- Name: Harold France CHARRINGTON
- D.O.B: 7th Oct, 1910
- D.O.A: 3rd Feb, 1939
- D.O.D: 7th Jul, 1976
- Award: George Cross
- Occupation at time of action: Assistant Civil Engineer, Air Ministry Works Department (Middle East Command), Royal Air Force
- Book: The Complete History - Volume 3
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 However, an Allied North Russia Expeditionary Force had to be withdrawn once it became clear that internal opposition to the Bolsheviks had been defeated.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.
Mr. H. F. Charrington and Mr. B. M. Timbers, Civil Servants of the Air Ministry Works Directorate, were travelling on duty as passengers in an aircraft which was flying in bad weather conditions in Palestine. The pilot was in the front cockpit and Timbers and Charrington in the rear cockpit in that order. At a height of about 7,500 feet the machine went into an uncontrollable spin, whereupon the pilot gave the order to jump. Timbers attempted to climb over the side of the cockpit, but the pressure held him down. He then managed to assume a position across the cockpit with one side of the coaming under his back and his feet braced against the opposite side, in an endeavour to get out backwards and head first. He was still unable to get away and Charrington stayed and helped him to get clear, instead of going over the side himself. When Timbers had jumped, Charrington, with great difficulty, left the machine. When he made his escape he was so close to the ground that a few seconds’ delay would have been fatal. He met the ground almost immediately after his parachute opened. The route followed by the aircraft lay over mountains which rise to 3,000 feet. When the spin commenced thick cloud, enveloping the aircraft, obscured all sight of the ground. In delaying his jump until he had helped Timbers out, Charrington showed bravery of a very high order. The pilot was killed.