Hero ‘Abe’ In Underground Rescue

I would like to tell the story of what happened on the night of 17th January, 1944 regarding my Dad, George Smith, who then lived with my mother, Rose, at 4 Richard Street, North Skelton.
My Dad was a deputy in North Skelton Mine and during one of his ‘shifts’ down the pit he was buried by a roof-fall. He ended up face down, his leg trapped under a prop beneath the great pile of stone and shale.
I will never forget that night when my late brother, George, ran all the way home from Ings Lane, Brotton. The men going home from ‘back shift’ had called to see if he knew of Dad’s accident – he didn’t, so he came to see if we knew anything and we didn’t either, even though they had called men out of North Skelton Workingmen’s Club and the Bull’s Head to see if they could help.
This leads to my story of one brave hero called George Bradley from Lingdale, known to everyone as ‘Abe’, 25 years old and married with a baby girl.
A number of his mates, all family men with children, had laboured unsuccessfully to free my Dad and the situation looked hopeless. Then ‘Abe’ suggested that the only way was to get to the back of the fall and work from that side – and that he was the lad to do it. Every man there knew the risks involved – he had to squeeze himself through a small hole, 23 inches by 8 inches, left by the roof-fall! Any further fall would have buried ‘Abe’ as well as my Dad, but that night the gods smiled on the brave. There was no further fall and , with great difficulty, ‘Abe’ managed to free Dad’s leg and stayed with him a further 40 minutes until he could be rescued – he’d been buried for 4 hours, his leg was fractured in two places, and it was encased in plaster for the following 13 weeks.
‘Abe’ Bradley was awarded the British Empire Medal, The Carnegie Trust certificate, the Daily Herald’s Order of Industrial Heroism and a bronze medallion, as well as a cash award.
‘Abe’ was horribly embarrassed at ‘all this fuss about nowt’. The authorities, of course, did not regard it as ‘nowt’. John T Hall, the Northern District President of the Miner’s Union, in presenting ‘Abe’ with his awards said, “You’re a right ‘un ‘Abe’, I’m proud to know you, and if these medals were as big as frying pans, they’d be none too big to express my feelings.”
My dad always praised ‘Abe’ because he knew, had it not been for him, he would have died. I can remember my Mam going mad because Dad was late and we were having to build the fire up at a time when coal was rationed.
I think ‘Abe’ would be the only ironstone miner to receive the accolade and am only sorry he has never had any mention in Tom Leonard’s Mining Museum at Skinningrove. I will always say “thanks” to ‘Abe’ who I am sorry is no longer with us but I am certain my Dad would not have lived until 1964 if ‘Abe’ had not been down North Skelton Mine that night.
By the way, ‘Abe’ was uncle to Mr George Benson who is now manager of the Bulls Head. George’s Mam, Mary, must be very proud of her hero brother.

Grace Wynn, 42 De Brus Way, Guisborough

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