John Henry Perkins EM

b. 21/05/1898 Chatham, Kent. d. 04/03/1980 Chatham, Kent.

DATE OF EM ACTION: 07/01/1927 Greenwich, London.

John Henry was the eldest of two children born to John Henry and Ellen Henrietta Perkins (nee Cordingley). His father was a plumber. His childhood was spent living in Chatham, and John Henry junior decided to become a blacksmith, and gaining employment as part of a shaft sinking crew in the mining industry. On 10th November 1917 he married Hilda Constance Aldridge in Medway, Kent and they had a daughter Dorothy Joyce born in 1921. John spent all of his working life as a blacksmith, and lived in Deptford. John possibly died in Chatham on 4th March 1980, aged 81. A case has been put forward that he is a missing George Cross recipient as he lived past 1971, though at this time a relative will need to be traced to confirm he is indeed the Edward Medal recipient. 



On 7th January, 1927, a shaft 20 feet in diameter and 50 feet deep, was being sunk at Greenwich. Six men, including George Thorpe, were working at the bottom of the shaft under compressed air when an explosion occurred which blew off the top of the shaft and caused a heavy fall of timber and concrete. At the same time the water which before the explosion was held back by the compressed air, rapidly invaded the shaft. When the accident occurred, George Thorpe was partially sheltered from the falling material, but was rendered unconscious for a short time by the concussion. On regaining consciousness, he heard the cry of a companion, Martyn, who was pinned under fallen timber. Despite the fact that he was dazed by the explosion, and by the sudden release of air pressure, he left his shelter and held Martyn’s head above the water until reseue came, prefering so to risk his life rather than to seek safety by climbing out of the shaft. He was all the time exposed to falling material and the water was rapidly flooding the shaft. As soon as the explosion occurred, Gaunt, a foreman, Taylor and Perkins at once sought means to descend the shaft and finally, by improvising a ladder 40 feet long, reached the bottom. They succeeded in freeing Martyn and bringing him and Thorpe to the surface, lurther descents were made in a vain search for the other four workers who were held down by wreckage and were submerged in the rising water. Martyn subsequently died from his injuries.

During the time they were engaged on the work of rescue debris was continually falling. and as the cause of the disaster was unknown so was it unknown whether the first explosion would not be followed by a second. They started rescue operations with great promptitude and embarked on a highly perilous enterprise in a calm and intelligent manner, with a total disregard for their own safety.