later on 14th November 1944. He also received a Honorary Certificate from the Carnegie Hero Fund Trust and some National Savings Certificates while the Trust paid his mother a small weekly allowance. Geoffrey also received £500 from the Holmfirth Flood Relief Committee in Defence Bonds.

After leaving school, Geoffrey became an apprentice with Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB). He served two years National Service in the RAF as a junior technician in Shropshire. He then qualified as a Chartered Surveyor with the CEGB (later became Powergen). In 1953, he married Barbara Mellor and they had a son, Paul, and a daughter, Gillian. In retirement, Geoffrey enjoyed caravanning. In 1971, he chose to exchange his Albert Medal for the George Cross, and donated his AM to the Kirklees Tolson Memorial Museum in Huddersfield.

Geoffrey died on 16th January 2005 in Huddersfield, and following a funeral at St David’s, Holmbridge, was cremated at the Huddersfield Crematorium. Geoffrey’s GC, 1977 QEII Silver Jubilee Medal and 2002 QEII Golden Jubilee Medal are privately held.