John Bamford GC (born 7 March 1937 in Newthorpe, near Eastwood, Nottinghamshire), known as Jack Bamford, is the youngest person to have been directly awarded the George Cross. On 19 October 1952, aged 15, he rescued his two younger brothers from their upstairs bedroom when a fire occurred during the night at their home in Newthorpe. He took four months to recover from the injuries he sustained. He was awarded the George Cross in December 1952.
- When we opened the [living room] door, we were hit with a huge blast of flame. We went outside because we couldn't get back upstairs. We climbed on to the flat roof on top of the bay window and we got my mother and what we first thought was all of them [his sister and five younger brothers] out through the bedroom window. But then we had a count up and there were two missing. So me and my dad went back again. We could hear Roy shouting from the back bedroom. My dad tried to get through the flames by wrapping a blanket round him but the blanket caught fire. I told him to go round the back and I would get into their room and chuck them out the window. I couldn't see anything because of the smoke. I got down low on my hands and knees because it was the best place with the smoke rising. When I found them in the bedroom, I had Roy between my knees and Brian was next to us by the window. I slammed the ash window up but the bloody thing came down again and slammed my fingers. So I banged it up again and this time it stayed there. But when I turned round Brian had gone- he was frightened so he had got back into bed. I knew where the bed was so I got him and chucked Brian out too. I remember then I somehow got out of the window too. But the next thing I can remember was lying on the hearth in front of our neighbor Mrs Hale's fire and our doctor, Dr Towle, kept saying to her: 'Give him weak tea. Give him weak tea.' Even though all I wanted was lots of water. It's daft what you can remember.
- From an interview in 2010 with Michael Ashcroft, quoted in George Cross Heroes (2010) by Michael Ashcroft, p. 235-236
- I had to get them out. I couldn't leave them, could I? I never thought about what might happen to me- I didn't have time to think about it.
- From an interview in 2010 with Michael Ashcroft, quoted in George Cross Heroes (2010) by Michael Ashcroft, p. 236
Quotes about Bamford
- Bamford, who nearly six decades on still bears the scars from the fire, 'retired' from the scrap metal business in 1993 and moved to live near Land's End, Cornwall, with his wife, Madge. However, the couple, who have four sons and four grandchildren, returned to live in Awsworth in 1998. Since then, a plaque has been put up in the village hall to commemorate his GC. Since then, too, as well as dabbling in the family scrap metal business, Bamford, who is seventy-three, has been involved in buying and restoring vintage cars and tractors. 'I have had a lifetime breaking them [vehicles] up but now I put them back together,' he said with a chuckle.
- Michael Ashcroft, George Cross Heroes (2010), p. 236-237
- A fire broke out in a house occupied by a man, his wife and six children, and in a very short time was burning fiercely. John and his father went downstairs and
upon opening the living room door at the foot of the stairs the interior of the room burst into flames. Owing to the intense heat they were unable to get back
upstairs to the rest of the family. They ran out through the front door, climbed on to the top of a bay window which gave access to a bedroom, opened the
window and helped three of the children and the mother on to the flat roof. John Bamford and his father then climbed into the bedroom where they could hear the
two remaining children, aged 4 and 6, shouting in the back bedroom, situated immediately above the seat of the fire. The bedroom doors at the head of the
stairs were enveloped by flames. The father draped a blanket around himself and attempted to reach the children but the blanket caught fire and he was driven
back. John Bamford then told his father to go to the back of the house while he got down on his hands and knees and crawled through the flames into the bedroom.
His shirt was completely burned upon him but nevertheless he snatched the two young boys from the bed and managed to get them to the window. He dropped the younger boy from the window into his father's arms but the elder boy struggled from his grasp. Bamford could then have got out himself but he left the window and chased the screaming child through the flames across the room. He eventually managed to catch him and throw him from the window.
By this time John Bamford was fast losing consciousness. He was terribly burned on the face, neck, chest, back, arms and hands but he managed to get one leg over the window sill and then fell to the ground.
John Bamford displayed courage of the highest order, and in spite of excruciating pain succeeded in rescuing his two brothers."
- Bamford's George Cross citation, gazetted 18 December 1952