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eMedals-The George Medal for 1944 Burton-on-Trent RAF Depot Explosion


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The George Medal for 1944 Burton-on-Trent RAF Depot Explosion CONSIGNMENT 20

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The George Medal for 1944 Burton-on-Trent RAF Depot Explosion CONSIGNMENT 20

The George Medal for the 1944 Burton-on-Trent RAF Depot Explosion - George VI (FLT. LIEUT. JOHN P. LEWIN, R.A.F.O.). Naming is engraved in large capitals. Original ribbon with pinback, light contact, near extremely fine. In its hardshelled case of issue, marked "GEORGE MEDAL" on the lid, maker marked "ROYAL MINT" on the inside lid, lightly soiled recessed medal bed, soiled exterior, case very fine.(C:20)   Footnote: John Preston Lewin was born in Plymouth, Devon in September 1916 and was working as a clerk in Cardiff at the time of applying for a commission in the Equipment Branch of the Royal Air Force in April 1939. He was appointed a Pilot Officer that July and served in the Middle East, before attending an explosives course back in the United Kingdom from January to March 1942. He was advanced to the rank of Flying Officer prior to being placed on the Reserve in April 1943, however, he was retained on the Active List for the duration of hostilities. Flight Lieutenant John Preston Lewin (31337) was serving with 21 Maintenance Unit, when he was awarded the George Medal for saving life after the largest ever ordnance explosion in the United Kingdom, which occurred at the Royal Air Force's underground bomb store at Fauld, near Burton-on-Trent in November 1944 and resulted in over sixty fatalities. Also awarded the George Medal for the same event was Acting Wing Commander Donald Leslie Kings (72222), Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. The original recommendation for their George Medals appeared in the London Gazette, on April 10, 1945: "On Monday 27 November 1944, an explosion on an immense scale occurred in a mine forming the R.A.F. bomb storage depot near Burton-on-Trent. The depot, which consisted of tunnelled workings into low hills, was divided into two parts, known as the Old and New Mines, by a solid wall partly of native rock and partly of artificial construction. The explosion occurred in the small New Mine where some 4,000 tons of bombs and other explosives were stored, including over,1,500 four-thousand pound bombs. This part of the depot was completely obliterated, a crater 350 yards by 600 yards being formed with an enormous open rent in continuation to the north-west. Serious damage was also done to the Old Mine, alongside where some 8,000 to 10,000 tons of bombs were stored. Here blast caused dangerous roof falls and cracks and scattered bombs and other explosives over the floors whilst poisonous fumes generated by the explosion percolated from the New Mine. Apart from the damage to the depot, a nearby commercial mine was completely wrecked by huge quantities of rock and sodden earth thrown up by the explosion and by escaping waters of a small lake which had burst open. Over 60 people lost their lives. Wing Commander Kings was temporarily commanding the R.A.F. Unit on the spot. He was the first to enter the mine, some 10 minutes after the explosion, had occurred. All the lights had been extinguished but with the help of a handlamp operating intermittently, Wing Commander Kings made as full a search of the underground area as was possible before he was affected by dangerous fumes and had to retire. He then took control of the emergency work above ground, including the control of stacks of incendiary bombs which had been set alight outside the mine entrance. He arranged for further help and took steps to determine the extent of the casualties and damage. On arrival of the National Fire Service with oxygen apparatus, Wing Commander Kings, with Foreman Salt and three National Fire Service men, again searched the mine, concentrating particularly on the areas where the roof had fallen. He continued this search until for the second time he was forced to retire by the effects of noxious fumes. Thereafter Wing Commander Kings made every effort to keep the situation under control, accepting and co-ordinating offers of assistance as they came to hand. Throughout, he acted with conspicuous gallantry and resource, and showed fine leadership. Flight Lieutenant Shuttleworth accompanied Foreman Salt into the mine on his first re-entry, some half-hour after the explosion, when conditions underground were still unknown and there were all manner of possible risks - further explosions, fire, roof falls, noxious fumes. With Foreman Salt he helped rescue an injured man. Later Flight Lieutenant Shuttleworth played an important part in maintaining control and, by his fine example, greatly encouraged other rescue workers. Whilst these rescue operations were developing in the Old Mine, Corporal Rock and Corporal Peters made their way to an airshaft in the New Mine, which they reached about an hour and a quarter after the explosion. They had found twenty workmen cut off in this part of the mine. They had endeavoured to make their way out by a road passing the ventilating shaft, but ran into noxious fumes and five of them died. The remainder retraced their steps to the ventilating shaft. Their calls for help were heard by Corporals Rock and Peters. Both repeatedly went down the iron ladder in the shaft into the gas-filled chamber, rescued the men who were still alive, and recovered a number of dead. Flight Lieutenant Lewin on his own initiative, and alone, entered the mine some 20 minutes after the explosion and carried out a prolonged search in the underground workings. He later entered a second time with Foreman Coker and remained underground for about an hour searching most of the roads in an endeavour to find the missing persons. The fumes had by this time become more dangerous and while Foreman Coker persisted as long as he could, he had in the end to be carried out by Flight Lieutenant Lewin, who then re-entered the mine alone to continue his endeavours. He did not abandon his search until the arrival of teams of the Mines Rescue Organisation with oxygen apparatus. Flight Lieutenant Lewin then went to the nearby commercial mine and descended the air shaft several times to a dangerous gas-filled area to remove casualties. Finally, he assisted Wing Commander Kings in organising over ground relief measures. Throughout he acted with gallantry, initiative and complete disregard for his own safety." Lewin relinquished his commission in the Reserve in July 1959. (C:20)  
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