b. 1898 Rochdale, Lancashire. d. 29/06/1963 Salford.
DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 26/11/1919 and 08/12/1924 Salford.
John Lewis Victor Burke (1898-1963) known as “Jack” was born in 1898 in Rochdale, Lancashire. Little is known of his early life, though it is known that he served in the Great War, joining the Police Force in Manchester. While working for the Police Force, he married Ethel Myers, the daughter of the Salford Fire Chief in 1917. They had a daughter, Marjorie, but sadly Ethel died in 1920 after less than three years of marriage.
After the Great War, Jack left the Police Force and began work with Armstrong-Whitworth Engineering based in Higher Openshaw, Manchester as the Fire Superintendent. On the 3rd December 1919, he was leaving the factory site onto the busy Ashton Old Road, when a lorry was travelling towards the city with a heavy shire horse plodding along behind it. As the lorry and horse passed the Drover’s Hotel a motor car back-fired and scared the horse, causing it to break loose. It galloped away, and reached Jack as he came out of Redby Street onto the main road. Jack immediately pounced forward and grabbed the reins, but the horse pulled him along as he struggled to gain control. The horse jumped onto the pavement threatening several passers-by, but Jack used his weight to pull the horse out of the way. Six times he had to repeat this action as the animal dragged him over 300 yards, before Jack managed to bring the animal to a standstill.
The Scout Association awarded him their Silver Medal for his courage. His actions did not meet the criteria required for the award of an Albert or Edward Medal. In 1922, King George V instituted a new award – The Medal of the Order of the British Empire for Gallantry – The Empire Gallantry Medal. The medal was to reward acts of gallantry warranting a mark of royal appreciation performed by persons of any rank or station anywhere in the world.
In early December 1924 a similar incident occurred and Jack performed a second act of noted heroism. A frenzied horse ran amok in Whitworth Street. It was mounting the pavement kicking frantically, and there was a risk of a child being trampled to death. Jack rushed to the scene and chased after the runaway animal and caught hold of its loose straps. He brought it under control and pulled it up before it got onto Ashton Old Road.
Jack received the congratulations of the directors of Armstrong-Whitworth, and at a ceremony held in Manchester on 2nd April 1925 he received a Bar to his Scout Association Silver Medal. His deeds then came to the notice of higher authorities and the King’s Birthday Honours List published on 3rd June 1925 carried notification of the award of the Empire Gallantry Medal to Jack. He was presented with the medal by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 6th July 1925. He was the last in line of forty civilians and policemen present, and after the investiture he remained in London for a few days holiday.
On 24th September 1940 a Royal Warrant required all surviving recipients of the EGM to return their award to the Central Chancery of the Order of Knighthood at St James’s Palace, to exchange the medal and become instead a holder of the new George Cross. Jack was one of a 112 people who did so. Jack remarried, and became Fire Officer at the Metropolitan-Vickers Electrical Engineering Works, Trafford Park, Manchester, which later became the General Electrical Company. He was employed there throughout the Second World War.
Jack was found dead on 29th June 1963 at 23 Corby House, Salford aged 65. He was buried in Agecroft Cemetery, Salford, where there is sadly no headstone. Jack’s medals including his GC, Scout Association Silver Medal and Bar, 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19 and 1953 Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal are privately held.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: PRIVATELY HELD.
BURIAL PLACE: AGECROFT CEMETERY, SALFORD, LANCASHIRE.
Plot 5 Grave 448 (unmarked)