Home > 250th Anniversary Stories > Major determined to rescue others despite conditions

Major determined to rescue others despite conditions

Year 1816, Morgan Waters

Read by Michael Bernard – Trustee, Royal Humane Society

Please share...
Share on InstagramShare on LinkedIn
Play Video
October 25, 1816

The General Court of November 1816, unanimously confirmed the recommendation of the Committee of the same month, to award the Honorary Medallion to a most gallant and meritorious officer, Major Rochfort, for the following highly interesting Case; and His Royal High- ness the Duke or KENT, as a testimonial of his high approbation, was graciously pleased to sign the Vote of the General Court in favour of the noble and benevolent Major.

To T. J. Pettigrew, Esq. Secretary, &c. of the Royal Humane Society. No. 6, Hurt-street, Bloomsbury, October 25, 1816.

Dear Sir,

With every feeling of respect for the benevolent and noble Institution, of which you are so worthy and efficient an Agent, I beg leave to address you on the meritorious conduct of Major Rochfort, H. B. M. Consul at Ostend, and I entreat your communicating to the Members of the Royal Humane Society, the following particulars, which I will endeavour to detail for their information.

On the evening of the 2nd September, between 8 and 9 o’clock, the Britannia packet, in attempting to enter the harbour of Ostend, was wrecked (near the spot where the Honourable Mrs. Carlton and family perished last year) with no less than thirty English passengers on board.

At the moment when this event took place, there was still remaining light sufficient as to afford the spectators from the shore a distinct view of the distressing scene. The weather, from having continued for some time tempestuous, had brought on a tremendous surf, which rendered it highly perilous to attempt the rescue of the unfortunate people on board; the vessel then being outside the piles, and a heavy sea breaking over the deck.

In this alarming crisis, Major Rochfort formed his resolution of either saving the sufferers, or perishing in the attempt. He instantly offered 10 guineas for any boat that would venture to take him through the surf; and a liberal reward to those who would assist, and join him in the hazardous enterprise. Neither, however, his offers nor his example had much effect on the feelings of the native seamen, who, I am sorry to remark, showed great apathy to the distressing scene.

Finding that not a moment was to be lost, the Major, in company with Captain Harvey, of the Rover, trader, four British seamen, and a brave Flemish youth, ventured of in a small boat. Every human effort was made to penetrate the breakers, and gain the vessel, but the waves finally overwhelmed their daring exertions. At this eventful moment, most providentially the Britannia, from the violence of the sea, broke through the double row of piles and got into smoother water, when the passengers and property were saved from certain destruction by the personal and animating example shown by our worthy countrymen.

This signal triumph of bravery in the most formidable difficulties and dangers, exhibits a conduct that belongs to the first class of merit, the character of which no one is more able justly to appreciate than the enlightened and humane Society, whom I have the honour of ad- dressing through your medium.

I have thus presumed to notice the exertions of a man, to whose kind attentions many of my friends have been greatly indebted, sincerely wishing that Major Rochfort, for this instance of intrepid daring, may be thought worthy of the favourable consideration and honourable distinction of the Royal Humane Society.

Should not the foregoing narrative be deemed sufficient to meet the object and intention of your excellent Institution, permit me to inform you, that Major Rochfort took out of the canal at Toulouse, a young woman, Toinette Mona, to al appearance dead, who was recovered, and afterwards married to a British soldier.

On another occasion, when embarked on board a transport for the Cape of Good Hope, at Portsmouth,

corporal Armstrong fell overboard; there was much wind and a strong tide running out to sea, Major Rochfort immediately leaped

after him, and saved him, though quite exhausted with his exertions. I have the honour to be, Sir,

Your most obedient humble servant, MORGAN WATERS.

Please share...
Share on InstagramShare on LinkedIn

More about the Royal Humane Society