William Radenhurst Mosedale GC (Direct Recipient)

b. 28/03/1894 Birmingham. d. 27/03/1971 Nailsea, Somerset.

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 12/12/1940 Birmingham.

William Radenhurst Mosedale (1894-1971) was born on 29th March 1894 at 12 Court at 4 Hope Street, Birmingham, the son of William Richard and Cecilia Ellen Mosedale (nee Pardoe). His father worked as a railway porter at Birmingham New Street Station. William junior was the second eldest of six children, with sisters named Nellie and Edith, and brothers Ernest, Arthur and Albert. William attended Sherborne Road Board School in Balsall Heath until the age of 13.

William R Mosedale GC

William’s first job after school was as a Tinsmith and Carriage Lamp Maker, and he also enlisted in the 5th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, of the newly created Territorial Force in 1908. When he enlisted he lied about his age, and soon transferred to the 5th Royal Irish Lancers, a regular cavalry unit. When he attested with them in January 1910, he entered his age as 19, when he was actually four years younger. He became regimental boxing champion, and gained his Third Class and Second Education Certificates. He was promoted to Lance Corporal in 1911, and at this time, he met his future wife, Louisa Brown.

His career in the Army came to an abrupt end with the deaths of his father in 1910, and his mother less than a year later. All five of his siblings passed into the care of his widowed grandmother. William had to be released from the Army in order to financially support his family, and he was discharged on compassionate grounds in 1912. He quickly got a job in a coal mine where he survived a pit accident. He then followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming a railway porter at New Street Station, before becoming a Fireman with the Birmingham Fire Brigade on 10th August 1914. In December that year, he married Louisa, and they later had two sons, Ernest and William.

Mosedale began as a Probationer at Lingard Street Fire Station, before transferring to Handsworth Fire Station. By 1917 he was at the Central Fire Station, and in 1919 was badly gassed during the attempted rescue of three trapped workmen at Saltley Gasworks.

Seeking a change of work, he applied for, and was accepted into the Rescue Detachment in 1923. He passed his graduate examination and was made Acting Officer in Charge in 1929 working with 12 men. In 1930, he received the Association of Professional Fire Brigade Officers Long Service Medal (15 years) and was promoted to Station Officer on 1st December 1930.

In 1937, he was awarded the Fire Brigade’s First Star of Merit for work with Breathing Apparatus in co-operation with the Mining Department of Birmingham University. As a member of the Birmingham Fire Brigade during the Second World War, he took part in many rescues and tackled many fires caused by the Blitz by the Luftwaffe. On the night of 12th December 1940, an auxiliary fire station was completely demolished by a very large bomb. A number of firemen were trapped in the station and civilians were buried in an adjoining house which had also been demolished. Mosedale immediately began tunnelling and propping-up operations. Tons of debris covered the site and he fully realised that at any moment he might be buried by a further collapse. When the first tunnel was completed and the control room reached, he found that there were still men whom he could not estricate. So he carried out another tunnelling operation from a different direction, and again entered the control room. Five men were found, one dead, and others all injured. Mosedale administered oxygen to the injured men and they were taken out. The entrance to the cellar of the adjoining house was full of debris.

Mosedale directed operations for its removal, only to find that the cellar itself had collapsed. He nevertheless persisted and, after a time, reached seven trapped people. Three had been killed outright when the roof collapsed. He gave oxygen to the remaining four and succeeded in extricating them. It was then necessary to begin tunnelling again to reach four other victims trapped in the cellar of the fire station. Mosedale completed the tunnel and entered the cellar. Four men who were still alive were given oxygen and removed. He is credited with saving 12 lives.

On the 28th March 1941, the London Gazette announced that William Mosedale was to be awarded the George Cross, the day before his 47th birthday. He was invested with the GC by King George VI on 8th July 1941 at Buckingham Palace. He had just been promoted to Assistant District Officer when the National Fire Service was formed, and his rank was changed to Column Officer. In February 1944 he was moved to Plymouth to strengthen Fire Forces of D-Day invasion ports.

In 1946, William formed his own company in South Yardley as a Fire Prevention Consultant. He ran the business until 1965. His wife passed away in 1961, and following retirement, he moved to Somerset. He moved to be with his son Ernest and daughter in law who lived in Keynsham, near Bristol. He was a regular attendee of the biannual VC and GC Association reunions, and in 1965 attended the 25th anniversary of the GC service at the Guards Chapel in London with 55 other recipients. In 1970, a road was named after him and fellow GCs Harry Errington and Fred Davies at the Fire Service College, Moreton in Marsh, Gloucestershire.

William died two days before his 77th birthday, on 27th March 1971 at the Greyfriars Nursing Home in Nailsea, Somerset. He was cremated at Arnos Vale Crematorium on 1st April, and his ashes scattered in the Garden of Rest. He has an entry in the Book of Remembrance. Mosedale’s medals were bought by the Birmingham City Museum in 1971 from his Executors. His medal is now displayed in the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. In 2008 Mosedale was commemorated by the naming of a street, Mosedale Way in his memory. The street is in the Central Park development off Lee Bank Middleway in Ladywood, Birmingham. His nephew Kenneth Mosedale opened the road on 29th July 2008 in the company of other relatives, firefighters, and civic dignitaries.