Whitby H – 1932
BB Gazette Vol.40 No.8 – The Boys’ Brigade Cross for Heroism has been awarded to Private Henry Whitby, aged 15 years, of the 88th Manchester Company, for attempting to save the life of a small boy from drowning in the River Mersey, at Chorlton, on the 17th January 1932, at the imminent risk of his own life.
Henry Whitby was crossing a bridge over the river, which was in flood after heavy rains, when he heard a shout that a boy was in the water. The river was over fifty feet wide, and the water was up to the top of the banks, which are about twenty feet above the normal river level.
A boy of eight had been on the bank watching the flood when he slipped or was washed from his footing by the swirling waters. Without a moment’s hesitation Henry threw off overcoat and cap and dived in to meet the child, who was being swept by the torrent through the arches. He succeeded in seizing the drowning boy, and, tucking one of the latter’s hands into his belt, he struck out for the bank. A crowd quickly gathered on the bridge and banks, but none dared venture into the swiftly flowing river, which quickly carried the two Boys for a distance of 150 yards, Henry making a tremendous struggle to reach the bank. When within a yard or two of safety, the grasp of the small boy loosened, and he disappeared, being swept away below the water. Henry was so exhausted that the people who had hurried along the banks to give what help they could, had the greatest difficulty in helping him out; but his first thought was for the boy whom, until then, he thought he had managed to save. The body of the child could not be found. Onlookers described the river as a raging torrent, which carried the two Boys along like corks.
The stricken parents recognised with gratitude the gallant attempt to save their son’s life, and later they and their friends made a public presentation of a gold watch to Henry Whitby.