Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (3 December 2020)
Date of Auction: 3rd December 2020
Sold for £12,000
Estimate: £8,000 - £12,000
George Cross (William Jamieson, Ariston Gold Mine, Gold Coast, 23rd. June 1936) on original mounting pin, in Royal Mint case of issue, extremely fine £8,000-£12,000
FootnoteE.G.M. London Gazette 23 June 1936: William Jamieson, European Shift Superintendent, Ariston Gold Mine, Prestea, Gold Coast.
‘Mr. William Jamieson was being lowered underground in the service cage when one of the native workmen was found lying unconscious on the shaft station. As he appeared to have been gassed, Mr. Jamieson, with a companion, decided to investigate the cause of the trouble. On passing through the ventilation door at the back of the shaft station they found three more boys lying about fifty feet from the door, a few feet apart. It was evident that they had been seriously gassed and they were at once removed to the shaft station. At a point about 900 feet north of the shaft another boy was found lying across the track and Mr. Jamieson after sending back two boys with this man continued on to the working face of the drift, alone. There he found six boys lying about in a very serious condition and he at once proceeded to drag them back put of the fumes. He had eventually himself to be helped out of the mine as he was then unable to walk without assistance. His prompt and gallant behaviour, carried out at great personal risk, undoubtedly saved the lives of these six Africans.’
William Jamieson was born at Wanlockhead, Dumfriesshire, on 30 August 188, the son of lead miner David Jamieson and his wife Jessie. Following in his father’s footsteps he started working on the lead mine in Wanlockhead aged 14, earning 1 shilling per day. He remained employed here until the mine was closed in 1934 owing to the fall in the price of lead, and the following year signed a 1 year contract with the Ariston Gold Mine Company, to be employed as European Shift Superintendent at the company’s Gold Mine at Prestea, on the Ankobra River on the Gold Coast (in what is now south-western Ghana). For his gallantry in saving the lives of six African mine workers on 7 January 1936, at the risk of his own life, he was awarded the Empire Gallantry Medal. A full account of the action was conveyed in a letter from the General Manager of the Mine to the London office of the Company, and was reproduced in The African World:
‘I desire to bring to your attention an incident which occurred on 7 January 1936, and which, but for the prompt and courageous performance of one of our European shift bosses, Mr. W. Jamieson, would have resulted in a very serious loss of life. At 7:50 p.m. Messrs A. McNeil and W. Jamieson, together with their two chop boys, were being lowered underground in the service cage, when the cage was stopped by the bell boy at No. 6 level, who informed them that one of the boys who had come out of the drift had gone to sleep and that he could not awaken him. The boy was found lying on the shaft station in an unconscious state, and as he appeared to have been gassed, McNeil and Jamieson decided to investigate the cause of the trouble. On passing through the ventilation door at the back of the shaft station they found three more boys lying about 50 feet from the door, a few feet apart. As it was evident that these boys had been seriously gassed, they were at once removed to the shaft station. It was then arranged that McNeil should continue on the cage to the 17th level to bring help, and Jamieson and the two chop boys proceed along No. 6 level north.
At a point about 900 feet north of the shaft a boy was found lying across the track, and Jamieson, after sending out the two chop boys with this man, continued onto the working face of the drift alone. At the face of the drift Jamieson found six boys lying about in a very serious condition, and he at once proceeded to drag them back out of the fumes. As the chop boys returned at this time they loaded two of the unconscious boys into a mine car, and Jamieson then told the chop boys to tram them out to the shaft station. Jamieson then found another mine car, and as more boys, sent on by McNeil arrived, two more boys were loaded into the car and trammed out. On the return of the first mine car the remaining two unconscious boys were loaded into the car and sent out and then Jamieson, who by this time was unable to walk without assistance, was helped along the level to the shaft station. McNeil, in the meantime, on the shaft station, had been doing what he could to revive the boys as they arrived, and had been sending them up to the surface as rapidly as possible. Five of the eleven boys, after a time, recovered sufficiently to walk home, and the remaining six boys were sent to the hospital on stretchers, where, after a day’s convalescence, they completely recovered. All of the above boys are now back at work and have suffered no ill-effects from their experience.
The accumulation of gas in the face of the drift was due to the fact that a fitter who was working on an air line leak had closed a valve midway between the shaft and the end of the drift, and then, when his work was completed, forgotten to reopen it. The blast boys, after lighting the fuses for the blast at the end of the day shift, turned on the valve near the face, not knowing that the air supply had been cut off further back up the drift. The night shift boys did not realise that the compressed air had not been blowing and were overcome by the gas within a few seconds of reaching the face of the drift. Mr. Jamieson’s prompt and gallant behaviour, carried out at great personal risk, undoubtedly saved the lives of the six African who were overcome near the face of the drift, as all of these men were seriously gassed and were lying actually in the fumes. The two chop boys, Kojo Thomas and Kofie Arra, also displayed great courage and contributed largely to the success of the rescue work. It may be mentioned that they were suitably rewarded by the Company.’
Jamieson learned of the award of his Empire Gallantry Medal whilst at sea, returning to the U.K. at the end of his contract, and was invested with his Empire Gallantry Medal by H.M. King Edward VIII at Buckingham Palace on 15 July 1936, the only Investiture carried out by Edward VIII prior to his abdication. He subsequently received the George Cross from H.M. King George VI at Buckingham Palace on 12 May 1942, after his Empire Gallantry Medal had been exchanged for the George Cross by the terms of the institution of that award in September 1940. In 1937 he was appointed Underground Manager of the Greenside Mine at Glenridding, Westmoreland, and during the Second World War was employed by I.C.I., appointed to the job because of his knowledge of explosives. Following the cessation of hostilities he served as Manager of the Gasswater Barytes Mine at Old Cumnock, Ayrshire, until his retirement in 1958. He died at Muirfield, Perth, on 28 September 1965, and is buried in Wanlockhead Cemetery, Dumfriesshire.
Sold together with a letter to the recipient from the Prime Minister’s Office, dated 8 June 1936, informing him that he had been recommended for the award, in O.H.M.S. envelope; two Gold Coast Government Telegrams to the recipient, both dated 23 June 1936, one from the Colonial Secretary informing him of the award, and the other from the Governor congratulating him on the award; a Marconigram, dated 24 June 1936, informing him of the contents of the two above telegrams; telegram of congratulations to the recipient’s wife, dated 23 June 1936, with subsequent letter; Central Chancery letter regarding the Investiture of the E.G.M., dated 15 July 1936; and Buckingham Palace ticket of admission for the Investiture of the George Cross, dated 12 May 1942; copies of the newspapers The African World and West Africa, both dated 27 June 1936, which both announce the award; a portrait photograph of the recipient outside Buckingham Palace; and various newspaper cuttings and other ephemera.