Oliver Soulsby GC (EM exchanger)

b. 14/07/1909 Durham. d. 05/01/1977 Doncaster, Yorkshire.

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 20/11/1931 Bentley, Yorkshire.

Oliver Soulsby (1909-1977) was born in Birtley, Chester-le-Street, County Durham on 14th July 1909, the eldest of two sons born to Joseph William and Hannah Soulsby (nee Lock). Very little is known about Oliver’s childhood or schooling, except he followed in the footsteps of many in the North East in starting his working life in the mines. He moved to Yorkshire and found himself working at Bentley Colliery when he was involved in the horrific accident on 20th November 1931.

Oliver Soulsby GC

In one of the worst mining disasters of that time there was a violent explosion of firedamp at around 5.45pm, which started several fires. Of 47 men and boys working at or near the coal face, all but two were either killed or died later. John Ward, the pony driver, was blown off his feet and covered in dust. He then recovered and helped an injured man to safety. Soulsby, with the help of Richard Darker, Frank Sykes and Philip Yates also displayed great bravery in rescuing the injured and taking them to safety. Ernest Allport, a member of the colliery rescue team became prominent in rescuing men from the area of the fires. Samuel Temperley volunteered to lead a rescue bridge to the return airway, where some men were still alive.

This collective team rescue effort led to the award of Edward Medals in Silver to Allport, Frazer, Temperley and Ward, and Edward Medals in Bronze to Soulsby, Yates, Darker and Sykes on the 30th September 1932. His investiture took place on 23rd February 1933. Following the accident, Oliver did return to mining, and remained in the industry for the rest of his working life. In 1971, following a change in the Royal Warrant, Oliver chose to exchange his EM for a George Cross, and attended an investiture at Buckingham Palace on 14th November 1972.

Oliver died on 5th January 1977 in Denaby Main, Yorkshire, and was cremated at Rose Hill Crematorium in Doncaster. On 24th March 1987, Oliver’s GC was sold at auction at Christie’s for an undisclosed sum. Later that same year, on 23rd September, it was sold again to an unknown buyer at Glendinning’s and remains in private ownership.