Village Heroes

Over the years, Palterton has provided many heroes.  All have been quiet, unassuming ordinary men and women, who have gone about their daily business without any pretentious airs.  Such is the trait of heroes!

Being a mining community from about 1890 to the 1980's, it is inevitable that many of the village heroes will have mining connections.

Some gave their lives digging coal in the local mines to keep the home fires burning and providing essential minerals for the war effort.

Others performed heroic acts in both saving and attempting to save, the lives of their fellow men and animals.  Many have performed heroic acts which have gone unreported, but nevertheless the villagers of Palterton are rightly proud of all their heroes.

"Palterton soldier wins D.C.M. after being reported buried" was the headline in the Derbyshire Times newspaper announcing the award to Sergeant Joe Gandy of the Ist Batallion Leicester Regiment.  The article continued: 

"Palterton is pardonably proud of the fact that one of a small band of brave men who went from the village to fight for King and Country has been awarded the D.C.M.  The gallant soldier to whom this much coveted honour has been granted is Sergeant Joe Gandy.

He is one of those men to whom the Nation and Empire are indebted, for he went through the South African campaign with the Lancashire Fusiliers and when the present war broke out relinquished his position as a stoker at the New Colliery (Ramcroft) near Palterton and rejoined the Colours in August 1914, going to the Front on 4 January of the following year.

Some time ago, Sergeant Gandy was unofficially reported killed, a Bolsover soldier stating that he had helped to bury him.  Happily he is very much alive and his many friends hope that he will be spared to perform fresh deeds and valour in the cause of right and liberty and will ultimately return safe and sound to his home."
A copy of a D.C.M.
Since 1916, the Distinguished Conduct Medal (D.C.M.) has ranked as a superior decoration to the Military Medal.

It was thus the second highest award for gallantry in action (after the Victoria Cross) for all army ranks below commissioned officers.

It was awarded for distinguished conduct in the field.

Derbyshire Times snippet.  dated Saturday 25 May 1918. "
Give credit where credit is due" is the theme of the protest of a Palterton correspondent who takes exception to the heading in our report last week of the presentation of the D.C.M. to Sgt. J. Gandy of the 1st. Leicester Regt.  The heading conveyed the impression that Sgt. Gandy is a Carr Vale man, and our correspondent rightly emphasises the fact that for the last four years the gallant soldiers home has been in Palterton.

Palterton is particularly fond of the achievements of it's soldiers.  Few villages have striven so consistently and with such complete success to promote the comfort and well being of our fighting men and their dependants and the gathering held in honour of Sgt. Gandy demonstrated the enthusiasm of Mr W.H.Bradshawe, the Hon. Sec. of the local Soldiers Christmas Fund.

On the 15 January 1938, fire broke out on Middle Farm belonging to John Thomas Wholey.  Flames were discovered about mid-day in the Dutch barn, that contained a large quantity of wheat, straw and hay.  The flames spread to a cattle shed almost adjoining.

John William Dickinson aged 49 of Thirteen Row was walking past on the public footpath linking Back Lane to Main Street.

A copy of the water damaged certificate There were cattle in the blazing shed.

He climbed a wall, reached the roof, through which he made a hole and dropped amongst the horned cattle, which were in a state of frenzy.

He was about to unlock the door when the farmer's son, Arthur Wholey, arrived and together the animals were led out of the shed.

None of the thirteen beast was burned or hurt.

John William Dickinson received the Silver Medal award from the R.S.P.C.A.

Several men left the village to serve their King and country, in the two great wars, in the cause of liberty and right.  Sadly some did not make it home and they are commemorated on the war memorial situated in the small plot attached to the small Mission Church on Main Street.

It is not intended to pay tribute to these men on this page because their role will be commemorated on the Palterton Village War Memorial pages.

One Palterton man of whom we can all be proud and who epitomises all that is good in a man is the late Alan West who was born in Palterton on the 10 September 1920.

Alan was educated at the village school before transferring to Scarcliffe school.  He started his working life as a blacksmiths striker at nearby Glapwell Colliery but in 1938, he left the pit and joined the Royal Air Force.  After his initial training he was posted to Yatesbury, Wiltshire where he trained as a wireless operator.

After his radio training he had experience as a ground wireless operator in 185 squadron at Cottesmore in Rutland, followed by a similar activity in 240 squadron at Invergodon and then in the Shetlands, before joining 22 squadron in April 1940 and his flying career started.

In May 1940, he was promoted to the rank of sergeant.

A copy of a D.F.C.

He was a wireless operator and rear gunner on more than three operational tours, each tour consisting of about thirty six flying operations.  Quite simply that is more than one hundred extremely dangerous flying operations over Germany, Norway, Holland, Belgium and France.

The last of his three tours of operations was on torpedo carrying Hampdens.

Some of the most dangerous Royal Air Force missions were undertaken by crews in the Bristol Beufort Torpedo bombers and that is where Alan West was flying.

Very few airmen survived these horrific confrontations with the enemy.

Many of their operations were "cloaked in Admiralty secrecy", hence little has been published about these dramatic events in these unusual aircraft.

Alan West was one man Squadron Leader Norman Hearn Phillips preferred to have in his crew, for he was a wizard with the Beufort wireless receiver / transmitter, having the ability to obtain homing bearings in almost all atmospheric conditions when nearing the English coast.

A copy of a D.F.C.

He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal in March 1941 for "keeness and quiet efficiency" for the Coastal Command.

His portrait was painted by Eric Kennington and now hangs in the Imperial War Museum.

The D.F.M. was awarded to N.C.O's (non-commissioned officers) and men of the R.A.F. for acts of valor or devotion to duty whilst flying on active operations against the enemy.

Alan left the R.A.F. in 1946 and became a cabinet maker, but rejoined in 1952.  In 1961 he was conmmissioned and served as an air traffic controller until his retirement in 1976.

Unfortunately Alan West was diagnosed with Parkinsons Disease in September 1986, but he was still a fighter and a hero in that he helped set up the Bury St. Edmonds Branch of the Parkinsons Disease Society that had its' first meeting 30 April 1990.

Sadly, Alan West lost his battle for life on the 13 January 1994, before his story was written.  Hopefully, this little tribute will ensure that his memory will live on so that future generations will know of his courage.

On the 22 March 1944, a Halifax bomber aircraft with mostly Canadian airmen on board were returning from an operational flight over France, when the crew faced difficulties as the plane was over the Mansfield area.  Several crew members were ordered to "bail out" and did so succesfully.

The plane was on fire and crash landed down Scarcliffe Lane, half way between Palterton and Scarcliffe.  At the time of this crash the aircraft had been travelling in the direction from Hillstown towards Mansfield.  Parts of the aircraft were scattered in the field immediately before Scarcliffe Lane, but the main fuselage was straddled across the road, the pilot being unable to get it over the road.

Both Albert and 'Lol' Calow, two men out of the village, were on the scene within minutes of the aircraft crashing and with their bare hands bleeding and burning, they forced their way into the burning wreck, where two of the crew were trapped.  A third airman had been thrown clear as it came to rest.

The inside of the plane was like a furnace.  Ammunition was exploding around them.  One man at the rear of the plane was trapped and could not be reached.  He burnt to death.

However they managed to release another airman who was trapped by his boots.  Despite being burnt, they managed to release the airman, who was subsequently taken to Chesterfield Royal Hospital, but sadly he succumbed to his injuries.

A photo of the B.E.M. awarded to the Calow brothers On Tuesday 23 October 1945,

George Rolston Calow and Albert Groves Calow attended
an Investiture at Buckingham Palace.

They were decorated by King George V1.

They were awarded the British Empire Medal.

They were brave heroes!

There is much more to this story.  I have written a booklet about this crash and a copy appears on this site in volume 6.

It is inevitable that I will have ommitted to mention other village heroes who gave their lives for freedom and liberty.  To those people I apologise, but this is an ongoing chapter and more names will be added in due course.

There is one village hero and his story that does not appear above and that is Cornelius Turner.  I do have his remarkable story of his part in WW2 flying gliders.  I do not have permission from his family to write the story herein.  Nevertheless I believe I can reveal that he and his crew flew a glider on a secret mission into the former Yugoslavia to rescue Marshall Tito.  That's all I can reveal at this time.

"When the one great scorer comes to write against your name, it matters not who won or lost but how well you played the game".

Village Heroes


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Created 2 December 2001
Last updated: 10 September 2012