James Sidney Purvis GC (EM exchanger)

b. 02/07/1904 Matfen, Northumberland. d. 12/02/1992 Stanley, Durham.

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 17/05/1929 Durham.

James Sydney Purvis (1904-1992) was born on 2nd July 1904 in Matfen, Northumberland, one of eleven children born to John Robert and Elizabeth Purvis (nee Armstrong). Sydney, as he was more commonly known, spent his childhood living in High House Cottages in East Matfen, where his father was a farm labourer and shepherd. Life was extremely tough for the large Purvis family, and following some schooling at Leazes School in Burnopfield, Sydney left to become a miner. He began work at South Garesfield Colliery in 1918 at the age of 14.

James S Purvis GC

On 17th May 1929, he was at work at South Garesfield when Deputy Richard Lowes was injured during blasting operations. Purvis went down the pit with John Thomas Baker and Overman Robert Glendinning; collecting a tram and stretcher, they went in search of the deputy. They were joined by Hewers John Kenny and Samuel Hughff. Meanwhile another party of 5 men had attempted a rescue, but 4 of them were overcome by gas while the fifth managed to crawl out just in time. The overman organised his party and through repeated efforts they succeeded in extricating the 5 men, 3 of whom were dead. The rescue party were all affected by the fumes, and both Kenny and Hughff were overcome with smoke and gas, they knowingly and repeatedly risked their lives to save their colleagues.

On 22nd November 1929, the London Gazette announced the awards of an Edward Medal in Silver to Robert Glendinning, and Edward Medals in Bronze to John Thomas Baker, Sydney Purvis, Samuel Hughff and John Kenny. Sydney was also given a Honorary Certificate and £20 by the Carnegie Hero Fund Trust. In early 1931, Sydney married Jane Shell Hindmarsh in Durham, and they went on to have two sons, Stanley and James.

Sydney continued to work in the mining industry until 1960 (a period of 42 years), and due to the fact mining was a reserved occupation, he was not called up for active service during World War II. In 1960 he retired from mining, and took employment as a labourer at a ball bearing factory at Greencroft called Ransome and Marles (later Ransome, Hoffman and Pollard), and worked there for nine years, before fully retiring in 1969.

In 1971, following a change in the Royal Warrant, Sydney accepted the opportunity to exchange his Edward Medal for the George Cross. Due to ill-health, he was unable to attend an investiture and received his GC by registered post. In retirement he enjoyed gardening, snooker, and greyhound racing. Sydney passed away on 12th February 1992 in Stanley, County Durham aged 87. He was cremated at Mountsett Crematorium in Stanley and his ashes scattered. His Edward Medal, GC and 1977 Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal were loaned after his death to the Imperial War Museum in London, where they appear on rotation in the Ashcroft Gallery.