John Hutchinson GC (EM exchanger)

b. 25/07/1907 Lanchester, County Durham. d. 09/06/1975 Stanley, County Durham.

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 22-23/08/1947 Louisa Colliery, Durham.

John Hutchinson (1907-1975) known as Jack, was born on 25th July 1907 in Lanchester, County Durham, the son of Thomas and Margaret Hutchinson (nee Bestford). He was one of four children in the family with siblings named Lilian, Elsie and Thomas. Jack and his three siblings all attended the local Oxhill School before the two boys went down the mines where they would work for the rest of their lives.

John Hutchinson GC

Jack worked throughout the Second World War in his “reserved” occupation, and on 2nd March 1946, he married Ruth Davinson at Craghead. The couple didn’t have any children of their own, but did spend a lot of time with their nieces and nephews.

On 22nd-23rd August 1947, at Louisa Colliery, a serious explosion of firedamp and coal dust occurred. Joseph Shanley, Harry Robinson and William Younger, who all had an intimate knowledge of the mine and could have made their way to safety, instead went to the scene of the explosion, where they were joined by John Hutchinson , who had come down from the surface on hearing the explosion. 24 men, all of whom were incapacitated by injuries or carbon monoxide, were in the district at the time. They worked for 1 and a half hours in conditions of acute danger.; the atmosphere was so thick that the beams of their head lamps could only see 1 foot ahead. The rescuers could do nothing to stops falls of ground – a very real danger after an explosion – and the route out was almost completely blocked by tubs derailed by the blast. 19 of the men died and but for the prompt and continuous heroic action of Robinson, Shanley, Younger and Hutchinson there can be little doubt that not one would have survived.

On 20th July 1948, all four of the men involved including Jack were awarded the Edward Medal in Silver. They all travelled down to London for the last investiture conducted by King George VI. Jack remained in the mining industry as an Overman until his retirement due to ill health. In 1971, following a change in the Royal Warrant, Jack was offered the opportunity to exchange his Edward Medal for a George Cross. Jack chose to accept, and attended a re-investiture at Buckingham Palace from Queen Elizabeth II on 6th March 1973. He donated his Edward Medal to the Beamish Museum, County Durham, where it is displayed with the Edward Medal of fellow Louisa Colliery rescuer, William Younger.

Jack Hutchinson passed away on 9th June 1976 in Stanley, County Durham, and he was cremated. Jack’s George Cross is privately held.