A fine Collection of Life Saving Awards

Date of Auction: 12th December 2012

Sold for £1,800

Estimate: £900 - £1,200

An Edward Medal for Mines in Bronze awarded to Shiftman Isaac Graham, for gallantry at the Wellington Pit Fire, Whitehaven, 11 May 1910

Edward Medal (Mines), E.VII.R., bronze (Isaac Graham) good very fine £900-1200


E.M. London Gazette 22 July 1910. ‘On the 11th May, 1910, a terrible fire occurred in the Wellington Pit, Whitehaven, at a point about 4,500 yards from the shafts. Various rescue parties, with great courage and self-devotion and at considerable risk, descended the mine and endeavoured to extinguish the fire and penetrate to the persons in the workings beyond the same. Thorne and Littlewood, fitted with breathing apparatus, reached within a distance of 150 yards of the fire, but were driven back by the great heat and effusion of gases. The others got to within about 300 yards of the fire, working in the smoke backing from the fire. It was found impossible to penetrate to the scene of the fire or to rescue any of the entombed miners.

Had an explosion occurred — a by no means unlikely eventuality, seeing that the mine is a very gassy one — they would undoubtedly all have been killed.

Special gallantry was shown by John Henry Thorne, to whom the Edward Medal of the First Class has already been awarded, and by James Littlewood’.

For their great gallantry in attempting to rescue the entombed miners, a bar to the Edward Medal in Silver was awarded to John Henry Thorne; an Edward Medal in Silver was awarded to James Littlewood and 63 Edward Medals in Bronze were awarded to others helping in the rescue operations, including one to Isaac Graham, a Shiftman from the William Pit.

In the enquiry that followed, the underground fire and explosion was found to have been caused by firedamp propagated by coal dust and set off by a safety lamp. In the disaster 137 miners perished.