John Daniel Charlton GC (EM exchanger)

b. 24/12/1894 Hetton-le-Hole, County Durham. d. 25/02/1976 Sunderland.

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 30/03/1947 Durham.

John Daniel Charlton (1894-1976), known as Jack, was born on Christmas Eve, 1894 in Hetton le Hole, County Durham. His parents were John and Elizabeth Charlton (nee Hawkes). His mother came from a Cornish family who lived near Launceston, and were forced to move north when the tin mines were closed down. Jack was one of nine children with brothers Archie, Alfred, Frederick and Joseph, and sisters Ellen, Lilly, Florence and Suzannah. He attended a local school in Castletown as well as his siblings.

John D Charlton GC

Jack began his working life in the pits, and on 16th August 1916 was involved in the disaster at Woodhorn Colliery, Ashington, when he led the rescue team to go underground after the explosion. Thirteen men were killed that day, and Jack remained in rescue work for the rest of his career. Jack married in 1922 to Ellen Hedley Wilson and they had three children, Winnie, Constance and Ronnie.

Jack moved on to Hylton Colliery in Durham, and became a Deputy. On 30th March 1947, a repairer John Kirkhouse was overcome by gas. Charlton was informed the man was missing and at once conducted a search, testing for gas with his flame safety lamp. He had gone only a few yards when he found gas present, at the same time noticing some 30 yards ahead of him a light from an electric lamp. Accompanied by John Austin, he went towards the light but had to retire owing to the presence of gas. They endeavoured to clear the air by using compressed air along the road but could get no nearer than 12 yards of Kirkhouse. Crawling on their hands and knees, they succeeded in reaching the man, who was unconscious. While dragging him back, Charlton himself was slightly overcome and had to rest, but soon returned to help Austin, who in turn collapsed and had to be dragged clear. Other men finally helped them out, but Kirkhouse never regained consciousness.

Following the incident, both John Austin and Jack Charlton were awarded the Edward Medal (10th February 1948). Sadly, Jack’s wife Ellen passed away later that year. He soon re-married to Sara Jane Sproat, and following his retirement from the pits, they ran a village shop selling herbal medicines in Villette Road, Hendon, Sunderland. In 1971, following the change in the Royal Warrant, Jack was given the opportunity to exchange his Edward Medal for a George Cross. Jack duly accepted and donated his Edward Medal to the Sunderland Museum where it is displayed in the Coal Gallery.

Jack passed away on 25th February 1976 in Castletown, Sunderland, and was cremated at Sunderland Crematorium. Sadly, due to financial difficulties, his widow Sara reluctantly had to auction his George Cross, and it is still in private ownership.