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Albert Edward HEMING, GC

Source: Peter Sharpe

No. & Rank at the Time of Action: Section Leader

Unit/Occupation: Civil Defence Rescue Service, Bermondsey, London

Date and Place of Birth: 13th June 1910, Ireland

Family:

Early Life:

Date and Place of GC Action: 2nd March 1945, Parkers Row, Bermondsey, London

The London Gazette: 17th July 1945

Citation: "The KING has been graciously pleased to award the GEORGE CROSS to:-

Albert Edward HEMMING (sic), Leader, Civil Defence Rescue Service, Bermondsey.

As the result of enemy action a house was demolished and people were trapped in the wreckage.

The collapse of the walls caused four floors to pancake with the contents of the rooms between.

Hemming put his party to work and a man was found in a V-shaped void. He was completely encased in debris and furniture, some of which was supporting the floor above. By slow and patient work Hemming burrowed his way down through the mass of beams, masonry and plaster. Working head downwards he removed the debris and broke out the furniture around the victim until it was found that he was pinned down by a main timber which was fixed to a floor. Any movement of this beam would have brought about a complete collapse of the structure with fatal faults to both. Despite the apparent hopelessness of the situation and the added danger of coal gas which was escaping from a damaged pipe nearby, Hemming, still working head downwards, slowly and carefully removed the debris from beneath the man's body until, after three hours, he was released.

Although from the outset, it appeared impossible to effect a rescue, Hemming refused to abandon the victim and, with great gallantry and determination, successfully accomplished a task seemingly beyond human endurance."

Account of Deed: On 2nd March 1945, as a result of enemy action, several people were trapped in the wreckage of the Roman Catholic Church and adjacent buildings in Parkers Row, Bermondsey. When Mr. Heming arrived with his rescue section he found the whole area completely devastated. He was told that there were some priests and two women somewhere in the ruins, and there could be no possibility of their still being alive, but as he searched amongst the debris, he heard a call for help coming from the direction of the crypt of the church. Despite the fact that the Regional Commissioner had decided that conditions were too dangerous for any attempt at rescue to be made, Mr. Heming dug his way into the ruins of the church towards the sound of the voice he had heard, and although there was the added danger of coal gas which was escaping from a damaged pipe nearby, he went on burrowing head downwards into the ruins, until he found one of the priests, FR Edmund Arbuthnot, who had been buried. He was badly injured and firmly trapped by fallen timbers, but Mr. Heming was eventually able to drag him to safety.

Remarks: Later worked at the Imperial War Museum

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GC Location/Sale History:

Date and Place of Death: 3rd January 1987, Forest Hill, London

Cause of Death:

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Obituary: Daily Telegraph 6 January 1987

Memorials:

Town/County Connections: Peckham and Dulwich, London