Gnr J Fairclough AM (GC)

George Cross

Very little is known about the actions of Gnr Fairclough, he was awarded the AM (Albert Medal), the fore runner to the George Cross, 8th May 1928.

The criteria for the award reads: “The Albert Medal for Lifesaving was a British medal awarded to recognise the saving of life. It has since been replaced by the George Cross.”

A listing in 29th Divisional Artillery: War Record and Honours Book 1915 by Lt. Col.  R. M. Johnson reads as 2374 Gnr J Fairclough,  (afterwards 680767), Z/29 TM Bty 28-02-17, wounded.

Trench Mortar Units

By March 1916, most Divisions had three Medium Batteries, designated X, Y and Z. For example, in the 24th Division they would be X.24,Y.24 and Z.24. There was also the Heavy Battery, designated V, such as V.24. The light Stokes batteries under each Brigade took their number from the Brigade, so for example 123rd Brigade in the 41st Division included 123rd TM Battery from June 1916. Z Battery was in most cases broken up in February 1918, with personnel redeployed to the other batteries.

The Albert Medal was first instituted by a Royal Warrant on 7 March 1866 and discontinued in 1971 with the last two awards promulgated in the London Gazette of 31 March 1970 to the late First Officer Geoffrey Clifford Bye of Boolaroo, New South Wales, Australia and on 11 August 1970 to the late Kenneth Owen McIntyre of Fairy Meadow, New South Wales, Australia. The medal was named in memory of Prince Albert and originally was awarded to recognise saving life at sea. The original medal had a blue ribbon 5/8″ (16 mm) wide with 2 white stripes. A further Royal Warrant in 1867 created two classes of Albert Medal, the first in gold and bronze and the second in bronze, both enamelled in blue, and the ribbon of the first class changed to 1 3/8″ (35 mm) wide with 4 white stripes.

The medal was made of gold (although early examples are gold and bronze), which was enameled blue. Miniatures of all four types are known to exist, with the gold awards believed to be gilt.

Further Reading

In 1877, the medal was extended to cover saving life on land and from this point there are two medals with different inscriptions to depict which they were awarded for. The land version was enameled in red, with a red ribbon. The titles of the medals changed in 1917, the gold “Albert Medal, first class” becoming the “Albert Medal in gold” and the bronze “Albert Medal, second class” being known as just the “Albert Medal”.

The event that led to the introduction of the Albert Medal for Gallantry on Land was the Tynewydd Colliery disaster which occurred on 11 April 1877. In many ways, although it was tragic the disaster at Tynewydd was, by the standards of the time when single mining accidents often claimed hundreds of lives, sadly relatively unremarkable. However as the enthralling saga of the determined, dangerous and stoic rescue of the surviving colliers was dramatically and episodically reported in the press it captured the imagination of the public and MPs. Consequently, in a statement released from Windsor Castle on 25 April 1877, it was announced that “the Albert Medal, hitherto only bestowed for gallantry in saving life at sea, shall be extended for similar actions on land, and that the first medals struck for this purpose shall be conferred on the heroic rescuers of the Welsh miners”.

The Albert Medal in gold was abolished in 1949, being replaced by the George Cross, and the second class of Albert Medal (in bronze) was only awarded posthumously. In 1971, the Albert Medal was discontinued (along with the Edward Medal) and all living recipients were invited to exchange the award for the George Cross. From the total of 64 eligible to exchange, 49 took up the option.

The medal was made of gold (although early examples are gold and bronze), which was enameled blue. Miniatures of all four types are known to exist, with the gold awards believed to be gilt.

More than likely unrelated, a Gnr R Fairclough RGA 1914-1915 Star medal came up for auction, entry read as:

“First World War British Medal 1914-1915 Star named to 54022 Gnr. R. Fairclough. R.g.a. Fairclough served as a Gunner in the Royal Garrison Artillery during the First World War.”