Personal info

  • Name: Bertram Frederick CROSBY
  • D.O.B: 10th Jul, 1911
  • D.O.A: 9th Sep, 1927
  • D.O.D: 30th Jan, 1972
  • Award: Edward Medal translated to George Cross
  • Occupation at time of action: Film Washer, Film Waste Products Ltd (Hyams and Drew), London
  • Book: The Complete History - Volume 3
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Sources & Acknowledgements

BETWEEN THE WARS

1919-39

The stresses of the First World War led to political revolution in much of Europe and, in extreme cases, social collapse. Even the victors, Britain and France, were not immune to the economic upheaval and labour unrest resulting from the transition from war to peace and the demobilization of hundreds of thousands of men. This made them extremely nervous of the rise of the Bolsheviks in Russia and they decided to send aid to the anti-Bolshevik forces. However, an Allied North Russia Expeditionary Force had to be withdrawn once it became clear that internal opposition to the Bolsheviks had been defeated. In Britain a postwar boom failed to prove long-lasting and in May 1926 there was a General Strike, triggered by a crisis in the Mining Industry. The Great Depression followed in 1929 and by 1931 Britain was forced to abandon the Gold Standard. In large parts of the country and especially in the traditional industries there was widespread unemployment throughout the 1930s, symbolized by the Jarrow Crusade of 1936. Conditions were much worse on the Continent and the interwar period witnessed the rise of the Dictators. The coming to power in Germany of Hitler in 1933 was to lead inexorably to the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. In the years of increasingly uneasy peace between 1919 and September 1939 only eleven VCs were awarded and of these only one, the award to Captain G P Meynell in 1935, took place outside the period 1919-21. Of the eleven awards, five related to actions against the Bolsheviks, four to actions on the North-West Frontier of India and one to an an engagement in what is now Iraq. The remaining award was that in 1921 to the American Unknown Warrior. Of the Albert, Edward and Empire Gallantry Medals awarded in the same period, 142 recipients lived long enough for their awards to be converted to the GC. The geographical distribution of the actions that occasioned the awards is witness to the Global spread of the British Empire, which reached its widest extent after the First World War. However, some of the awards, for gallantry in India, Egypt and the Sudan, and Palestine, reflected both the stresses in maintaining that dominion and the duties it entailed. After service personnel and policemen, coal miners formed the largest group of recipients, demonstrating the central importance of coal to the British economy and the dangers inherent in securing it. Those who worked in coal and gold mines in India and Africa were also honoured. Both in the mines and in industry as a whole, the threat posed by poisonous gases led to many awards. New industries brought new hazards with them. Other dangers overcome were of a more basic sort. Awards were also made to those who, throughout the Empire, confronted mad elephants, rabid dogs and marauding sharks.

Citation

 About 10.40 a.m. on the 9th of September, 1927, a serious fire broke out at the premises of the Film Waste Products Limited, Redhill Street, Regent’s Park. A quantity of cinematograph film which was being manipulated in a drying machine ignited without any warning, and the fire immediately spread to other film on adjacent benches and in other containers. Crosby, who was then only 16 years of age, was passing through the drying room when the fire broke out. He at once ran to a door leading out into a yard, but on hearing a scream from near the drying machine he turned back into the room and made his way towards the machine, the contents of which were burning fiercely. He was unable to see anyone and he returned to the door leading into the yard. Here Crosby met the foreman and together, Crosby leading, they re-entered the room. As they made their way in, Crosby saw a girl fall up against one of the work tables, and he ran to her and half pulled and half carried her towards the door. Outside the door they both fell. Crosby was stupefied by the heat and the fumes, and did not recover full consciousness until he found himself out in the yard with his clothes alight. He extinguished his clothes by the canal which ran at the bottom of the yard, and was subsequently removed to St. Pancras Hospital. The fire, which spread to another factory and two workshops, was particularly violent and resulted unfortunately in the death of five persons. Crosby could easily have escaped from the building without injury, but on two separate occasions he re-entered the room where the fire had originated, in an endeavour to save life. The girl whom he helped out of the building afterwards died, and the burns sustained by Crosby were such that at one time it was not thought that he would recover. 

(The London Gazette of 15 May 1928, Numb. 33384, pp. 3423-24)

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