Heroic rescue for man dangling from girder 50 meters high
Edward Medal for bravery
In October 1914 James Dally saved a colleague from a 52m fall from a viaduct. He was awarded the Edward Medal for his bravery.
On 28 October 1914, the Crumlin viaduct, near Newport, south Wales, was being painted by using a staging of planks timber supports. Around 5:00 pm, one of the supports broke, and the foreman, Mr Skevington, fell 52m (175 feet) to his death into the goods yard below. The second man, Thomas Bond, just managed to grip onto the main bridge structure in time, but was left dangling in mid air...
Bridgeman James Dally, of Crumlin, was nearby, supervising the operation. He immediately crawled out from the gangway on to the diagonal bracings - which were a mere eight centimetres wide:
"I asked him to swing his legs in an upward direction, so as to get them around the stretcher, if possible. This he succeeded in doing. I then got hold of Bond's legs; & told him to move one hand at a time & by that means he was drawn nearer to the gangway & when he was near enough I got a better hold of him, & eventually landed him safely on the gangway."
According to the London Gazette, "The man would probably have lost his life had it not been for the courage and presence of mind shown by Dally." Bond himself had no doubts: "I was suspended in the air; but if Mr Dally had not been on the gangway at the time, & taken the action he did I could not have saved myself... I owe a deep debt of gratitude to Mr Dally, for had it not been for the encouragement he gave me, & the prompt effort he made, I would have undoubtedly met the same fate as Mr Skevington."
Acts of courage in other industries
In the event, Dally was awarded the Edward Medal, which he received from King George V on 12 July 1916. This medal had been created in 1907 to reward "heroic acts performed by miners and quarrymen" and in 1909 its award was extended to acts of courage in other industries.
The Crumlin Viaduct was 512m (1,680 feet) long and rose some 60m (200 feet) above the valley of the Ebbw. The viaduct was opened on 1 June 1857 and by 1863 was part of the Great Western Railway network; it was demolished in 1965-66.
Gallantry: its public recognition and reward in peace and war at home and abroad by A. Wilson and J. H. F. McEwen. Published by Oxford University Press (1939).
Article Date: 23 April 2007