Harold Francis “Charry” Charrington GC (EGM exchanger)

b. 07/10/1910 Brentford. d. 07/07/1976 Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire.

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 03/02/1939 Palestine.

Harold Francis Charrington (1910-1976) was born on 7th October 1910 in Brentford, the 2nd son and youngest child of Francis Arthur and Kathleen Clara Charrington (nee Newman). His father was a London based stockbroker, and the family was reasonably wealthy with four live-in servants. Harold grew up at their home in Montpelier Road, Ealing with his brother John Edmund and sister Cecilia. Harold and John both attended public school at Westminster, and Harold went on to study at London University. During his time at university, Harold was given the nickname “Charry” which stuck for the rest of his life.

Harold F Charrington GC

Following university, Harold became an Assistant Civil Engineer and was given employment in the Air Ministry Works Department. It was whilst on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore for his work that he met his future wife, Betty Green. She was working as overseas representative for the Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen’s Families Association in the Far East at the time. There was also a travelling theatre company on the plane, and when one of the actors fell ill, Harold swapped seats and ended up next to Betty.

By the late 1930s, Harold had been transferred to the Middle East Command of the Air Ministry Works Department, when on 3rd February 1939, his life was changed whilst on a flight over Palestine. The aircraft he was flying on suddenly went into an uncontrollable spin in poor weather, whereupon the pilot ordered everyone to bale out. Another passenger, Mr Timbers, also of the Air Ministry Works Department, attempted to climb over the side of the cockpit, but the air pressure held him down. He then managed to assume a position across the cockpit in an attempt to get out backwards and head first. He was still unable to get away so Charrington stayed to help him get clear, instead of going over the side himself. Once Timbers had jumped, Charrington, with great difficulty, left the aircraft himself. By the time he made his escape he was so close to the ground that a few more seconds’ delay would have been fatal. He hit the ground almost immediately after his parachute opened.

As a result of his actions, Harold was awarded the Empire Gallantry Medal of the Civil Division on 8th March 1940. He held the EGM for less than a year, as following the creation of the George Cross in September 1940, all recipients were entitled to an exchange. Harold received his GC in an investiture at Buckingham Palace in October 1941 from King George VI.

In 1947, Harold was posted back to England, and was based in Bristol. It was there that his and Betty’s two children (Anita and Nicholas) were born. In 1953, he was posted to Malta for over two years where he was temporarily absorbed into the RAF with the rank of Wing Commander soon to be promoted to Group Captain.

Following his retirement, the family settled in Buckinghamshire, where Harold enjoyed the pastimes of photography, cricket and walks in the countryside. Harold died on 7th July 1976 in Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire and was cremated at the Chilterns Crematorium in Amersham, where there is a plaque in his memory. His medals including the GC, General Service Medal 1918-62 with clasps “Palestine” and “Malaya”, Defence Medal 1939-45, and QEII Coronation Medal 1953 are held by the RAF Museum, Hendon.