On the night of 12th to 13th March 1941, police officer Sergeant Harold Claydon, was primarily responsible for the rescue of ten people buried beneath the ruins of a tenement building hit by a devastating land mine. His bravery on that night earned him the award of the George Medal.
Harold Claydon was born in Peckham on 30th December 1907. Aged about 20 he joined the Liverpool City Police, being promoted to Sergeant in 1938. The additional pay which would have followed his promotion would have been very welcome as a year earlier he had married Minnie Southern, who had been born in Woolton in 1915.
On the night of the raid Harold Claydon was on plain clothes duty at Hatton Garden Police Station. He had already been busy dealing with incendiary bombs dropped near the station when a parachute mine exploded on a row of two storeyed tenements in Adlington Street. Claydon organised the police and civilians into parties and began search and rescue work. He was told that a woman was trapped in number 8, the house which had taken the full force of the explosion. Finding it impossible to move the large concrete slabs and iron work collapsed from the upper floors he started to tunnel into the debris, effectively with just his bare hands. After about 20 minutes he had managed to create a narrow tunnel and was able to pull two women to safety. he then made another entry into the debris and found 70 year old Mrs Fagerass lying semi-conscious and partly trapped by rubble and timber. He managed to free her and drag her to safety despite her weighing 16 stone. By this time he was suffering from exposure to gas fumes leaking in the debris but he insisted on returning to the tunnel. He found a number of people inside in a tiny space, some alive (including a young child) some dead. Frighteningly, given the presence of gas, he could see that the embers of a fire were still burning in a grate. He knew by this time he could not continue much longer so he concentrated on clearing rubble and timber so others could pull them out. After passing the child out he emerged from the rubble but soon collapsed and was taken to hospital unconscious.
Throughout the rescue Harold Claydon knew his life was in danger from either a collapse of the tons of rubble above him or the explosion of the gas. Totally undaunted he bravely completed these rescues until overcome by the gas.
He continued in the police after the war, being promoted again to Inspector. He retired in 1967 and died aged 83 in 1991.
Harold Claydon lived here from the time of his marriage in 1937 until his death in 1991.
The article in the Liverpool Echo on 6th June 1941 announcing the award of the George Medal.
Adlington Street after the explosion of the parachute mine
The full recommendation for his George Medal submitted by the Chief Constable, together with the supporting statements of witnesses, can be viewed on Ancestry.com. There is also an article at the Liverpool City Police history website.
© Liverpool Footprints