AN appeal has been launched to help trace the family of a hero train driver who died in Winsford.

Wallace ‘Wally’ Oakes sacrificed his life on June 5, 1965 in an effort to stop the train he was driving as it was coming into Winsford station after a fire broke out inside.

He was awarded the George Cross – the second highest award in the honours system, behind the Victoria Cross – in October 1965.

Wally, who lived in Wheelock Heath, Sandbach, was laid to rest in unmarked grave in St Matthew’s Churchyard in Haslington.

Railway journalist Geoff Courtney discovered this while he was researching for an article.

He now wants to appeal to see if there are any living members of Wally’s family, to seek permission to give Wally a proper headstone.

“I felt strongly as a railway enthusiast that a hero had sacrificed his life to save his passengers is in an unmarked grave. It’s incredibly sad,” Geoff said.

“From a human point of view, what he did deserves recognition, even if it a small headstone, it doesn’t have to be grand, just a small plaque on the grave.

“It is an awful state that someone who sacrificed their lives to save their passengers in in an unmarked grave.”

Geoff spoke to the church’s vicar, Jules Walker, who confirmed that it was Wally Oakes’ grave was unmarked.

He said that if the appeal bore no fruit, Rev Jules would raise the matter with the appropriate church authorities to see if they would allow a headstone to be erected.

The only traces of family he has been able to trace is from a newspaper article more than 20 years ago, which was an appeal to trace the owner of the George Cross medal after it had been sold on.

Geoff understands from his research that Wally’s widow may have sold the medal after falling on hard times.

“Around 1996 I believe he had a relative, Jene Oakes and sister, Audrey,” Geoff said.

“I would love to talk to anyone of these relatives to see if they would be happy, if not to pay themselves, to allow me to put a headstone on his grave.”

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