Norman Baster GC (EM exchanger)

b. 11/01/1892 South Stoneham, Hampshire. d. 11/04/1987 Lethbridge, Canada.

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 22/23/08/1935 South Kirkby, Yorkshire.

Norman Baster (1892-1987) was born on 11th January 1892 in South Stoneham, near Eastleigh, Hampshire, one of thirteen children born to George and Eliza Baster (nee Groom). George Baster was described as a Depot Supervisor on the railways and a number of Norman’s brothers followed in their father’s footsteps. Norman, however, didn’t follow the same path, as following school in Eastleigh, Hampshire, he read Mining Engineering at London University and later Nottingham.

Norman Baster GC

In 1911, Norman married Alice Ellen Smith, and they went on to have a son, Norman. During the Great War, Norman served with the Royal Engineers  but little more detail is known about his service. Following the end of the war, Norman returned to the mining industry and began work at the South Kirkby Colliery in Yorkshire, where he became General Manager.

On 22nd August 1935, two explosions occurred in a district 1.5 miles from the shaft. It was thought that these were due to a gob fire, and it was decided to seal off part of the district by erecting stoppings. At 3pm on the 23rd this work was in progress; there were 21 men in the district, some near the face and others, including George Beaman, at distances up to 100 yards away. A further explosion occurred, injuring a number of the men. Beaman and two others at once proceeded to look for and help the injured and with the assistance of the others ten men were carried out of the district alive, although only one survived. Despite repeated journeys to and from the face, some of the rescuers were affected by fumes and it was discovered Mr Dale was missing. Although there was an increasing risk of further explosions, a search was begun by Norman Baster; together with 5 other men he located Dale but he was dead. They proceeded to remove his body but another explosion caused burns to all 6 men. The explosion also injured many of the men back at the shaft who were looking after the first men injured. Baster got back and did what he could to reassure the men and then, with three others, including Beaman, he went in and removed Dale’s body and looked for another man called Ball, who was said to be missing. Baster had no breathing apparatus, and was so affected by the fumes that he had to retire, but Beaman and another man went on, only giving up when it was reported that Ball had reached the shaft. After the rescuers had left the mine, it was discovered that Ball was actually missing and James Pollitt led the party that ultimately found him.

On 17th April 1936, it was announced that the Edward Medal was to be awarded to Norman Baster, George Beaman and James Pollitt for their actions that day. They all attended an investiture at Buckingham Palace on 15th July 1936 to receive their awards. After the disaster, Norman was not able to return to South Kirkby and left to become Colliery Manager and Agent at Pope & Pearson’s West Riding Colliery at Altofts, Normanton, Yorkshire, a position he held until retirement.

During World War II, he joined the Home Guard as well as acting as a technical advisor to the Ministry of Fuel and Power, doing much work on the early problems of power loading. He held the Presidency of the National Association of Colliery Managers from 1943-1945 and was a founder member of the British Association of Colliery Management.

In 1971, he chose to exchange his Edward Medal for the George Cross and lived in retirement in Castleford. He remained there for a few years following the death of his wife in 1973, before returning to his roots in Hampshire. Due to ill-health, and with his only relative being Norman junior (now living in Canada), he chose to emigrate to Lethbridge, Alberta. His son was the Chief Medical Officer of Health there. Norman Baster senior passed away on 11th April 1987 in Lethbridge and his ashes were returned to the UK where they were interred with his wife in Featherstone Cemetery, Yorkshire. Sadly Norman junior passed away later that year. Norman’s medals including his GC, 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, Defence Medal 1939-45, and 1977 QEII Silver Jubilee Medal are privately held.