Sydney Blackburn GC (EM exchanger)

b. 15/07/1908 Worsborough Bridge, Barnsley, Yorkshire. d. 15/12/1991 Barnsley, Yorkshire.

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 07/05/1947 Barnsley, Yorkshire.

Sydney Blackburn (1908-1991) was born on 15th July 1908 in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, one of ten children of Samuel and Lucy Blackburn (nee Ashmore). Sadly three of the children died as infants, two during the 1926 Miner’s Strike. The surviving children other than Sydney, were Annie, Edna, Samuel, Cyril, Arthur and Olive. Syd, as he preferred to be known, attended St Thomas’ Church School in Worsbrough Dale. At the age of 14, he left school to begin work in the pits, as a tramer for his father at Barrow Colliery.

Sydney Blackburn GC

He received no wages for his job, only a small sum from his father, and this enabled him to earn more as he was paid by the tram load. Syd married Norah Jagger in 1932, and they had a daughter, Wendy. Syd soon moved on from Barrow Colliery, and began work at Barnsley Main Colliery as a shotfirer, and it was there that on 7th May 1947 his gallantry action would take place.

On that fateful day, a huge explosion instantly killed nine men and injured twenty-three others. Sydney Blackburn and Harry Crummack were at the end of the coal face away from the resulting flame. Crummack was blown over by the shock wave, but quickly recovered. Despite the fumes and dust, they assembled men who had scrambled from the face and led them to a place of safety. Then, returning, they found a number of injured men to whom they gave assistance and then preceded through the fumes and clouds of dust in search of others. Both men, while taking every reasonable precaution, continued to disregard their own personal safety in their efforts to ensure that none of the injured was left unattached in the danger area.

On 21st November 1947, the London Gazette announced the award of Edward Medals in Bronze to Harry Crummack and Sydney Blackburn. He received his medal alongside Harry at Buckingham Palace in December 1947. Syd returned down the pits at Barnsley Main soon after the incident, and remained in the occupation until an accident left him with a broken neck and lucky to be alive. He had recently become a Deputy and was part of the NACODS Trade Union, and decided that having cheated death, it was time to retire.

In 1971, following the change of the Royal Warrant, Syd chose to exchange his Edward Medal for a George Cross. He donated the Edward Medal to Leeds City Museum. In retirement, he enjoyed gardening and spending time with his brothers Sam and Cyril at Barrow Working Men’s Club. Syd passed away on 15th December 1991 in Barnsley and was cremated at Barnsley Crematorium. His ashes were scattered in the North Glade. Syd’s GC and his 1977 Silver Jubilee Medal are held proudly by the Blackburn family until they were auctioned on 17th August 2021, where they sold for a hammer price of £18,000. 





Marion Hebblethwaite – Image of Sydney Blackburn GC.

Dix Noonan Webb – Image of the Blackburn GC Medal Group.