Personal info

  • Name: Richard Edward DARKER
  • D.O.B: 27th May, 1910
  • D.O.A: 20th Nov, 1931
  • D.O.D: 5th Jan, 1988
  • Award: George Cross
  • Occupation at time of action: Pony Driver and Haulage Hand, Bentley Colliery (Barber, Walker & Co Ltd), near Doncaster, Yorkshire
  • Book: The Complete History - Volume 3
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Sources & Acknowledgements



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 However, an Allied North Russia Expeditionary Force had to be withdrawn once it became clear that internal opposition to the Bolsheviks had been defeated.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.


 His Majesty The KING has been graciously pleased to award the Edward Medal in Silver to Ernest Allport, Edgar Hamilton Frazer, Samuel Jarrett Temperley and John Ward, and the Edward Medal to Richard Edward Darker, Oliver Soulsby, Frank Sykes and Phillip William Yates in recognition of their gallantry in the following circumstances:— At 5.45 in the afternoon of the 20th November last a violent explosion of firedamp, followed by fires, occurred in the North East District of the Bentley Colliery, Yorkshire. Of some 47 persons working at or near the coal face, 45 were either killed or died later. A large number of persons rendered heroic assistance in the work of rescue; and after careful investigation the eight persons named appear to have displayed special gallantry. Ward, pony driver, who was near an adjacent part of the coal face, was blown off his feet and enveloped in a thick cloud of dust, but as soon as he recovered himself went on his own initiative towards the face, guiding himself by rails and tubs, and assisted an injured man towards a place of safety. He repeatedly returned towards the face and helped to extricate injured men and bring them away; and he continued at rescue work for three hours, until completely exhausted. His bravery in groping his way towards danger, immediately after being knocked down by the blast, was outstanding. Darker, Soulsby, Sykes and Yates also displayed great gallantry and perseverance in extricating the injured and conveying them to a place of safety. It will be appreciated that the atmosphere was hot and vitiated and that there was evident risk of further explosions. One such explosion actually occurred at 10.30 p.m. injuring members of a rescue party, as mentioned below, and a third explosion occurred later. Allport, Temperley and Frazer were prominently concerned with rescue from the area of the fires, which was explored somewhat later and in which the danger was extreme. Temperley, an assistant surveyor at the colliery, volunteered to lead a rescue brigade to the return airway, where some men were still alive, by way of the face, there being a fire on the direct route. On the journey an explosion occurred severely burning three members of the party. The party then returned, but Temperley, though not equipped with breathing apparatus, went on, with one of the Mines Inspectors, as far as the entrance to the airway and subsequently helped to carry out an injured man past one of the fires and rendered other help. Allport, a member of the colliery Rescue Team, took a prominent part in the rescue operations, displaying energy, initiative and bravery, and encouraging other rescue men. He was over three hours in breathing apparatus and during part of the night, when his rescue apparatus required replenishing, he assisted in loading men on to stretchers. Subsequently, in answer to a call for volunteers after the second explosion, he seized a breathing apparatus, and joined a rescue party which penetrated past a fire to rescue two other men. Frazer, who is H.M. Divisional Inspector of Mines, explored much of the most dangerous area, displaying great gallantry in venturing among flames, smoke and afterdamp though not provided with a breathing apparatus; on hearing moaning in the return airway he ran back to summon a rescue party, but returned to the airway without waiting for them. He subsequently remained in the most dangerous area assisting to organise rescue operations and helped to take out past a fire two men rescued from the airway; and although exhausted he continued his efforts, until all the men, dead or alive, who were reported to be in the district had been extricated. 

(The London Gazette of 30 September 1932, Numb. 33868, pp. 6170-71)

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