Joseph Shanley GC (EM exchanger)

b. 08/01/1907 Stanley, Durham. d. 23/04/1980 Sutton in Ashfield, Nottinghamshire.

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

Joseph Shanley (1907-1980) was born on 8th January 1907 at 16 Peel Street, Stanley, County Durham, the son of Patrick and Martha Ann Shanley (nee Southern). His father worked down the pits as a miner. Joseph attended the Roman Catholic St Joseph’s School in Stanley. Joseph left school at the age of 14 and like many of his contemporaries, he went down the mines. By the start of the Second World War, he had moved south to Coventry, where he was part of the Fire Service.

Joseph Shanley GC

On the onset of war, he returned north and went back down the mines at Louisa Colliery, working in the reserved occupation throughout the hostilities. On the night of 22nd-23rd August 1947, a serious explosion of firedamp and coal dust occurred. 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 joined John Hutchinson, who had come down from the surface. 24 men, all of whom were injured or overcome with gas, were in the district. They worked for over an hour in conditions of acute danger. Sadly 19 of the men could not be saved, but they did save 5 lives.

As a result of their actions, all four men including Joseph were awarded the Edward Medal in Silver (London Gazette 20th July 1948). They attended an investiture at Buckingham Palace later that year. Joseph married a widow, Ethel Fawcett Croke (formerly McCluskey) on 13th March 1948. She already had two daughters from her first marriage. Joseph and Ethel would go on to have two children of their own.

Following the closure of Louisa Colliery, Joseph and his family moved to Mansfield in Derbyshire where he worked at Bilsthorpe Colliery until his retirement in 1972. In 1971, following a change in the Royal Warrant, Joseph chose to exchange his Edward Medal for the George Cross. He donated his Edward Medal to the Retford Mining Museum. Joseph died on 23rd April 1980 in Rainworth, near Mansfield, and was cremated at Rainworth Crematorium. His GC and 1977 QEII Silver Jubilee Medal are privately held.