George Manwaring. GC

The following information courtesy of the Daily Telegraph

George Manwaring GC

Miner who won the George Cross after struggling to save men trapped in a flooded pit

GEORGE MANWARING, who has died aged 83, struggled for seven hours through underground tunnels to rescue fellow coalminers trapped when floodwaters swept through the mine where he was working

For this deed he was awarded the Edward Medal, a decoration instituted in 1907 by King Edward VII to recognise bravery by miners and quarry workers. In 1971 new regulations enabled Manwaring and other recipients to exchange the medal for the George Cross.

On June 30 1949 floodwaters poured into the Arthur and Edward Colliery in the Forest of Dean, after new working accidentally breached an old shaft in a neighbouring pit. When the water broke through, telephone warnings were given to every part of the colliery and most of the 150 miners made for the main shaft.

There they were met by a wall of water seven feet high. Some were swept off their feet; others clung to pipes and cables; all the pit ponies were drowned; the air became foul and the men became increasingly exhausted. Nevertheless they managed to struggle back towards the shaft through waist deep swirling water which sometimes rose shoulder-high. Some reached the shaft with only their heads above water.

Crawling on top of submerged coal wagons, they made their way one by one into the cage, which took them to the surface. Only by diverting water to other parts of the pit was it possible to keep the cage in the main shaft working. The last man up rescued the pit cat, which had never seen daylight.

When a count was taken on the surface, it was discovered that five men, including Manwaring, a pit haulier. were still missing. Manwaring had received orders to leave the mine, but when he heard that Albert Sims, an elderly colleague, was in difficulties, he went back to find him. He was later said by his workmates to have acted "deliberately'', realising that he might never reach the surface again

He found Sims and another elderly haulage driver, Ernest Barnfield. and the three began to pick their way along the unflooded haulage road. On their way they met up with two mine supervisors, Oswald Simmonds and Frank Bradley, who had remained behind to look for the missing men Sometimes supporting and sometimes carrying their older colleagues, Manwaring, Simmonds and Bradley slowly inched their way towards the main shaft.

They struggled to an engine house, where they found a telephone in working order. When they called the surface with the news that they were still alive, they were told that the flood water was now 16 ft deep in the main shaft, covering the entrance to the mine workings, and that they were completely cut off. However, there was still a chance of escape if they could find their way through disused mine workings to a ventilation shaft more than a mile and a half away.

Bradley. Simmonds and Manwaring set off through the flooded galleries taking with them the other two men, of whom Sims was practically exhausted and had to be carried The way to the second shaft was very hard, the route tortuous, and the air rank and suffocating. In some places the men had to wade through torrents of water and in others had to clamber over falls of ground.

Eventually, almost seven hours after the alarm had been given, they reached the bottom of the ventilation shaft where a large bucket had been lowered to rescue them. Sims was the first to be placed in the bucket and hauled 400ft to safety. The rest of the party followed, to be greeted by their wives, who had been brought from the pit head.

Manwaring, Simmonds and Bradley were all awarded the Edward Medal for their bravery in risking their lives to save others in 1975. After a Royal Warrant rationalised civilian awards for gallantry, Manwaring was proud to go to Buckingham Palace and have a George Cross conferred on him by the Queen. He donated his Edward Medal to the Gloucester City Museum.

Thomas George Manwaring was born in Warwickshire on December 11 1916. He worked at several pits in the Forest of Dean but retired early, partly due to the effects of his experience in 1949. He received the Queen's Silver Jubilee Medal in 1977.

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