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Courage of weak swimmer saves two lives

Year 1801, Captain Buller

Read by Rob Gurney – Life Governor and Liaison Officer, Royal Humane Society

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September 15, 1801


His Majesty’s Ship Achille, off Rochfort, Sept. 15.

Sir, — The conduct of two gentlemen of this ship has been so meritorious, and I consider myself under such infinite obligations to them for their exertions, that I conceive I should be very reprehensible was I not to state the circumstances to you for your approbation, and to beg you will have the goodness to forward it to the Board of the Humane Society for their commendation, with any remarks you may think proper to honour it with.

Three days ago a man fell overboard, you could not swim ; — Lieutenant Stewart, then at dinner, hearing the confusion such accidents occasion on deck, ran to the wardroom window, and, seeing the perilous situation the man was in (absolutely in the act of sinking) , jumped overboard, with his boots and clothes on, brought the man up from under the water, and had the happiness to see that his exertions were the providential means of restoring life to a very valuable man.

The night before last a young gentleman fell overboard at 8 o’clock, it being very dark, and tremendous sea; — the ship going near four knots. — Nothing it seemed, was to intimidate this valuable officer, Lieutenant Stewart, from endeavouring to render service to any person in so distressing a situation; he jumped overboard, attended by Mr. Fitzgerald the Purser, and, after swimming about in different directions for 20 minutes, they had the good fortune to recover an only and valuable youth, who was several feet under water. Lieutenant Stewart swims very indifferently; and I hope, the time Mr. Fitzgerald was in the water may not do him material injury, as his health has been for some time past in a very precarious state.

From the darkness of the night, and the ship going so fast through the water, obliges me to think it one of the boldest undertakings I have ever witnessed; — and I trust it will be considered by you highly commendable, and worthy of being know by you to the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, and the Royal Humane Society.

E. Buller
Captain of the Achille.

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