Life Saving Awards from the Collection of John Wilson

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Date of Auction: 25th March 2013

Sold for £1,550

Estimate: £700 - £800

A Royal Humane Society/Tynemouth Trust Medal pair awarded to Police Constable Edwin Alfred Helyer, River Tyne Police

Royal Humane Society, small bronze medal (successful) (Edwin A. Hellyer, 19th April 1896) with Second Award clasp dated, ‘28th Aug. 1897’, with bronze buckle on ribbon; Tynemouth Trust Medal, silver, reverse inscribed (name and date engraved), ‘Awarded to Edwin A. Helyer, 18th August 1897 for bravery in saving life at sea’, complete with ornate silver brooch bar, note slight variation in surname, very fine and better (2) £700-800


Ex Robert W. Tilling Collection; R.H.S. Medal ex B.D.W. 30 June 1994.

R.H.S. Bronze Medal (Case No. 28,256): ‘J. W. Rochester (5) was at play and accidentally fell into the water at Mill Dam Gut, River Tyne. The water was 12 feet deep and very foul with sewage. Constable Helyer ran 80 yards and jumped from the Quay wall, a height of 12 feet and succeeded in saving the boy.’

R.H.S. Bronze Clasp (Case No. 29,059): ‘C. F. McAllum (40) was bathing at the Haven, Tynemouth and being a poor swimmer became exhausted 30 yards from shore. The water was 12 to 15 feet deep with a strong tide running. Helyer took a buoy, swam out and pulled it over the man when both were drawn back to land.’

Newcastle Daily Journal, Thursday 19th August 1897, p.8:

‘RESCUE FROM DROWNING AT TYNEMOUTH - Narrow Escape of a Newcastle Gentleman: Last evening about five o'clock, as PC Helyer of the River Tyne Police was walking along Tyne Pier towards the Tyne General Ferry Company's landing he noticed a gentleman dive off the pier into the haven for the purpose of bathing. The man swam towards a raft which was moored in the haven, and the officer's attention was afterwards attracted to him by hearing a shout. On looking round he saw him throw up his arms and disappear below the surface. As the bather was evidently drowning Helyer ran along the pier, threw off his jacket and jumped into the sea, taking with him a life buoy. He swam to the man and gave him the buoy just as he was sinking for the third time, and both he and the officer were hauled ashore in an exhausted condition by two gentlemen who had waded into the water and got hold of the line attached to the buoy.’

Edwin Alfred Helyer was born in Bridport, Dorset on 8 December 1860. He was appointed a Constable in the River Tyne Police on 2 November 1885. He was promoted to Acting Sergeant in 1902 and Sub-Inspector in 1903 but was demoted to Constable in 1904; re-appointed a Sub-Inspector in 1908 and promoted to Detective Inspector in 1910. He was once more demoted to Constable in 1911 and retired on a pension in 1912.

Ref: The Police Review and Parade Gossip, January 21, 1898, p.80:

P.C. E.A. HELYER – ‘Mr Edwin Alfred Helyer, Police Constable, River Tyne police, who has just been made the recipient of the Tynemouth Trust Silver Medal and the Clasp of the Royal Humane Society, in addition to a handsome silver cup from Mr C.F. McAllum, of Newcastle, whom he rescued from drowning off Tynemouth pier in August last, belongs, the River Tyne Police, almost every member of which wears a decoration of some kind for timely assistance in saving life. P.C. Helyer joined the Force about twelve years ago, and during that time he has earned for himself the confidence of his superiors and a good place in the esteem of his comrades. He is a native of Bridport, in Dorsetshire, but at an early age came with his parents to South Shields. Like all River Tyne Policemen he has put in an extensive sea service, and in connection with this portion of his life can tell many thrilling and exciting stories. He was one of the crew of the ill-fated steamer Red Star, of North Shields, which was wrecked in Sulina Bay, in October 1882, when he, together with two others, was lashed to an outrigger for three days and nights, suffering most terrible hardships and privations. Three men were washed away and drowned, but the others were rescued by a lifeboat manned by British seamen. It has always been a strong point with Supt. Farmer, the esteemed Chief of the River Tyne Police that the saving of life and limb is one of the first duties of a Police Officer, and this maxim has been well followed by P.C. Helyer, who has effected many rescues. He wears the bronze medal of the Royal Humane Society for saving the life of a little boy at Mill Dam, South Shields, about a year ago. The most conspicuous occasion, however, on which he distinguished himself in this respect was on the 18th of August last. On that day a gentleman was noticed to dive off the Haven side of Tynemouth Pier for the purpose of having a swim, but soon after entering the water he was unfortunate enough to get into difficulties. P.C. Helyer, who was on duty in the vicinity, seized a lifebuoy, and running along the pier plunged into the water. Swimming towards the unfortunate bather he thrust the lifebuoy into his hands, and eventually got him ashore in a very exhausted condition. The gentleman proved to be Mr. McAllum, referred to above, and he, out of gratitude for his safe deliverance, presented his preserver with a valuable silver cup, suitably inscribed, as a memento of the occasion. The gallant action was brought by Supt. Farmer under the notice of the Royal Humane Society, and that body, recognising the superior merits of the case, forwarded a clasp for the medal which P.C. Helyer already wears, and a certificate setting forth the circumstances for which it was granted. Application was also made to the Tynemouth Trust, with the result that this highly prized decoration was also conferred on P.C. Helyer. The cup and awards were handed over to the Officer at a largely attended public meeting at South Shields’ Seamen’s Institute, Mill Dam, presided over by Mr R. Farmer, Chief Constable, who explained the particulars, and in a lively speech presented the cup and clasp to P.C. Helyer. Mr Stanley Metcalf presented the Tyneside silver medal.’

With copied research including service details and a photocopied photograph.