John Henry Farr GC (EGM exchanger)

b. 27/04/1911 Tonypandy, Wales. d. 23/01/1973 Eton, Buckinghamshire.

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 13/07/1940 Slough, Berks.

John Henry Farr (1911-1973) was born on 27th April 1911 in Tonypandy, South Wales, the son of George and Sarah Ann Farr (nee Owen). George was a stableman with a particular ability with cart horses. He was one of eight children, and when his mother died at the age of 39, his eldest sister Phyllis left her job with Lord Lonsdale to look after the younger children. The family lived at 59 Court Street in Tonypandy. One of John’s brothers, Tommy, became a household name as a heavyweight boxer, fighting and losing to Joe Louis in 1937.

John H Farr GC

After schooling, John initially wanted to join the Glamorgan Police Force but was rejected on his height which was an inch too short. John then became a foundryman at High Duty Alloys in Slough, Berkshire, where the Farrs had moved as a family in the early 1930s. In 1933, John was newly married to Gladys Bowen, and they went on to have two children, Derek and Brian. High Duty Alloys was then co-opted into the war effort and began making parts for the RAF, so John was working in a “reserved” occupation and didn’t enlist in the services.

On 13th July 1940, there was a huge explosion at the High Duty Alloys factory. In spite of the grave danger due to molten metal and a risk of electrocution from loose high-tension cables, Farr removed a colleague from the danger zone. He then returned to the foundry with his brother Douglas and between them they cleared two large furnaces, each containing 1,000ilbs of molten aluminium, working in complete darkness. The brothers volunteered for that duty in spite of falling debris and the dangerous condition of the building’s structure and roof.

As a result of the brother’s actions, on 26th July 1940, it was announced that Douglas Farr was to be awarded the British Empire Medal and John was awarded the Empire Gallantry Medal of the Civil Division. John was presented with his EGM at Buckingham Palace on 6th August 1940 on the same occasion as Daphne Pearson and Gerald Winter. Following the creation of the George Cross a month later, John returned to Buckingham Palace in October 1941 to be invested with the GC.

Following the incident John returned to work at the sister company Langley Alloys, whilst Douglas enlisted with the RAF. When John retired, he and Gladys moved to Brighton to be closer to his brother Tommy. Towards the end of his life, they returned to Slough, where on 24th January 1973, aged 61 he passed away. He was cremated at Slough Crematorium and his ashes scattered in the Garden of Remembrance in Grid Reference 8. Farr’s GC was sold at Spink’s on 12th July 1994  and was purchased by a private buyer.