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14 year of schoolboy saves 2 year old trapped in a well

Year 1943

Read by Gus Chapman – Supporter, Royal Humane Society

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On the morning of the 6th January, 1943, Neville Roberts, aged two, was playing near a well which supplies water to a boarding house named Bonnie Banks at Parys, Orange Free State, South Africa. The well is 70 yards from the house, is 40 ft. in depth, containing deep water. It is 8 ft. in diameter, surrounded by a low concrete border and covered with an iron platform with a loose sheet of iron in a dilapidated state, and just large enough to cover the hole.

Drake had just passed the well, and hearing a sound looked back and noticed that the child Roberts had disappeared. He ran back and peering into the well shouted “Neville” and saw the child’s head sink below water. He at once, without waiting to summon assistance, lowered himself into the mouth of the well and dropped into the water. Recovering the child he then discerned for the first time a pipe running up the side of the well to the pump above. Using this he climbed up to a point underneath the iron platform with the child in his arms. By this time two young natives who had heard Drake shout arrived and assisted to pull the child out through the hole from the arms of the boy Drake.

The natives in their excitement, took the child to the house, forgetting all about the now exhausted Drake, clinging to the pipe underneath the platform. He managed to get out through the 2 ft. aperture in the centre of the platform, but was in such a dazed state that he has never been able to explain how he did get out, and it is still a mystery.

The child recovered consciousness after a considerable time, but was speechless and motionless for two days. The promptitude with which Drake accepted the appalling risk of dropping into the well without assistance at hand indicates great courage and devotion. Without such promptitude the child’s life would hardly have been saved.

The Stanhope Gold Medal and Bronze Medal was awarded to Francis C. Drake.

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