Life Saving Awards Research Society Journal

Book Review

Young, Lambton, Acts of Gallantry, reprinted by Naval and Military Press (1997), hardback, 328 pages.

Fevyer, William H, Acts of Gallantry, Volume 2, 1871-1950, published by Naval and Military Press (1996), hardback, 182 pages.

It is now a century and a quarter since Lambton Young's original volume of Acts of Gallantry was published as a detailed account of each deed of bravery in saving life from drowning in all parts of the world for which the gold and silver medals and clasps of the Royal Humane Society have been awarded from 1830 to 1871. Young's work - its numerous omissions notwithstanding - continues to be an invaluable tool for anyone with an interest in lifesaving awards and, although it was reprinted in small numbers some years ago, it has always been a difficult volume to obtain.
If the scarcity of copies of Lambton Young's book has been a cause of much unhappiness amongst collectors of lifesaving awards, it has equally long been a matter of regret that no comparable work existed to cover the period afler 1871.
This deficiency has thankfully now been in part addressed by Bill Feyver, who has produced a volume which deserves to find a place on every serious collector's bookshelf. The work comprises a complete roll of the winners of the RHS Silver Medal and Stanhope Medal from 1871 to 1950, with detailed citations being provided for all 684 recipients. Indices are provided not only of the names of the silver and Stanhope medallists, but also of those who were awarded bronze medals or testimonials for their supporting roles in the rescues. The accounts of these rescues contained in the medal citations make enthralling reading in their own right, but they also give an acute insight into the subtly shifting role of the RHS which, by the latter part of the ninteenth century, was far more closely involved in regarding gallantry on land -- for example in collieries, sewers, and blast furnaces -- than had been the case in its earlier years.
There is much in this volume that will be of interest to marine and military historians, for the RHS has always been quick to reward members of the armed services and the officers and men of our merchant and fishing fleets. The layout is simple, attractive and accessible, and the reader can be quietly reassured by the author's unrivalled reputation for accurate and painstaking research. Indeed, a close examination of the volume highlighted one error, an Italian recipient of the Silver Medal in 1917 being listed as Lanternari Guido rather than Guido Lanternari. Even here however it would be unjust to apportion any blame to the author, who is merely guilty of having perpetuated an error present in the Society's own records.
Bill Fevyer is to be congratulated on his latest work, which must surely become as indispensible as Lambton Young's. Congratulations are also due to the Naval and Military Press not only for undertaking the publication of the second volume of Acts of Gallantry, but also for simultaneously having reprinted a limited number of copies of the original work. Work on a third volume is nearing completion. This will reproduce the citations for all multiple awards of the Society's bronze medal, in addition to providing details of post-1950 Silver Medals and Stanhope awards. Its publication is eagerly awaited. (Reviewed by Craig Barclay, Secretary, Lifesaving Awards Research Society)

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