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Man saves three soldiers stuck on cliff

Year 1949

Read by Dr. Justin Semsprott – Supporter, Royal Humane Society

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Saunders, Harold Wright, Auxiliary Coastguard, Bindon Hill, West Lulworth, Dorset.

At “Cockpit” Cliff, Bindon Hill, West Lulworth, Dorset.

At 6 p.m. on 11th September, 1949, three young soldiers were walking along the beach under the cliffs when they found themselves being cut off by the tide. Two climbed up the cliff face but stuck, one falling 40 feet, and the third climbed up to assist the first two. Eventually, as darkness fell, all three were stuck 150 feet up the cliff, a sheer precipice 530 feet high, and were faced with dangerous crumbling rock.

The alarm was given by the Army authorities, and the Volunteer Auxiliary Coastguard called out. They were transported to the cliff top in tanks, arriving at 6.40 p.m. From the top of the cliff one man could be seen so Mr. Saunders was lowered with a spare line. He attached this to the man who was then lowered to the beach, 150 feet below. The first man rescued cast off the line which Mr. Saunders had hauled up for the rescue of the second man.

The second man rescued gave most trouble as he had lost his nerve. Mr. Saunders Lowered him until he disappeared out of sight, but then the line went slack and Mr. Saunders had him hauled up again. The man said that he could not face the descent, so, with this consideration in mind and also knowing that the rising tide was covering what was left of the beach, Mr. Saunders decided to have him hauled up to the cliff top, Mr. Saunders accompanying him. During the ascent loose rocks fell down on the climbers. Mr. Saunders was saved from injury by the helmet he wore, but his lanyard and whistle were carried away.

The rescue of the third man had now to be attempted. It was completely dark and a searchlight had been sent for but, as it would be some time before this arrived, Mr. Saunders decided to go down with a spare line and hurricane lamp. Owing to the crumbling nature of the cliff, Mr. Saunders decided to be lowered to the side of the stranded man not from directly above him. He got to the estimated distance down and traversed right calling to the man without reply. He then traversed left, and, after a while, found himself below the third man. He was then hauled up and, at 11.25 p.m., secured the third man and both were hauled to safety. The whole rescue took nearly six hours, and Mr. Saunders had been on the cliff face for four hours in rescuing the three men.

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