Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (13 October 2021)

Date of Auction: 13th October 2021


Estimate: £8,000 - £12,000

The George Cross (converted E.G.M.) awarded to John Frederick Bell, Underground Manager of the Ariston Gold Mine at Prestea on the Gold Coast, for his gallantry in saving several lives in a mining accident on 17 May 1930

George Cross (John Frederick Bell, 20th December 1930) in Royal Mint case of issue, good very fine £8,000-£12,000


Provenance: Glendining’s, March 1989; Rockwood Collection, Dix Noonan Webb, October 2014.

E.G.M. London Gazette 2 December 1930:
‘John Frederick Bell showed great gallantry on the occasion of an accident in the mine on 17 May 1930, when he was instrumental in saving the lives of several natives who would otherwise have been gassed. Two men who afterwards went in search of him lost their lives by gas in the attempt, and Bell himself would probably have shared their fate had he not, when he became unconscious, fallen with his mouth next to a leak in a compressed-air pipe’.

John Frederick Bell was born in Cardiff, Glamorgan in 1872, and was employed initially as a Manager of the Ponthenry Anthracite Collieries and Wernddu Collieries, Neath, before taking up employment with HM Inland Revenue Valuation Department at Newport. In the late 1920s he emigrated to the Gold Coast (now Ghana) in Africa, and became Underground Manager at the Ariston Gold Mine in Prestea, on the Ankobra River. On 17 May 1930, several natives were involved in an accident. Bell went in search of these men, and was instrumental in saving them from being gassed. Two other men who went in search of Bell both died from the gas, as would Bell have done when he too fell unconscious, were it not for the fact that his mouth was next to a leak in a compressed air pipe.

For his gallantry Bell was awarded the Empire Gallantry Medal, and soon afterwards he returned to South Wales, and settled in Bridgend. His original award of the Empire Gallantry Medal (E.G.M.) having been converted to a George Cross, he received the latter distinction at a Buckingham Palace investiture held in October 1941. Bell later settled in Malvern, where he died in May 1950.