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Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Henry James Hall’s Life Saving Award

Last year SAHPA requested examples, especially certificates, of a little known and short-lived Salvation Army Award presented for bravery to members of the Life-Saving Scouts and Guards. We were delighted to receive the following concerning one brave Salvation Army Scout from Guildford.

Henry James Hall was born on 26th September 1907 in Guildford, Surrey. He was the fourth of five children, the others all being girls. In 1918 Henry, apparently always regarded as being very active, joined the Guildford Troop of the Life Saving Scouts. Whilst playing near home one day in early 1919, he became aware of a boy who was swimming in the River Wey at Stoughton (a mile or so from the centre of Guildford) in danger of drowning. James jumped into the water and with some difficult, got the drowning boy to land, after which James promptly fainted with exhaustion.

According to the Salvation Army Year Book for 1920, James was one of ten people to receive an award (four silver medallions, four bronze and two certificates). James’ act of bravery was first announced in The Warrior and Life-Saving Scout and Guard for August 1919 where more details were given:

“Scout James Hall, of Guildford, rescued a boy of thirteen years of age who was sinking in exhaustion in the river at Guildford, by swimming out to him and bringing him safely to the bank, he himself then fainting from the strain of the effort needed to do this. A very plucky act indeed.”

The War Cry of 25th October 1919 devotes a column to a report of the Annual Display by the “Life-Saving Scouts and Guards of the World” held at the Congress Hall. The report states that the Chief of the Staff (Commissioner Higgins) presided over the displays and awards. When giving the awards, including to James, several of the recipients were so small that he sometimes “had to bend very low in order to pin the decorations to their breasts.”

The Young Soldier of 1st November 1919 devotes two columns to a very vivid description of the Annual gathering. This ranges from the “entry of Troops, the fanfares of heralds on their long, shining trumpets, the thirty standard-bearers, the buglers, the drums, (and) the battalions of scouts and Guards” to the award ceremony, each bulletin of rescue evoking “terrific applause.” Also seen was drill by a “squad of hefty lads” from the Congress Hall Scouts, displays of “children being ‘revived’ after a gas attack… (and) a life-sized baby doll was bathed, dressed, fed and laid to sleep,” musical displays, and a saving from fire display by North London Scouts.”

The Warrior and Life-Saving Scout and Guard for December 1919 carries another report of the Annual, written by the Territorial Organizer for the Life-Saving Scouts and Guides, Staff-Captain W. R. Dalziel. In it he mentions that the next day was the first Sunday Councils (in the Florence Booth Hall) for Scout and Guard Troop leaders. About 200 attended and after a morning address on “Character-building and Leadership” the afternoon included the opportunity for questions “to clear up doubtful points of regulation and administration.”

Pictured below is James’ certificate and a picture of his family. These have been identified as (back row) Doris, Winifred and Ellen, (middle row) Henry James Snr, Henry James Jnr, Ellen Mary (front) Irene (with her teddy Aloysius)!

 As a point of interest, we mentioned previously that the medal which triggered out interest had been awarded to Blanche Everett but nothing could be found about the circumstances of the award. It transpires that Blanche was also known as May and we can report that at the same ceremony as James, (May) Blanche Everett, Guard-Instructor of the 2nd Tottenham (listed as May Everett of the 1st Tottenham in the 1920 Year Book) was awarded a bronze medal and certificate for “diving fully dressed into the swimming baths and rescuing a woman in grave danger of drowning.”