Personal info

  • Name: Sydney BLACKBURN
  • D.O.B: 15th Jul, 1908
  • D.O.A: 7th May, 1947
  • D.O.D: 15th Dec, 1991
  • Award: George Cross
  • Occupation at time of action: Shotfirer, Barnsley Main Colliery (National Coal Board)
  • Book: The Complete History - Volume 3
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The end of the Second World War left the world divided into two competing blocks, one free and led by America, the other Communist and led by Russia. In Europe this division was embodied by the Iron Curtain. In Asia after the Communists came to power in China in 1949, there sprang up what came to be known as the Bamboo Curtain. The period, until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the end of Communism in Russia followed by the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, is characterized as the Cold War. In the West there was no armed conflict, the two superpowers, both with large nuclear arsenals, being constrained by the Balance of Terror. However, outside Europe, the post-war period saw the dismantling of the colonial empires and the emergence of the Third World. Here, particularly where nationalist movements were dominated by local Communist parties, there was often prolonged fighting. Both in Korea, formerly governed by the Japanese, and in Vietnam, previously a French colony, rival Communist and non-Communist states’ governments fought against one another. The Western and Communist powers viewed these administrations as their clients and international rivalries were played out in what were essentially civil wars. Though it had an active role in the Korean War, Britain was relatively fortunate in its own experience of decolonization. As far as this volume is concerned it is only necessary to note that in the late 1940s and 1950s it successfully combatted a Communist insurgency in Malaya and that in the 1960s it assisted its former colonies in Malaya and Borneo to resist the threat of Indonesian expansion. In the Falklands War of 1982 it defended the inhabitants of this South Atlantic territory from annexation by Argentina. It also itself experienced a period of internal terrorism occasioned by the Troubles in Northern Ireland, which began in the 1960s but could be traced back to the 1920s and earlier. Meanwhile, Australia had deployed advisors and troops in South Vietnam between 1962 and 1973. However, instability in the Middle East, where the secular nationalism of the post-war period has been overshadowed by Islamic extremism, now appears the major threat to world peace. The terrorist attacks on America perpetrated by Al-Qaeda on 11 September 2001 have led directly to Western intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq. In the former country, Australia, Canada and New Zealand have also contributed troops to the military operation.


 An explosion occurred at Barnsley Main Colliery at about 12.15 p.m. on Wednesday the 7th May last. Harry Crummack, Chargeman Filler, and Sydney Blackburn, Shotfirer, were at the end of the face away from the resulting flame; Crummack was blown over by a gust of wind caused by the explosion but quickly recovered and with Blackburn, despite fumes and dust, assembled men who had scrambled from the face and led them to a place of safety. Returning they found a number of injured men to whom they gave assistance and then proceeded through 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 victims were left unattended in the danger area.  

(The London Gazette of 21 November 1947, Numb. 38128, p. 5496)

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