Gresford disaster: Museum appeals for survivor's medal

image copyrightWrexham Leader
image captionJohn Edward Samuels made a new life as a gardener after escaping the mine

An appeal to trace a rare bravery medal awarded to one of the six men who survived the 1934 Gresford pit disaster has been made by Wrexham museum.

The Gresford disaster cost 266 men their lives on 22 September, 1934.

John Edward Samuels was awarded the Edward Medal - a gallantry award later replaced by the George Cross - for leading his fellow miners to safety.

He moved to Devon to become a gardener and the museum wants to include his medal in an 80th anniversary display.

Attempts to trace Mr Samuels' family have so far proved unsuccessful so the museum has appealed for help to track down the medal as the centrepiece of a display lasting 12 months.

Museum access and interpretation officer Jonathan Gammond said he believes it could be the only award of its kind across north Wales' collieries.

He said: "It's very rare. It's never been on public display before and it's also a symbol of the heroism of all the miners.

"It makes you realise that just going to the mine every day was an act of bravery.

media captionHe was tortured by what he went through, says Wrexham museum officer Jonathan Gammond

"He was obviously a decisive character and was commended for his leadership in one of the reports on the disaster that followed."

A citation for the medal noted Samuels' bravery: "Travelling for almost half a mile through air so foul that some miners turned back looking for another way out; this caused their deaths.

"At times some men fell behind and were encouraged to keep going.

"Samuels took a leading part in this, as well as advising what to do or what to try, giving other help and hanging back to render assistance when delay was fraught with grave danger," the citation reads.

Mr Gammond said he understood why anyone who had been through the trauma that Samuels endured would want to make a new life for himself.

He said: "Once you have been through something like that, everyone would always associate you with the disaster.

image copyrightDix Noonan Webb
image captionThe Edward Medal, as seen here, was later replaced by the George Cross

"He just wanted to get away. He was very determined not to work down a mine again."

Mr Gammond said the museum display from 28 July would include pay slips of workers elsewhere at the colliery who had their pay docked for finishing their shift early that day.

A burnt pit prop brought up by rescuers and a cast of the memorial plaque will also be on show.

image captionEdward Samuels moved away from Gresford after surviving the pit disaster

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