William Younger GC (EM exchanger)

b. 24/03/1909 South Moor, County Durham. d. 06/02/1993 Consett, County Durham.

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 22-23/08/1947 Durham.

William Younger (1909-1993) was born on 24th March 1909 at 69, Poplar Street, South Moor, County Durham, the son of a miner, John Younger, and his wife Eleanor (nee Dodds). His parents married in 1907. Sadly, his mother became ill with breast cancer when he was young, and she passed away when he was 10 in 1919. His father remarried in 1925, and his new stepmother already had three sons, and sadly William became isolated in the home.

William Younger GC

He met Elsie Annie Day, whose own mother descended from Captain James Cook, and when he married her, his father didn’t attend the wedding, and his step-mother and step-brothers spent the day in Scarborough instead. As a young man, William chose a career in mining like so many in the County Durham area. When World War II broke out, he was keen to enlist in the Royal Navy, but he failed the hearing test, and was rejected. He returned to the mines. He did join the local Civil Defence and was awarded the medal for his service. In 1945, William and Elsie had a daughter, Margaret, and she was christened on VE Day.

On 22nd-23rd August 1947, William was at work as a Deputy at Louisa Colliery, when a serious explosion of firedamp and coal dust occurred. Younger, Joseph Shanley and Harry Robinson, who all had good knowledge of the mine and could have made their way to safety, instead went to the scene of the explosion, where they were joined by John Hutchinson, who had come down from the surface. 24 men, who were all injured, were in the district. The men worked for 1 and a half hours in difficult conditions such as thick smoke and falls. 19 of the men subsequently died of their injuries but 5 men owed their lives to the work of the 4 men.

All four men involved in the rescue were awarded the Edward Medal in Silver on 20th July 1948. William attended an investiture at Buckingham Palace with the other three men from the Louisa Colliery, and the event turned out to be the last one carried out by King George VI. Two years later, William was badly injured in a mining accident when a stray tub trapped him against a wall, crushing a hip. He spent a year in Durham Hospital with his leg in plaster on a pulley. He had to have an operation in order to avoid being in a wheelchair for the remainder of his life. He was able to return to work, though was restricted to above ground duties as a first-aid man. William and Elsie fostered a second child, Patricia in 1952.

In 1971, following a change in the Royal Warrant, William was offered an exchange of his Edward Medal for a George Cross. He was initially reluctant as he treasured his medal, and was due to go into hospital for a hip operation. He decided to delay the operation and attended a re-investiture with the George Cross. He donated his Edward Medal to the Beamish Museum in County Durham. William died on 6th February 1993 in Consett, County Durham, aged 83, and was cremated at Derwentside Crematorium, and his ashes were scattered. His medals including his GC, Defence Medal 1939-45, 1977 QEII Silver Jubilee Medal and Service Medal of the Order of St John and Two Bars are privately held.