Home > 250th Anniversary Stories > Apprentice saves lives after explosion on Motor Torpedo Boat

Apprentice saves lives after explosion on Motor Torpedo Boat

Year 1940

Read by Tom Gaymor – Ambassador, Royal Humane Society

Please share...
Share on InstagramShare on LinkedIn
Play Video

Robbins, James., Fitter, Flathouse Quay, Portsmouth.

At 9.20 a.m. on the 26th September, 1940, at Flathouse Quay, Portsmouth, a Motor Torpedo Boat was lying alongside with some 1,500 gallons of petrol on board, when an explosion occurred, followed by a very serious fire on board, and many petrol fires started in the sea. Fitter James Robbins, badly injured in the head, together with Thomas A. Wilkins, Leslie Jones and T. Harrison, were blown into the sea. Two other persons lost their lives, and eighteen were seriously injured.

Robbins, in spite of scalp wounds, burns and shock sustained by himself, seized and supported Wilkins, who was seriously injured, until relieved by Percy le Clercq.

Apprentice Fitter Percy le Clercq dived 20 feet from the quay fully clad, swam about 20 yards to the burning Motor Torpedo Boat, and taking the injured Wilkins from Robbins, brought him to the launch. He then swam to where Jones, also injured, was clinging to the Motor Torpedo Boat and took him to a dinghy.

Aircraftsman Charles W. Gard, Royal Air Force, who also dived from the quay fully clad, swam to the spot where it was believed Harrison had sunk. He dived repeatedly in the water covered with burning petrol in an effort to find Harrison, but without success. Harrison’s body was found in tangled wreckage later.

Both rescued men were non-swimmers. Danger of further explosions.

Silver Medal awarded to James Robbins, and Bronze Medals to Percy le Clercq and Aircraftsman Charles W. Gard.

Please share...
Share on InstagramShare on LinkedIn

More about the Royal Humane Society