John Clements GC (Direct Recipient)

b. 25/08/1953 Codicote, Hertfordshire. d. 12/04/1976 Sappada, Italy.

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 12/04/1976 Sappada, Italy.


John Clements (1953-1976) was born on 25th August 1953 in Codicote, Hertfordshire, the son of Alfred George and Violet Clements (nee Crane). He had a sister Christine and a brother Alan. He attended Codicote Primary School before moving onto Hitchin Boys’ Grammar School, before deciding on a career in teaching. He trained at the Loughborough College of Education where he specialised in Physical Education. He began his teaching career in 1974 at the Prior Park College in Bath, before the following year, becoming the PE and Games master at Sherrardswood School in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire. On 24th August 1974 he married Wendy Blatchford.

John Clements GC

On 12th April 1976, on a school trip to a ski resort in Sappada, Italy he noticed smoke at about 4am. Quickly he raised the alarm and ordered the children to go downstairs. A number of children were led to safety through dense smoke by other members of staff., who, having got out of the hotel, then helped further children escape from a first floor balcony. Meanwhile Mr Clements had climbed down a third-floor balcony on the west side of the building to a second floor balcony; he then reached the first floor, where he organised a number of children into small groups and helped them to escape by means of a rope he improvised from knotted sheets. When the room was evacuated Mr Clements refused to leave the hotel and went back into the building, which in a matter of minutes was burning fiercely. He was seen on at least two occasions going back into the hotel after carrying or dragging people out, and he ignored repeated attempts to restrain him. Mr Clements was finally overcome by the fumes and died in the fire. Two schoolchildren also died in the fire.

The funeral service was held for the six victims of the fire on 14th April 1976 in Sappada. John’s body was flown home and he was cremated at Stopsley Crematorium, Luton, and his ashes scattered in the Garden of Remembrance. On 7th December 1976, the London Gazette announced the posthumous GC awarded to John Clements. On 10th February 1977, the Queen Mother presented the medal to his widow Wendy at Buckingham Palace. When she remarried, she passed the medal on to his mother Violet. The medal is still privately held by the Clements family. There is a memorial plaque to him and the two boys that died at Sherrardswood School, and also memorials at Codicote Primary School, Hitchin Boy’s School and Loughborough University. A Sports and Community Centre in Codicote has been named in his honour.