Ralph Stoker EM

b. 12/09/1883 Hetten Downs, Durham. d. 10/07/1967 Durham.

DATE OF EM ACTION: 29/05/1936 Eppleton Colliery, Hetton le Hole, Durham.

Ralph Stoker EM

Ralph was one of six children born to Richard and Elizabeth Stoker (nee Colwell). He spent the majority of his life living in Hetton le Hole, Durham. On 7th November 1903, he married Annie Naden in Houghton le Spring, Durham, and they would have four daughters and a son. He received his Edward Medal at Buckingham Palace in February 1937. Little is known about his life following the award of the Edward Medal though he remained in mining working at Eppleton Colliery. He died on 10th July 1967 in Durham, aged 83.



On the 29th May, 1936, at about 2.25 p.m., a heavy fall of roof took place in a coal-working at Eppleton Colliery, County Durham, where three hewers, James Brown, Mark Summers and William Moffatt, were removing the last loads of coal from a stook. Moffatt was trapped by the fall and his left hand pinned by large frames of stone to the top of a tub. Brown and Summers went to his help while the roof was still falling heavily but were unable to liberate him. With the assistance of two other hewers, Thomas Whitfield and David Wood, they erected supports over the tub to protect Moffatt from the large pieces of stone which were gradually moving down to him. About ten minutes after the fall Ralph Stoker and George Storey (Overmen) and John Tubby and Albert Simpson (Deputies) arrived. Heavy falls were still occurring and it was difficult to maintain the supports, some of which were crushed as soon as erected. Stoker crawled into a narrow opening of about twenty inches between the tub and the coal side and in a working space of about ten inches uncovered Moffatt, who was lying in a crouched position behind the tub, and erected additional supports to keep back the stones which were lowering towards him. This probably saved Moffatt from serious injury as there was risk of his being crushed to death. After some time Storey relieved Stoker, the working space being large enough to admit only one man. Stoker, helped by the Deputies, tried to make the position less dangerous from the other side of the tub. Meanwhile the risk had increased and a larger roof fall was expected. The Deputies and hewers concentrated on erecting supports in the jud to maintain a means of access to Moffatt, who by this time was severely shocked and begging the rescuers to amputate his fingers and so release him. But for Stoker there is no doubt that this quick but dangerous method would have been adopted. Stoker and Storey continued their efforts to move the stone that was trapping Moffatt’s fingers and by driving a wedge piece on the top of the tub they were able at length to release the thumb and first and second fingers. The roof then started to “weight” again. Stoker persisted in his efforts and by about 4.40 p.m. succeeded in releasing Moffatt, who was dragged through the narrow aperture to safety.

All those concerned in the rescue acted bravely in the face of grave danger from a further fall of roof, but it is considered that the greater part of the most dangerous work was carried out by Stoker, who showed great coolness, determination and initiative.