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French Captain saves life of shipwrecked sailor

Year 1825

Read by Michael Bernard – Trustee, Royal Humane Society

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March 4, 1825

Dunkerque.

I have the honour to communication to you the result of a most humane and persevering application of the means proposed by the Royal Humane Society for restoring suspended animation, as exercised by a French Captain in this port towards an English sailor, and which I hope the Society will consider deserving of a medal. In this country, many wear decorations and medals for having destroyed life, while few are seen for having saved it.

In the severe storm of Friday the 4th of February, a British sloop called the Thomas and Eleanor, of Whitby, coming in ballast into this harbour, missed the port and was driven onshore. The Captain was washed overboard and drowned; a cabin-boy was so exhausted by fatigue, that he died in removing from the vessel; and another of the crew, about eighteen years of age, named James Wood, of Lynn, in Norfolk, was apparently dead also, and, with the two surviving sailors almost senseless, was placed in a hut on the shore, to await some formalities before they could be brought into town.

The lad James Wood had so little appearance of life, that he was placed by the corpse of the cabin-boy; when a French Captain, named John Morel, instigated by the most honourable feeling, was permitted by the sentinel to enter the hut on stating that he had some restoratives for the shipwrecked men.

Capt. Morel directly tore off his own clothes, to get at his flannel waistcoat, with which he chafed the lad’s limbs, and in this he was seconded by Mr Salomey, a ship broker: he procured a hot brick, which he placed on the young man’s body, and almost by main strength he forced open the mouth, to insert a piece of wood to prevent the mouth closing, and he continued his humane efforts with ceaseless perseverance for an hour and five minute, when the lad shewed signs of life.

Capt. Morel then carried him to his own house, and consummated the good work he had thus begun by restoring the youth to health and vigour; so much so, that he was enabled to return to England, perfectly recovered, on the 14th ult.

Capt. Morel, unassuming as he is humane, makes no boast of this, feeling amply rewarded by the success of his exertions, which must, I trust, more strongly recommend him to the favourable consideration of the Directors of your valuable Institution.

On 4th June, Captain Morel was sent the Society’s Silver Medal for his life-saving.

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