John ‘Buster’ Cain

  •  Rank Civillian
  • Age 15 in 1941

Buster Cain lived with his family at Hindle House Arcola Street and worked on his parent’s Fruit and Vegetable stall in Ridley Road Market. Diminutive Buster at 5’7” was well known in the market for his chirpy cockney personality and trademark trilby hat.

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Buster working on the family stall in Ridley Road Market

On 1st November 1940 during the Blitz a bomb hit Reeves and Sons Ltd. paint factory in Ashwin Street Dalston and soon after the whole building was ablaze. Four police officers arrived at the scene and were joined by Buster who knew there were several people trapped in the private basement shelter underneath the fire. Buster and the policemen fearlessly entered the building and fought their way through extremely dangerous conditions of burning paint and live wires to rescue the trapped people carrying them out on doors and planks of wood; shortly after the people were rescued from the basement the whole interior of the building collapsed. Had the rescue not been carried out there would have been no possibility of escape.

Following his act of bravery Buster Cain became the youngest person to be awarded the George Medal at 15 years old. The George Medal was awarded by King George VI to civilians who performed ‘acts of bravery’. He received his medal from the King shortly after his 16th birthday at Buckingham Palace; the King’s tailor made him a special suit for the day. Buster became an international hero as his story was reported in newspapers around the world.

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The headline story as reported in the Hackney Gazette

Later Buster joined the army and at the end of the war he got married. Buster and his family continued to work on the market stalls in Ridley Road where they had traded from the early 1900’s up until the 1980’s.


Sources:

  • Hackney Gazette 24th March 1941