Life Saving Awards from the Collection of John Wilson

Date of Auction: 25th March 2013


Estimate: £3,000 - £3,500

The remarkable group of life saving awards awarded to Bathing Superintendent Frank Shooter, who was credited with saving some 300 lives

Royal Humane Society, small silver medal (successful) (Frank Shooter, 16 July 1884) with silver brooch bar inscribed, ‘Royal Humane Society’; Royal Humane Society, small bronze medal (successful) (Frank Shooter, 5 June 1873) with bronze, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Award clasps, dated respectively: ‘7 August 1874’, ‘31 July 1877’, ‘4 June 1883’, and ‘7 July 1884’, with bronze brooch bar inscribed, ‘Royal Humane Society’; Private Life Saving Medal, 36mm., silver ‘J.G. Clarke saved from drowning by Constle Shooter July 1873’, reverse ornately engraved, with ornate silver brooch bar; Private Life Saving Medal, 36mm., silver ‘To Frank Shooter in remembrance of his Gallant Conduct on the 13th June 1875 in saving from drowning his grateful friends W.E & T.C.’, reverse ornately engraved, ‘FS’, with ornate silver brooch bar; Private Life Saving Medal, 32mm., silver ‘Presented to F. Shooter by H. Saunders for saving his life while bathing at Head Weir July 1876’, reverse engraved ‘F.S.’, with ornate silver brooch bar; Private Life Saving Medal, 36mm., silver, ‘For restoring life’, reverse inscribed, ‘Presented to Const. Shooter by E.A. Casely’, with ornate silver brooch bar, very fine (6) £3000-3500


Ex W. P. Dawson Collection.

R.H.S. Bronze Medal (Case No. 19165): At 6.30 pm on 5th June 1873, F. Prothero (16) sank whilst bathing at the Head Weir at Exeter in nine to ten feet of water. Frank Shooter, bathing attendant, jumped into the river and with considerable difficulty and risk brought the exhausted Prothero to land.

R.H.S. 1st Bronze Clasp (Case No. 19,503: At 7.30 am on the 7th August 1874, E.H. Gibbon (15) sank whilst bathing in the River Exe at Exeter in seven feet of water. Frank Shooter, bathing attendant, jumped into the river with all his clothes on, swam to the lad, and brought him to the bank in an exhausted condition.

R.H.S. 2nd Bronze Clasp (Case No. 20,230): At 5.30 pm on the 31st July 1877, William Knott, (24) Private of the 11th Regiment, sank whilst bathing in the River Exe at Exeter in 12 to 15 feet of water. Frank Shooter, bathing attendant, plunged into the river and rescued the exhausted man with difficulty.

R.H.S. 3rd Bronze Clasp (Case No. 22,058): At 7.15 pm on 4th June 1883, H. Standlake (23) was learning to swim in the River Exe when he accidentally got out of his depth at a point where the River Exe was 55 yards wide and ten to 12 feet deep. Frank Shooter (33) was in a boat some distance off when the man disappeared beneath the surface. Without waiting to divest himself of clothing, he dived and succeeded in finding him and in bringing him unconscious to the bank where he was revived.

R.H.S. 4th Bronze Clasp (Case No. 22,472): At 5.30 pm on the 7th July 1884, Frank Nicks (15) sank whilst bathing in the River at Exeter some 20 yards from the shore in 10 to 12 feet of water. Shooter ran a distance of 70 yards and divesting himself of coat and vest he swam out to the place where Nick was seen to sink. He had to dive five times, and was then successful in finding Nicks and bringing him safely. Nicks was insensible with blood issuing from mouth, eyes and ears but he was revived.

R.H.S. Silver Medal (Case No. 22,473): At 5 pm, 16th July 1884, Mr F.K. Hartnol was in a canoe on the mill-stream, Exeter, when the boat upset, and the swift current carried him under the mill-fender, and through the opening of the mill-leat, which runs for 180 yards through a dark tunnel. The leat varies in depth from four to six feet, with pits at intervals, and is cut in the solid rock, with jagged projections on each side. The stream was running nine miles an hour. The fender at the opening was let down seven or eight inches below the water surface, under which the salvor had to enter the tunnel. This feat he succeeded in effecting, and, being guided by the sound, he found Hartnol clinging to the projecting rock. Finding it impossible to stem the current he took Hartnol on his shoulders, proceeded down the tunnel with the stream, and landed him safely at the outlet. He had all his clothing on, and ran great risk in being dashed against the rocky rough sides.

Frank Shooter was born in Exeter in 1848. From the age of seven he began to earn his own living, travelling all over the country with his uncle, hawking glass and china. He later enlisted in the 1st Devon Militia and attained the rank of Sergeant. In 1870 he was appointed Superintendent of the Exeter Bathing Ground, being responsible for the safety of bathers in the River Exe. Both in that capacity and as a Constable, Shooter was responsible for the rescue of many who got into difficulties - it being claimed that he was instrumental in saving some three hundred lives during the course of his career!

For his outstanding services he was awarded two medals and four clasps by the Royal Humane Society and four privately awarded medals (above). In addition to which he was awarded a special gold medal (not with lot) presented to him by the City of Exeter for the rescue of Mr Hartnol.

Frank Shooter died of pleurisy and pneumonia in July 1917. He was buried in Exwick Cemetery.

With a quantity of copied research, including R.H.S. Committee Minutes and copied newspaper extracts.