Harry Robinson GC (EM non-exchanger)

b. 27/12/1916 New Kyo, Stanley, County Durham. d. 16/10/1987 Stanley, County Durham.

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 22-23/08/1947 Durham.

Harry Robinson (1916-1987) was born on 27th December 1916 at 16 Langley Terrace, Annfield Plain, County Durham, the son of Ralph Rumney and Hannah Jane Robinson (nee Bragan). His father worked in the local coal mines, as a coal hewer. Harry left school at the age of 14, and decided to follow in his father’s footsteps. He began work in 1931 as a pony driver at the Morrison South Pit. Sadly, his father would be killed in an accident at Morrison.

Harry Robinson GC

Due to working in a “reserved” occupation, Harry didn’t enlist in the services at the outbreak of World War II. In 1941, he married Mary Isabella Bell and they had a son, Ralph. In 1942, he was promoted to Deputy  and also joined the mines rescue team, for which he would later receive the Gold Medal for 15 years’ service. In 1945 the South Pit closed and he was transferred to Louisa Pit.

On the night of 22nd-23rd August 1947, at Louisa Colliery, there was a serious explosion of firedamp and coal dust occurred. Robinson, Joseph Shanley and William Younger, who had all had good knowledge of the mine and could have made their way to safety, instead went to the scene of the explosion, where they were joined by John Hutchinson, who had come down from the surface on hearing the explosion. 24 men, all of whom were incapacitated by injuries or carbon monoxide were in the district. They worked for an hour and a half in conditions of acute danger. Nineteen of the men died, but the actions of the 4 men saved many lives.

For their actions, Harry Robinson, Joseph Shanley, John Hutchinson and William Younger were all awarded the Edward Medal in Silver (London Gazette 20th July 1948). They all attended an investiture together at Buckingham Palace later that year. Harry returned to Louisa Colliery, and spent the rest of his working life there, before retirement in 1974. In 1971, following the change of the Royal Warrant, he was offered the chance to exchange his Edward Medal for the George Cross. Harry politely declined. In retirement, he was heavily involved in his passion for caravanning.

Harry passed away on 16th October 1987 in New Kyo, Stanley, County Durham. He was laid to rest in Stanley Cemetery, and his wife was later buried with him on her death in 2002. His Edward Medal and 1977 QEII Silver Jubilee Medal were sold at auction in November 2002 for £7,000 and are in private ownership.