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Frenchman saves four British holidaymakers from crash at sea

Year 1950

Read by Louise Bray – Supporter, Royal Humane Society

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Bulteaux, Roland

Stanhope Gold Medal 1950

In the Seine Estuary, Le Havre, France, M. Bulteaux saved four British subjects in the following circumstances:-

Four British nationals two men and two women, sailed from the Isle of Wight to Le Havre in a yacht for the Easter holiday in 1950. They encountered foul weather and after a night spent on board the yacht with the weather at gale force, reached Le Havre just before dawn on 9th April, 1950.

On arrival their auxiliary engine had ceased to function, and one of the men on board the yacht had lost the top of his finger while attempting to repair a defective rudder. He was bleeding freely. In the storm the yacht could not be worked and anchored in the harbour, but in water too shallow for regular tugs to operate in.

M. Bulteaux came to the sea wall and answered the signals of the four Britons on board the yacht. He realized that they needed both seamanlike and medical help, and as no regular salvage vessels could operate in the shoal water in which the yacht was anchored, secured the assistance of two volunteers and came out in a small fishing smack. With great difficulty they came alongside the British yacht, and M. Bulteaux leapt on board with a tow rope which he made fast to the yacht. This unfortunately parted on the strain being taken, so at considerable hazard, a second rope was passed and secured. This, in turn parted and the British yacht drifted on to the rocks 50 yards away and broke up. The rocks protruded 8 feet from the harbour wall and were covered with pounding waves. The harbour wall has an iron ladder up it but the top ten rungs had been removed during the German occupation and not replaced.

As soon as the vessel hit the rocks M. Bulteaux sprang ashore with a line but was washed away and found himself 30 feet from the wreck. With great difficulty he struggled back to the rocky ledge and secured a line to the ladder. Then he returned through the heavy seas and brought one lady and then the other to the ledge below the ladder. In the meantime the two men, one of whom was in considerable pain from his lost finger, had been swept away, and M. Bulteaux brought them to the ledge.

A crowd had gathered on the harbour walls and sent down ropes. All four Britons were then hauled to safety. M. Bulteaux, despite the fact that he had himself sustained abrasions, drove the most injured Briton to hospital. All four Britons were taken to hospital and detained with abrasions, M. Bulteaux was treated in hospital and allowed to go home.

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