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Brick Worker battles immense heat and poisonous gases to save colleague buried in hot ballast

Year 1908

Read by Susan Lousada, Lord Lieutenant of Bedfordshire – Supporter, Royal Humane Society

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Smith, George Henry, Brick Worker, Woburn Sands Brick Works.

Stanhope Gold Medal 1908

At 9.20 a.m. on the 24th October, 1908, Charles Griffin was engaged cleaning ballast from the top of a brick-kiln at the Woburn Sands Brick Works, when part of the roof gave way and he fell into the kiln, being buried up to his waist in the red hot ballast. The kiln is about eighteen feet by twenty with a domed roof, on which many tons of brick earth are placed in order to retain the heat when the kiln is working. This ballast, when bricks are being burnt, gets red hot, and holds its heat for a long time. The entrance to the kiln is by a wicket at the bottom through which a man can readily pass, but when the fall took place the barrow which Griffin was using blocked this opening, leaving a space of only about a foot across. Through this opening Smith made his way and dug away the hot earth from around Griffin, and in about fifteen minutes succeeded in getting him out in a fearfully injured state, when he was removed to hospital, where he died some days later.

Great risk was incurred from the danger of a further fall of the tottering roof, the intense heat, choking dust and poisonous gases with which the kiln was filled.

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