George Newstead

George Medal recipient

With complete disregard to their own safety…

With what remained of the factory likely to collapse at any moment, the number of those working amongst the rubble and debris was kept to a minimum. This caused disquiet amongst the local men, desperate to help but cordoned off from the site by ARP personnel.

As the hours ticked by, those working at acute risk to their own safety found reward in the rescue of several trapped men, women and children.

The bravery of several of these rescuers was later officially recognised.

George Newstead

George Newstead

Mr George Newstead – Awarded the George Medal

George Newstead cut a hole through to a cellar bay full of injured and dead. The casualties were gingerly taken out except for one man who was pinned down by a steel girder. He was in agony so a doctor was called to give him an anaesthetic and reluctantly, it was decided that the only way to save him was to amputate his foot. While the doctor crawled out to get his instruments George decided to have one more go at freeing the survivor. In spite of the risk of bringing down tons of debris he got a small jack under the girder and raised it slightly. It was just enough. By cutting the man’s boot off they were able to ease his leg out and drag him clear.

(image: Mr Newstead in Civil Defence uniform with George Medal)

The following information was kindly provided by Mrs Patricia Lydon (North Shields) in response to an appeal published in the News Guardian May 2001.

mrs lydonMy Grandfather never really mentioned Wilkinson’s to us. He was a modest man and I suppose the War was just something he wanted to forget. He was a very active man, always busy providing for his family. I’m very proud of him and what he did.

My Grandfather would’ve been about 40 years old at the time of Wilkinson’s. He wasn’t originally from North Shields – he was a miner from Langley Park in County Durham.

When he came up here he was a mason for Tynemouth Corporation from 1931-1939. He was always good at making money though. He opened a General Dealer’s shop in Grey Street next to Davies Dairy and lived above the shop. In the summer he used to have a candyfloss machine and sold it to the day-trippers in Tynemouth. He also sold ice-cream at the Coast.

When the War broke out he would make and give away pea soup and broth to the poor at his shop. He joined the Civil Defence and became a Sergeant. Perhaps he was on duty that night. Certainly his mining background helped him get to the trapped man where others would have given up.

He presented his George Medal to Tynemouth Borough (this was later returned to him when he emigrated). After the war he kept the shop on and did more building work until the early 60’s. In 1963 he and his wife Rachel emigated to Australia to join their daughter Edith in Adelaide. Returning to North Shields briefly in 1969, George died in Australia in 1987.

Medal Citations

The medal citations for Clarence Burdiss, George Newstead and Norman Darling Black are given in The London Gazette, issue 35226, 22nd July 1941.

Awarded the George Medal:
A.R.P. Rescue Party, Tynemouth
Clarence Burdis – Leader
George Newstead – Leader

Awarded the British Empire Medal (Civil Division)
First Aid Party, Tynemouth
Norman Darling Black – Member,


A building suffered a direct hit and people were trapped in the basement. Newstead cut a hole through the wall to a room containing a number of casualties and arranged for their removal. One man was trapped by his leg under tons of debris. Medical assistance was called and an anaesthetic administered to the casualty with a view to amputating his foot, but in the meantime Newstead, at great risk to his life, succeeded in getting into position a small jack and relieved the pressure on the man’s foot. By cutting away the boot he succeeded in dragging the man to comparative safety. Newstead, who was aware that at any moment during the rescue operation the building might have collapsed, showed outstanding courage. Burdis cut through a thick wall and entered another room in the basement in which a number of casualties were lying interlaced with timber from bunks which had collapsed. In spite of the great confusion Burdis extricated these casualties one by one, passing them through the small hole to other members of the Squad. He worked unaided in a confined space for nearly four hours until he partially collapsed through exhaustion. On recovery, he insisted on returning to the basement and, by his gallant efforts, saved a number of lives. Black made sustained and strenuous efforts to free injured persons from the debris and rendered first aid. He displayed courage and devotion to duty with complete disregard of his own safety.

The George Medal

George Medal

The British Empire Medal


The Medals

The George Cross is the highest civilian award for gallantry followed by in order of merit, The George Medal. The George Cross and the George Medal are awarded for similar acts of gallantry (i.e. any act of bravery not in the face of the enemy). The difference is in the degree of bravery displayed (in a similar way to the distinction made between the Victoria Cross and the Military Cross in battle). Both can be awarded to civilians or service personnel alike. Many servicemen and women have been awarded the GM and many civilians the GC. The Royal Warrant authorising the award of the George Medal was published in January 1941. The medal is named after George VI. In the period 1940-1945, 724 civilians were awarded the George Medal. The British Empire Medal Established in 1922 to replace the Medal of the Order of the British Empire. The British Empire Medal is awarded for meritorious civil or military service worthy of recognition by the Crown

British Empire Medal image - By Robert Prummel (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (] via Wikimedia Commons

George Medal - By Ministry of Defence [OGL (] via Wikimedia Commons