John William Stoves GC (EGM exchanger)

b. 06/05/1874 Bishop Auckland, County Durham. d. 03/09/1960 Sunderland.

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 12/06/1928 Doncaster/Selby, Yorkshire.

John William Stoves (1874-1960) was born on the 6th May 1874 in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, the son of Richard Stoves and his wife Mary Ellen (nee Stoker). His mother sadly died in childbirth, and in a mistake at the registration he was recorded as deceased and not his mother. As his father was unable to look after him he was placed with the closest relation possible which happened to be his 5th cousin Robert Stoves and his wife Charlotte (nee Brown).

George Cross

By 1881, the family were living in Elemore Lane, Bishop Auckland, and his adoptive parents had four children of their own as while as John. On Christmas Day 1899, John married Mary Ellen Lofthouse in Hetton le Hole, and they had two sons, Herman and John. Sadly John Jnr died in February 1919 in the Spanish Influenza pandemic. At the time of his marriage John had begun work as a Prison Warder in Northallerton, Yorkshire.

By the late 1920s, John had moved to Pentonville Prison, where he became Principal Prison Officer. On 12th June 1928, he was escorting a prisoner from London to Durham when the prisoner asked to be allowed to use the toilet. Permission was granted but, as he was being escorted along the corridor, some accomplices brushed past the officer, allowing him to get into the toilet and lock himself in. Although handcuffed, he smashed a window and climbed out on to the footboard, hoping to make his escape when the train slowed down. Stoves climbed out of a door 5 compartments away and made his way along the footboard to the prisoner while the train was travelling at 60-70mph. He closed with the man, who was 20 years his junior, and for 18 miles they swayed precariously to and fro. Stoves held a door handle with one hand, and had the other on the prisoner. The prisoner bit Stoves hand, until the train stopped, and Stoves allowed him to roll down the embankment, where he chased him and caught him.

For his actions, John was awarded the Empire Gallantry Medal of the Civil Division on the 23rd October 1928. At an investiture at Buckingham Palace on 28th March 1929, he received his medal from the Prince of Wales, who was acting on behalf of King George V who was ill. John later moved back north and worked at Durham Jail. During World War II, he worked as a security guard at Barclay’s Bank at East Boldon about 2 miles north of Sunderland. In 1940, following the creation of the George Cross, John as a recipient of the EGM was automatically entitled to exchange. In November 1941, John attended an investiture at Buckingham Palace where he received the GC from King George VI.

John retired to Durham, where on 3rd September 1960 he passed away. He was buried on 5th September 1960 in South Road Cemetery, Durham, alongside his wife, who had pre-deceased him in 1947. John’s medals including his GC, Imperial Service Medal and 1953 Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal were sold by Sotheby’s at auction on 28th February 1985 and purchased by the Prison Officer’s Association.




Block B, Section 1, Row A, Grave 5