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Rescue from a burning ship in rough seas achieved at great risk

Year 1909

Read by Commander Richard De La Mare – Supporter, Royal Humane Society

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Bouttell, Thomas, Able Seaman, R.N., H.M.S. Glory.

Stanhope Gold Medal 1909

At 11.30 a.m. on the 25th November, 1908, the s.s. Sardinia was ashore off Ricasoli, Malta, and burning fiercely, a heavy sea running at the time.

A sailing pinnace from H.M.S. Glory, with a crew of sixteen men, was endeavouring to rescue passengers and approached her weather quarter, and for a short time established communication by means of a rope, down which four Arabs climbed into the boat. At that moment, however, owing to the heavy sea and the boat’s anchor dragging, the officer in charge was forced to haul away from the ship. Meanwhile three Arabs lowered themselves down the ship’s side until they were awash and were being thrown heavily against the ship’s side with each succeeding sea. Two were picked up, but the third man became in some way entangled with the rope and was in great distress, collapsing from the effects of the submersion and knocking about.

A volunteer being called for, Able Seaman Thomas Bouttell sprang overboard, successfully detached the man from the rope, and supported him for a sufficient time to enable a customs whaler to pick them both up.

Great danger incurred, as there had been frequent explosions on board the ship up to that time; and, owing to the fierceness of the flames in many places, the ship’s side was nearly red hot.

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