Robert Stead Little GC (EM exchanger)

b. 14/11/1897 Bradford, Manchester. d. 31/05/1976 Birkenhead, Merseyside.

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 11/01/1939 Brackley, Manchester.

Robert Stead Little (1897-1976) was born on 14th November 1897 in Bradford, Manchester, one of five children of Robert and Mary Jane Little (nee Stead). His father was a provisions dealer. Bob, as he became known, attended Birley Street School. On the outbreak of World War I, Bob enlisted as a Private in the Lancashire Fusiliers, receiving the three campaign medals. On his demobilisation from the Army, he returned to Manchester, where he gained employment at Blackley ICI in January 1919. He spent the majority of his 43 years of service for the company working in the Thionol Department working on Sulphur Blocks and Colours.  In 1920 he married Edith A Beeden, and they had three children.

Robert S Little GC

On the 11th January 1939, Bob was at work when Mr Martin, a fitter engaged on repairs in a chemical reaction pan, fell into the pan. Little, who was in charge of the shift, was called and, while rescue apparatus was being brought over, descended into the pan at great personal risk and found Martin to be unconscious. Due to the deadly gas, Little had to leave the pan but he re-entered it and started to carry his unconscious colleague up the ladder. Unfortunately, however, another man, Mr Wynne, who had started to go down the ladder, collapsed and fell on top of Little and the almost-rescued Martin, knocking them both to the bottom, where all three remained unconscious. The rescue party then arrived and brought them all to the surface. Little was the only one still alive.

In recognition of his gallantry the London Gazette for 19th April 1939 carried notification that Robert Little had been awarded the Edward Medal. He received the medal from King George VI at St James’ Palace, London, in August 1939. He also received the Bronze Medallion of the Carnegie Hero Trust, and on 12th May 1939 he was presented with the ICI Medal for Bravery, at Millbank.

Robert married Jessie, and lived and worked in Blackley until 16th November 1963 when he retired. He received the ICI Long Service Certificate and a clock. Following a change to the Royal Warrant in 1971, he chose to exchange his Edward Medal for a George Cross. He was re-invested with a GC on 20th February 1973. He was a keen member of the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association. In retirement he moved to Merseyside, where he died in hospital in Birkenhead on 31st May 1976. He was cremated at Landican Crematorium on the Wirral. His GC was sold at auction at Spink and Son in 1984, and was purchased by a collector named Max Brail and taken to the United States, and donated to the Michigan State Museum, though its current location is unknown. Bob’s other medals were sold at Christie’s in 1992 and purchased privately.