Heroes Honoured


Mexborough and Swinton Times 20th December 1913





On Tuesday shortly after noon, his Majesty the King presented the silver life-saving medal of the order of St John of Jerusalem in England, to 17 men, for gallantry displayed in the Cadeby Main mine on July 9, 1912, on the occasion of the disastrous explosion which resulted in the death of 89 persons.

The names of those singled out for this very considerable honour our as follows

The reverent Sydney Featherstone Hawkes, vicar of Denaby Main

Dr James Forster, Conisbrough

Dr Dhun Feroze, formerly of Denaby Main now of Leek, Staffordshire

Basil Henry Pickering, manager of Wath Main

Edward Feeney, Denaby Main, deputy

William R. Goodwin, Denaby Main, deputy

Benjamin Mansbridge, Wath on Dearne, machine man

Fred Adamson, Denaby Main, deputy

Joseph Blenkiron, Denaby Main, deputy

Harry Rockliffe, Denaby Main, dataller

Albert Wall, Denaby Main, dataller

Walter Wilkinson, Denaby Main, deputy

George Wilding, Denaby Main, Collier

Joseph Bucknall, Denaby Main, deputy

George Milnes, Denaby Main, under manager

Arthur Sykes, Denaby Main, defensive

Tom Soar, formerly of Denaby Main, now of Hednesford, Staffs, surveyor


The history of this batch of honours has several interesting feature. The medals were not applied for not in any way sort by the recipient’s. The order itself was the first to move in the matter. Sir Herbert Perrott, Secretary-General of the grand Priory of the order, approached the Archbishop of York, who is prelate of the order, and who it will be remembered was a frequent visitor to the stricken district during and immediately after the explosions, with a request that he should institute enquiries as to what life-saving had being carried out.

His grace promptly appointed a local committee, which investigated the Hall of the circumstances, watch the proceedings at the inquest and form office enquiry and finally selected 17 names which were approved by the order.


it may be here mentioned that the selection of these worthy people for special recognition and also the recipients of the Edward medals who figured at Buckingham Palace a few months ago in similar circumstances, has given rise to a certain amount of heart burning among those who, probably rightly, consider that they did just as much to entitle them to decoration as have their more fortunate colleagues. But the granting of a St John’s silver life-saving medal is hence about with rather stringent conditions which would disqualify many brave the Don in the mine during that awful time, from recognition. For instance, to gain this medal it must be proved that the person in respect of whom application was made knew that there was danger at the time, and he must have saved or attempted to save, a living person. No amount of heroism in the recovery of dead bodies would count. Further the claimant must be able to produce the signature of an eyewitness, and the good faith of that eyewitness must be guaranteed by the counter signature of his employer or the nearest clergyman or magistrates. Saw old law much I courage displayed in the Cadeby pit as necessarily gone by when recognise, it is Picasso the conditions under which this particular medal is granted. Everybody who was entitled under those conditions to a medal has been included in the list, with the exception of one unknown hero, whose identity cannot be discovered.

All the recipients, with the exception of Mr Tom Soar and Dr Feroze, who since have gone to reside in Staffordshire, hail from the immediate neighbourhood of the colliery, and as Mr Tom Soar came home for the weekend prior to going down to London for his medal, Dr Feroze alone made the journey from another district. The Reverent S.F. Hawkes went in advance of the main party, and returned after them, because he had a good deal of private business to transact, including an interview with the Bishop of Kensington. He went down on Monday morning and the main body of the party left by the 3-45 from Doncaster, arriving in King’s Cross at seven o’clock. They spent an enjoyable evening, some patronising the Coliseum, while others went to see “Joseph and his brethren” at his Majesty’s.


They spent the night at a temperance hotel near King’s Cross and at 10 o’clock on Tuesday morning met by arrangement at the Grand Hotel in Northumberland Avenue, where Mr William Henry Morgan, an Esquire of the order, met them, having been disputed to act as their guide and post. The party were driven in a motorbus to the gates of Buckingham Palace. By a piece of good fortune, they arrived there at the moment when the Irish Guards were changing guard and they were able to fitness what is always an interesting spectacle. They were much taken with the huge Irish deerhound which is mascot of the regiment. Soon they were joined by Col Sir Herbert Perrott, who, after talking with them a little while, conducted them into the large entrance hall of the Palace. There they found other people, mostly groups of individuals, waiting to be decorated. Theirs was the only party of any considerable size, and they were drawn up in single file on one side of the hall.


Soon Viscount Knutsford, sub prior of the order, came and talk with them a little while, and then they were summoned to go forward into another large Hall, where they waited for about an hour. They were the last party to be introduced to the King and while they were waiting each man had a fastener placed in the lapel of his coat, with a ring attached for the greater convenience of hooking on the medals.

When their turn for presentation came they marched forward in single file through an open door into a smaller room stop the King or standing in the middle of the room dressed in ordinary morning attire. The Denaby party marched silently past his Majesty, and then drew up in a line in front of him and stood at attention. The King spoke a few words suitable for the occasion. His voice was a little husky and indistinct but the effect of what he said was that he thanked them for the bravery the ad displayed during the disaster, and he was pleased to present the medals. “I remember the occasion only too well myself,” he said.

There were with the King during the presentation Viscount Knutsford, the Right Honourable R McKenna (Home Secretary), the Right Honourable Sidney Buxton (President of the Board of Trade), the Lord Loch (Lord in waiting), Mr Harry L Verney (Master of the Household), Major the Lord Charles Fitzmaurice (Groom and Equerry in waiting) Mr R F Reynard (Secretary and Registrar of the Edward medal) and Col Sir Herbert Perrott (Secretary-General of the Order of St John)


The silver medal for life-saving is handsomely designed. On the obverse side there is an engraving of the Maltese cross and lions, the emblems of the order and the inscription: “For service in the cause of humanity”. On the converse side is the engraving of the wort plant, another emblem of the order, with the inscription: “Awarded by the grand Priory of the hospital of St John of Jerusalem in England”.

The medals were all set out in order on a scarlet cushion placed on a table close to the King´s hand and His Majesty, after thus briefly addressing the party, walking down the line, hooking every man his medal on, and shaking him by the hand, a court official following with the cushion and the supply of medal.


The ceremony over, a word of command was given and the party marched briskly out of the Royal presence by another door. Outside the palace, they were besieged by an investment and photographers, and after the group had been taken, Mr WH Morgan, who was kindness itself, and was evidently anxious to give is guess the best possible time, again took charge of them, and they re-enter on the motorbus by means of which they were able to drive round a few of the sights of London. Then at 1:30 they repaired to the Holborn restaurant, where they lunched at the expense of the Order, a special menu having been prepared, and each man brought away with him his menu as a memento of a very happy occasion at the conclusion of a most excellent luncheon, Mr Morgan gave an interesting little speech on the history of the order, and submitted to tell us, those of the King, and of HRH the Duke of Connaught, the grand prior, both of which were what or more enthusiastically received. Mr George Milne under manager of Denaby Main moved a vote of thanks to Mr Morgan. Mr Wilkinson seconded, and the Rev S F Hawkes and Mr Basil Pickering also spoke; Mr Morgan responding suitably. After lunch the party scattered for over an hour and most of them caught the 5-45 train for home, arriving in Denaby at 10 o’clock, after having had the time of their lives.

The medals, it should be mentioned, have yet to have the names of their owners inscribed on the edge.


With reference to the medal awarded to the reverent SF Hawkes, it has been incorrectly stated that he administered extreme unction and spiritual consolation to the dying. The Reverent gentleman went down to do so, having being first warned that the pit was liable to “go off” again he found all the survivors were in an unconscious condition, and he contented himself with rendering practical aid, helping Dr Forster with his medical appliances, and doing anything that his hand found to do. Dr Feroze also worked hard on the survivors in another part of the mine. This took place between the second and third explosion.

The Medals won by the vicar, Dr. Forster, Dr Feroze, C Wilding, A Sykes, W Wilkinson, B Pickering. T A Soar, A Wall, H Rockliffe, J Bucknall and G Milnes were for work done on the day of the disaster and the two succeeding days. The medals given to W R Goodwin, E Feeney, F Adamson, J Blenkiron, and Mr B Mansbridge were for courage displayed in saving life and attempting to save life while rescue and salvage operation were being conducted by parties working with the apparatus the instances arising at intervals after the disaster.

The party had an excellent outing and returned well please with the nature of their reception and the arrangements, which have been thoughtfully made their comfort.

Dr Forster

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