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Boyhood memories from the 60s

royal humane society

When I was a boy, my family owned a beach hut at Thorpe Bay in Essex. I remember it was number 4b my father said it was because we were the four Bates’s. We had many happy times there.

Down the beach directly in front of it, there was a ten-foot-wide concrete breakwater. People walking in the knee-deep shallow water on the west side of it stepped up onto it, walked across and stepped off unknowingly into deep water on the other side. There was no warning sign. There was no such thing as health and safety in those days. My father was forever pulling people out of the tide who were getting into difficulty.

I remember the fourth of August 1962 like it was yesterday; my father came down to the beach to join us for lunch.  As we sat in the sunshine surrounded by the sound of laughing children and people having fun, there came a desperate and anguished cry for help. Two young girls of seventeen or eighteen were being swept out to sea on the fast running ebb tide, one of them was disappearing again and again below the water as she struggled for survival. My father always said that most people don’t see what is going on around them or recognise imminent dangers or react to them quickly.

Bare-chested and wearing long cream-coloured trousers, he kicked off his shoes and ran down the beach, pushing his way through the now staring and pointing people flinging his sunglasses off onto the sand as he went. A powerful swimmer, he dived into the water on the run and reached the girls very quickly. Another brave man followed him into the water and between them they got the girls ashore.

One of the girls was still breathing, but the other one looked like she was dead. Friends from a nearby beach hut ran to help. She was a nurse, and he was a surgeon at the local hospital. The girl was laid out on the beach, and the nurse started to give her artificial respiration: the accepted way of resuscitating in those days. Minutes went by with no signs of life. It looked like we had lost her.

Get out the way shouted the older man. Grabbing her up from behind and bending her forwards his clenched fists, pushing into her stomach, he lifted her off her feet and shook her violently like a rag doll. Unbelievably what seemed like a gallon of water gushed from her mouth onto the beach she coughed and started gasping for breath. I have never before or since seen such an unconventional and successful resuscitation.

For many years after the girls would send him flowers and a card on the anniversary.

I wonder where their lives took them after that they must be in their 60s now. Does anybody know their whereabouts?


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