Crash hero to be handed bravery award by the Queen
PUBLISHED: 13:35 06 January 2009 | UPDATED: 07:09 30 May 2010
A DUNMOW hero, championed by the Broadcast 13 months ago, will be going to Buckingham Palace to receive an award for his amazing bravery. George Kevin Francis, from Duton Hill, will receive the Queen s Gallantry Medal from the Queen herself. An ecstatic M
A DUNMOW hero, championed by the Broadcast 13 months ago, will be going to Buckingham Palace to receive an award for his amazing bravery.
George Kevin Francis, from Duton Hill, will receive the Queen's Gallantry Medal from the Queen herself.
An ecstatic Mr Francis told the Broadcast: "It was the best Christmas present ever. I had been away with my family, so to come back and find a letter from the Ministry of Defence saying I had won the award was unbelievable.
"It made me feel really amazing, but it still really has not sunk in. I just kept reading it over and over again."
Mr Francis, 48, was nominated for the award by officers in the RAF who had witnessed his bravery during a major air crash at Duxford Airfield in September 2006. Then, an aircraft he was flying with best friend, Alan Walker, stalled shortly after take off and smashed into the ground in a fireball.
With the cockpit smoke-filled, Mr Francis used a canopy hammer - a small heavy metal knife - to force his way out. He then showed incredible bravery to go back into the burning plane to rescue his flying buddy.
He said: "I looked back at the crash and was astonished, adrenaline was pumping through me and I couldn't feel any pain. By this point Alan was still trapped inside the aircraft screaming for help.
"I just acted on instinct - I crawled over and managed to trigger the emergency canopy release, it blew 50ft into the air and landed 20ft away from me."
He dragged Mr Walker out of the cockpit and away to a safe distance, saving his life. Amazingly, both men made a full recovery.
Mr Francis, an aircraft enthusiast and restorer, was hailed for his bravery but has always remained very modest about the incident. That didn't stop him winning a prestigious award at an RAF dinner and awards night in November 2007, or featuring on our front page.
"I was awarded with the Hugh Gordon-Burge Memorial Award and my dad persuaded me to talk to a local paper," he added. "I was very honoured to be featured on the front page of the Broadcast all those months ago. Afterwards I had people stop me in the street to say well done and wish me well."
Although a date has yet to be fixed, Mr Francis will be travelling to London to collect his award later this year when he will be standing alongside heroes from the July 7 terrorist attacks.
He said: "I can't wait to get there and hopefully I can take someone with me to capture the moment.