Heroes from our history: the story of two gas workers who kept hundreds of Londoners safe during a heavy night of bombing in the Second World War

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In the week that we'll learn who made the New Year Honours List 2022, we share today a story recently found in our extensive archives. Two gas industry workers honoured for their brave actions during a bombing raid on London in the Second World War.

This is the amazing account - reproduced here in full - from the Co-Partners' Magazine (The Gas Light and Coke Company). It is the second of two archive stories we've shared this week.

At Cadent, we are looking forward to helping the UK achieve its net zero targets, yet we will always remember and be proud of the achievements of those who built our industry over its 210-year history.

36 HOURS AT 60


Dogged determination, allied to great courage, wins a British Empire Medal for J. J. Bryant, Foreman. W. Scarborough, Assistant Foreman, who accompanied J. J. Bryant on his dangerous mission, earns a Commendation for Brave Conduct.

During an exceptionally severe raid on London, news came through that a big works was on fire.

J. J. Bryant, the Foreman responsible for the area, was asked to go to the spot to try to close the valves and shut off the supply of gas. Although Mr. Bryant had been on duty ever since eight o’clock, that morning, and it was now evening, he went off, accompanied by a volunteer, W. Scarborough.

The bombing had been, and still was, intensive. The men had to walk because hoses from the fire pumps covered the roads, making them impassable for vehicles. They had to pick their way over the hoses, around bomb craters, and dodge through shrapnel and falling masonry. Arrived at the factory, the men found it impossible to close the valve because fire brigade equipment was parked over it.

Having attempted the job laid upon him, Bryant might well have left with a clear conscience, but although bombs were raining down, he doggedly determined to do what he could to help save other buildings, also on fire.

After this, Messrs. Bryant and Scarborough continued to visit any address where they heard bombs had been dropped, in the hope of rendering some service. In one place bombs had fallen close to a school where hundreds of women and children had been taken to safety. To make sure there was no danger from gas to these refugees, the two men went there to examine the installation. As they made their way through the blazing area, literally dozens of bombs fell, and time and again they had to fling themselves down where they stood.

The two men continued their rounds all night, finally stumbling into their Depot at five o’clock in the morning. Even then their work was not finished. There was so much to do that their services were needed, and they remained at work until eight o’clock the next evening – a continuous stretch of thirty-six hours.

Mr. Bryant is nearly sixty years old, and during the whole period of the aerial bombardment he has shown amazing courage and devotion to duty, working with a will to do all that is humanly possible to enable the gas supply to be maintained.

So many cool and gallant actions have been performed during the past few months that it is difficult to pick out individual cases, but those who know the full facts agree that for heroism and endurance Mr Bryant’s thirty-six hours’ stretch of duty would be difficult to beat.

Did you know?

London’s Regional Gas Centre, a mutual aid association set up by the capital’s gas companies to co-ordinate civil defence, was to officially record 12,226 broken gas pipelines during the Second World War, of which 407 were large 24-inch trunk gas mains.

Cadent

Cadent is the UK’s largest gas distribution network with a 200-year legacy.  We are in a unique position to build on strong foundations whilst encouraging the curiosity to think differently and the courage to embrace change.  Day to day we continue to operate, maintain and innovate the UK’s largest gas network, transporting gas safely and protecting people in an emergency.   Our skilled engineers and specialists remain committed to the communities we serve, working day and night to ensure gas reaches 11 million homes from Cumbria to North London and the Welsh Borders to East Anglia, to keep your energy flowing. 

Cadent manages the national gas emergency service free phone line on behalf of the gas industry - 0800 111 999*

Cadent Gas Ltd is majority owned by a consortium of global investors.

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Media contacts

Kevin Hegarty

kevin.hegarty@cadentgas.com

07970 694 897