Life Saving Awards from the Collection of John Wilson

Date of Auction: 25th March 2013

Sold for £390

Estimate: £350 - £400

A Royal Humane Society Bronze Medal and Quiver Medal pair awarded to Dr James Percy Alwyne Gabb, for saving a boy from drowning at Ramsgate, 5 July 1887

Royal Humane Society, small bronze medal (successful) (James P. A. Gabb, M.D. 5th July 1887) with bronze buckle on ribbon; The Quiver Medal, reverse inscribed, ‘Dr. J. P. A. Gabb, 1887’, silvered bronze, good very fine (2) £350-400


R.H.S. Bronze Medal (Case No. 23,541): At 5.30 pm on the 5th July 1887, Dr James Percy Alwyne Gabb, 34, was in Ramsgate. Henry Preston, 10, was bathing and was carried out of his depth and drifted out 40 yards with a strong tide running. Dr Gabb’s attention having been drawn to the boy, he ran quickly to the edge of the water, undressed and swam out and found the boy face downwards. He succeeded in bringing him to the short where artificial respiration was used and the boy recovered.

Quiver Magazine, 1887: ‘Dr James Percy Alwyne Gabb was visiting Ramsgate on 26th October (sic) 1887 when he rescued a little boy from drowning; the boy got out of his depth and floated about forty yards out to sea. Two other boys saw what happened, and called for help to a passer-by (Dr. Gabb), who plunged in and swam to the drowning boy. The latter had just come to the surface for the third time. He was brought ashore unconscious, but the rescuer restored him by means of artificial respiration. "I thought the boy was dead". wrote a witness to the rescue, "and was surprised to see them putting on his clothes after a time". Thanks to the doctor's presence of mind, the boy was sent home not much the worse for his dangerous experiences’.

James Percy Alwyne Gabb was born in 1851, the son of Dr William Gabb of Bewdley, Worcester. James P. A. Gabb qualified in Medicine as a M.R.C.S. Eng. 1877 (University College); M.B., 1879 and M.D. Lond., 1882. He was a Consultant Medical Officer at the Royal Surrey County Hospital, Fellow of the Medical Society of London, Honorary Surgeon to the Kidderminster Infirmary and Honorary Physician to University College Hospital. At the time of the rescue he effected at Ramsgate, he was living at Copthorne Villa, Epsom Road, Guildford. For his bravery in rescuing the drowning boy and his subsequent resuscitation, Dr Gabb was awarded both the Royal Humane Society’s Bronze Medal and a medal for brave conduct presented by The Quiver Magazine. In 1893 Gabb moved from Copthorne Villa to Poyle Mount, Guildford, which was to be his home until his retirement in the mid 1930s.

For further details, see also ‘The Gallant Gabbs of Guildford’, by John Wilson, L.S.A.R.S. Journal No. 47.

With sheets from the Surrey Advertiser, 15 July 2005, with details on Dr Gabb and the rescue he performed, this with images of Dr Gabb in later life; together with a quantity of copied research.