Famous Award Winners
Alexander I of Russia
Alexander I, Tsar of all the Russias, is perhaps the most illustrious person ever to have won a Royal Humane Society medal. In 1806, he was awarded a Gold Medal for having saved the life of a Polish peasant while out riding. After three hours, when the young man began to show signs of recovery, the Tsar is supposed to have exclaimed: "Good God, this is the brightest day of my life!"
Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Isambard Kingdom Brunel is famous the world over for designing and building bridges, tunnels and iron-clad ships. In 2002 he came second in a BBC poll to find the Greatest Briton. But what is less well known is that in 1828 Brunel was awarded a Royal Humane Society Silver Medal for his bravery in rescuing five men in two separate incidents during the building of the Thames Tunnel.
Grace Darling was just 22 years old when she helped her father, William, rescue nine people shipwrecked off the north-east coast of England in 1838. She became an instant national heroine. The following year, both Grace and William were awarded specially struck Royal Humane Society gold medals.
David Hempleman-Adams, the explorer and mountaineer, has a unique place in recent Royal Humane Society history as the only person to have won two Bronze Medals: the first in 1997 for helping to rescue a man who'd fallen through the Arctic ice, and the second in 2002 for leading the rescue of a man taken ill on Mount Everest.
Bram Stoker, the author of the horror story, Dracula, won a Royal Humane Society Bronze Medal in 1882 for attempting to save a man from the River Thames. At the time, Stoker was Assistant Manager of the Lyceum Theatre in the West End of London. His famous novel would appear 15 years later in 1897.
Captain Matthew Webb
Captain Matthew Webb achieved fame in 1875 as the first person to swim the English Channel. A year earlier, he had achieved another first when he won the newly introduced Royal Humane Society Stanhope Medal for his attempt to rescue a seaman from the Atlantic. Webb later described winning this prestigious award as "one of the most fortunate coincidences" of his life.
Duncan Goodhew became a national hero in 1980 when he won the Olympic Gold Medal in the 100 metres breaststroke race in Moscow. Twenty years later, he won his award from us for a very different reason. He saw an elderly man in a suit collapsed. It looked as though he'd had a heart attack... Goodhew went over, loosened the man's collar and started to give him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. The collapsed man was taken to hospital and, thanks to Goodhew's prompt help, lived to tell the tale. It was only later that Goodhew found out that he had saved the life of a senior politician, the Labour MP, the Rt Hon Robert Sheldon - now Lord Sheldon.