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On this day 75 years ago a considerable act of bravery by Auxiliary Fireman Harry Errington led him to becoming the only firefighter to receive the George Cross during the Second World War.
Just before midnight, a bomb virtually demolished a three-storey garage, the basement of which was used as an air raid shelter by Auxiliary Fire Service personnel. The floors caved in and 20 people, including six firefighters were killed outright.
Harry recovered consciousness and upon escape rescued one of his colleagues, and saw another trapped underneath a radiator. He returned to rescue the second man despite his hands being badly burnt and the building due to collapse at any moment. All three men were seriously injured but thanks to Errington’s bravery they were all returned to duty.
Born in Westminster on 20 August 1910 he first trained as an engraver and later as a tailor. When war broke out he volunteered at a station on Shaftesbury Avenue, near the business where he worked.
Harry was later active in basketball administration (particularly during the London Olympics of 1948) and served as treasurer of The Victoria Cross and George Cross Association until 1990. His George Cross is on display in the collection of the Jewish Museum London.
Soho asked Harry into the station to celebrate his 90th birthday in 2000. The red watch presented him with an engraved tankard, and copious amounts of birthday cake. The firefighters remarked that Harry was “still as razor sharp and fit."
Harry Errington GC died in London on 15 December 2004.