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17-year-old risks life to save men from drowning at sea

Year 1946

Read by Coral Gurney – Life Governor, Royal Humane Society

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Ravani, Alan Edward

Stanhope Gold Medal 1946

Two Flight Sergeants, R.A.F., left Brighton for Newhaven about 2.30p.m. on the 9th September, 1946, in an 11 ft. dinghy with outboard motor. About 3.30 p.m., when off Portobello Outfall Works, Peacehaven, the dinghy shipped a heavy sea which cut out the motor and before the water could be baled, another sea came onboard causing the boat to fill up and float level with the surface. The two men paddled about for about one hour, before being swept towards the beach by the onshore wind, and their cries for help being eventually heard when about one mile out. Both men by this time were suffering from cramp and were more or less helpless, and would have sunk but for the support of the waterlogged boat.

Ravani (aged 17 1/2), who was working in his parent’s shop at Telscombe Cliffs, was informed by a man who ran in to telephone the Police that two men were in difficulties out at sea. Ravani ran 350 yards to the cliff edge, saw the men supporting themselves on the waterlogged boat, slid down a wire on to the beach (which is often used for that purpose as no other ready means of access to the beach) ran to the Sewer Outfall where some men were working, and was advised by them not to enter the sea there due to the swirl and dangerous current off the “Barrell” of the Sewer Outfall Pipe.

Ravani then proceeded further along the beach until almost in line with the boat, removed his outer clothing and swam out to the men, one of whom was sitting in the waterlogged boat and the other hanging on to the stern. He then pushed the boat towards the shore until it grounded and all were helped ashore by the onlookers, police, etc., who had assembled by then. Ravani was very exhausted by his efforts, all three being taken to hospital by ambulance, but allowed to leave later.

The rescue was effected about 4.30 p.m. in the face of numerous difficulties, i.e. in a rough sea, ebb tide and onshore wind. Dangerous current around the Sewer Outfall Pipe, rocky cliffs without ready access to the beach, and no boats in the vicinity.

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