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Man undertakes dangerous sea voyage to help friend and in doing so saves another life

Year 1896

Read by Martin Constable – Supporter, Royal Humane Society

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Swann, Alfred J., British Central African Administration.

On the evening of the 7th July, 1896, Alfred J. Swann, of the British Central African Administration, hired an open boat for the purpose of conveying a wounded European across Lake Nyassa to enable medical advice to be obtained. There was great danger in undertaking this voyage during the night, the aspect of the weather being threatening.

Nothing daunted, Mr. Swann determined to make the attempt, and taking with him a native crew and his wounded friend, set out. During the night a strong south-westerly gale sprang up, and his black crew became cold and frightened and lay down under their mats to die.

About 2 a.m. on the morning of the 8th, the sea being exceedingly rough, he was unable to keep enough sail on the boat to run away from it, and a huge wave came over the quarter, washing one of the boatmen overboard. Instantly catching hold of the main-sheet, Mr. Swann jumped after him, and being a good swimmer caught the man as he rose to the surface, and by means of the rope attached to the main-sheet succeeded in reaching the boat, into which, without assistance from any of the crew, he hauled the man, who was so thoroughly prostrated as to be unable to render his rescuer the least help.

The night was dark, a heavy sea running, and the distance from land about fifteen miles, so that considerable risk was incurred.

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