Walter Holroyd Lee GC (EM exchanger)

b. 29/05/1918 Jump, Barnsley, Yorkshire. d. 24/05/1984 Barnsley, Yorkshire.

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 11/11/1947 Barnsley, Yorkshire.

Walter Holroyd Lee (1918-1984) was born on 29th May 1919 in Jump, near Barnsley, South Yorkshire, the son of Jack and Kate Lee (nee Holroyd). At the time of his birth, his parents were not married, though they did marry later the same year. Walter was educated locally, and at the age of 14, he left to become a miner at Rockingham Colliery.

Walter H Lee GC

Due to mining being a “reserved” occupation, Walter didn’t serve in the Second World War. On the 26th June 1940, Walter married Elsie Charlesworth, and they had five children – Gloria, Patricia, Susan, Joyce and Brian. When the couple married, they moved to Wombwell and, due to the poor transport to his old pit, Walter moved over to the Wombwell Main Pit.

On 11th November 1947, at Wombwell Colliery, a roof fall occurred at about 4pm, burying three men. The first man on the scene was George Dorling, who had climbed over the fall in an attempt to reach the trapped men, He called for assistance and was followed by three men but the roof again began to move and a second fall occurred. The three men were able to withdraw but Dorling could not escape and was killed instantly. Shortly afterwards Lee arrived on the scene and it was clear from their shouts that two of the men trapped by the first fall were still alive. Lee then took the lead in making a way through the fall and after some 2 hours one of the men was extricated alive. Lee was instrumental in saving the man’s life at great personal risk.

On 10th May 1949, Walter Holroyd Lee and George Dorling (posthumously) were awarded the Edward Medal in Bronze. Following the incident, Walter continued to work at Wombwell until it closed in the 1970s. He then returned to Rockingham Colliery. In 1971, following a change of the Royal Warrant, Walter chose to exchange his Edward Medal for a George Cross. He was re-invested by Queen Elizabeth II on 20th February 1973 at Buckingham Palace. He chose to donate his Edward Medal to the Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery where it is displayed.

Walter retired from mining though sadly his retirement was short. He passed away in the midst of the Miners’ Strike on 24th May 1984 in Wombwell. He was cremated at Ardsley Crematorium in Doncaster, and his ashes were scattered in the Garden of Remembrance. Walter’s GC and 1977 QEII Silver Jubilee Medal were auctioned at Sotheby’s on 1st November 1984 and are still in private ownership.






Marion Hebblethwaite – Image of Walter Lee GC.