In recalling events and heroics from World War II, most are quick to speak about Hitler, the Holocaust, the beaches of Normandy, and purple hearts. As these things well deserve the attention they receive, not all war-bound heroics are of such magnitude and recognition. There are a few who still remember what a lone teenager did with a crane.
At the age of 14 Charlie Carraban left his home in Ireland and came to England, where he began working at a coal yard in Redditch. In February 1941 a government official came to the yard because the crane needed to be transported to Saltley Gas Works some 30 miles away, where a lorry was to pick it up. In waiting for this, the Saltley plant was bombed and the lorry no more coming, but the crane still needed to be transported. At the age of 17, having never driven a crane before, Carraban decided he would drive the crane to its destination, with assistance of fellow workers.
The crane was 40 ft high and traveled only 5 mph. Carraban had to drive it 30 miles, in the midst of air raids and icy wet roads, while rescuing victims of German bombers in the process. He miraculously managed to drive the crane into a bombed building with a victim family inside, and dig them out to safety. At one point, a German aircraft pelted the crane with bullet holes and was shot down by one George Fox with a rifle as the aircraft attempted a second assault.
It took three days in these conditions to arrive at the Saltley Gas Works destination, and Carraban operated the crane the whole time.
Charlie Carraban died at age 90 on April 10, 2007 in the Alexandria Hospital. Until his death, Carraban was spoken of as a family man. The sole accomplishment of driving a crane 30 miles, with German aircraft overhead and icy slippery roads, having never driven a crane before, is enough to remember and recognize. Even more admirable, was the rescuing of a family in the process. To this day, Carraban is known as one of the “heroes of Redditch.”