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Lives saved in Gibraltar Bay

Year 1880

Read by Victoria Becher – Supporter, Royal Humane Society

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Aitken, F.M., Lieut., 93rd Highlanders.
Middleton, A.H., Lieut., 93rd Highlanders.
Orde, C.R., Lieut., Rifle Brigade.

On the 28th November, 1880, they were out sailing in Gibraltar Bay in a yawl belonging to the officers of the 93rd Highlanders.

At 6 o’clock p.m. the wind, which had been blowing hard all day, suddenly dropped, and an attempt was made to tow the yawl by the means of the dinghy, in which Mr. Campbell and Private Buchanan commenced rowing. The other officers manned the sweeps of the larger boat, keeping the mainsail and jib set. The wind suddenly sprung up and the yawl forged ahead, dragging the other boat swiftly through the water; at this juncture an attempt was made to transfer the tow line from the stern to the bow of the dinghy, and in doing so, the boat became swamped, immersing Mr. Campbell and the soldier. The latter succeeded in reaching the yawl at once, but Mr. Campbell was unable to see the boats in the darkness, and after swimming a considerable time, became exhausted and found himself sinking.

Mr. Aitken, who was steering the yawl at the time of the accident, seized a life-buoy and jumped overboard without divesting himself of clothing, and swam to the assistance of his brother officer. Mr. Middleton followed only removing some of his clothes, and taking with him another life-buoy. After swimming about fifty yards they heard Mr. Campbell calling for help; they went in the direction of the sound, and at first could see nothing until the phosphorescent light in the disturbed water showed where Mr. Campbell had gone down.

Mr. Aitken dived and succeeded in reaching the body, but owing to Mr. Campbell’s struggles and the loss of his life-buoy, he had difficulty in keeping on the surface and holding the other. Mr. Middleton then arrived and assisted in placing the other life-buoy under Mr. Campbell; in doing so, the three officers sank several times.

Mr. Orde in the meantime went overboard, swam to the dinghy, then forty yards off, and brought it to the officers; they succeeded in making Mr. Campbell hold on to it, and shouted to Private Buchanan to pull on the attached tow rope. Mr. Campbell then became unconscious, and the dinghy, which hitherto had floated right way up now, turned over.

Mr. Middleton then succeeded in getting Campbell on the keel, and with Mr. Orde’s assistance they reached the yawl. It was now found that Mr. Aitken was missing; they went in the dinghy and found him 250 yards off. Thunder and lightning with heavy rain continued all the time.

The case was sent by desire of His Royal Highness the Field Marshall Commanding-in-Chief, strongly recommending the above named officers for honorary reward, especially Lieutenant Aitken.

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