Shadrach Speke EM

b. 18/01/1881 Darlaston, Walsall, Staffordshire.  d. ? 1949 Wednesbury, Staffordshire.

DATE OF EM ACTION: 24/07/1912 Darlaston Green Furnaces, Staffordshire.

Shadrach was the fourth of at least seven children born to Thomas and Ann Speke, on the 18th January 1881. His father was a coal miner and both of his parents came from Darlaston, near Walsall, Staffordshire. Shadrach didnt follow his father into the mines, but instead became an iron worker at the Darlaston Green Furnaces. Shortly after the action which led to the award of the Edward Medal, he married Kate Millward in Walsall. Shadrach and Kate had at least three children, Albert, Rose and David. In later life, Shadrach became incapacitated due to an injury at work, and had to be nursed by his wife. He died in 1949 aged 68.



On the 24th of July, 1912, a man named Heald descended into a melting furnace thirty feet high at the Darlaston Green Furnaces in order to adjust a piece of scrap iron under which some coke had to be placed. Heald descended into the furnace by a chain, and was almost immediately overcome by noxious gas which had collected there owing to damp. A man standing at the top at once gave the alarm, and Shadrach Jackson and Ince came to his assistance. Jackson without hesitation slid down the chain, and a rope was thrown to him, which he tied round Heald, who was then pulled up, Jackson climbing up the chain after him. As Jackson, however, reached the door through which Heald was being pulled, he too was overcome by the gas and fell back to the bottom of the furnace. Ince then descended and placed a rope round Jackson’s body, but unfortunately it slipped off before the man could be pulled out, though Ince, feeling that he was being overcome by the gas, climbed up the chain and escaped. On recovering Ince went down a second iame, once more tied the rope round Jackson, but again failed to bring him to the surface, though he himself escaped by a ladder which had been brought. Arthur Darby then went down the ladder with a rope, which was attached to Jackson’s belt, but unfortunately the belt gave way. On Darby coming out Speke went down, and, the rope having been more securely tied round Jackson’s body, he was extricated, though unhappily it was found on reaching the surface that he was dead. All the men were fully aware of the great risk to which they repeatedly exposed themselves.