Civilian acts of bravery

The Gazette details countless stories of military and civilian acts of bravery.

While some honours, decorations and medals are gazetted with brevity, offering little supplementary information, many stories of extraordinary civilian bravery are told at length and in detail within dedicated civilian gallantry list supplements.

We highlight just a few British and Commonwealth recipients of the past few decades.

27 September 1940George Medal

Gazette issue 34956

George Medal 

'During such time as Fisher was on the roof, he was in constant danger from the fire, the gas fumes and the almost continuous explosions of shells'

William Fisher, Dock Labourer, Southampton

During an air raid great gallantry was displayed by Fisher in rescuing Gunner S. W. Jones of the 71st Light A.A. Battery from the Bofor's Gunsite on the roof of a building about 50 ft. above ground level. In the early part of the raid, a series of bombs fell on the building itself and on the ground adjoining and one man of the gun team was seriously wounded in the face and head. Fire quickly broke out, and in addition to the ammunition which began to explode, ammonia gas fumes were released from a cold storage chamber below. The Sergeant in charge of the gun realised the danger to his men and rightly ordered them to abandon the post. It was found impossible to get the wounded man over the parapet wall and down the ladder on to the crane platform, as the ladder slipped off the ledge. Fisher then came up, and without hesitation made a rough seat of a sling rope and fastened it to the hook of the jib crane. After obtaining the assistance of the crane driver, he allowed himself to be hoisted on to the roof of the building. He then attached the sling under the arms of the wounded soldier and waited on the roof until he had been lowered on to the quay. The sling was then detached and returned once more to the roof for the rescuer himself to be lowered. During such time as Fisher was on the roof, he was in constant danger from the fire, the gas fumes and the almost continuous explosions of shells. His conduct throughout was a fine example of initiative, bravery and coolness.

1 April 1941

Gazette issue 35125

George Medal

'Hollingdale and Price showed utter disregard of danger to themselves both from the gas and the falling debris'

Alfred Henry Hollingdale, A.R.P. Post Warden, Kensington

Ernest Price, Garage Fitter, London Passenger Transport Board

A H.E. bomb demolished a dwelling house and people were trapped. Hollingdale and Price managed to enter the building and, although there was a strong escape of coal gas, they succeeded in rescuing two women. By that time they were themselves almost overcome by the gas. They were warned not to go in again, but despite this they re-entered the building and brought out another woman. The two men then made a third attempt but they were both on the verge of collapse and had to be removed to the open air. Hollingdale and Price showed utter disregard of danger to themselves both from the gas and the falling debris. Their bravery and devotion to duty were outstanding.

14 May 1973 

Gazette issue 45977

British Empire Medal

'Constable Arnold showed outstanding bravery and disregard for his personal safety in dealing with this very strong and extremely violent man'

Ronald James Arnold, Constable, Metropolitan Police

As the result of an emergency call Constable Arnold was one of a number of Police Officers who went to a house where a man had gone berserk, stabbing to death three members of his family and seriously wounding a fourth. The man had barricaded himself in an upstairs room by placing large 'furniture against the door and refused to give himself up. After repeated attempts to persuade him to leave quietly it became apparent that it was impossible to reason with him while he was in such a violent state and as several hours had elapsed it was decided to force him to leave the room by the use of CS gas. Accordingly Constable Arnold, with other officers, wearing a gas mask was stationed on the landing outside the man's room. A canister of CS gas was then fired into the room and Constable- Arnold immediately began to chop down the door with an axe; this resulted in the man suddenly bursting from the room brandishing two knives as he lunged at the officers. Constable Arnold who throughout the whole siege had been stationed in front of the bedroom door in the position of greatest danger immediately tackled the man and another policeman grabbed one of the man's legs; Constable Arnold fell over backwards with the man on top of him and together they tumbled down the stairs. The man was still in possession of both knives, he continually lunged at' the officers in a violent frenzy and during the struggle Constable Arnold received a stab wound to his hand and injuries to his right leg; his. gas mask was dislodged and he suffered from the- effects of the CS gas. With the assistance of other officers the man was eventually disarmed' and arrested. Throughout this incident Constable Arnold showed outstanding bravery and disregard for his personal safety in dealing with this very strong and extremely violent man.

17 February 1992

Gazette issue 52387 (on the advice of Her Majesty's New Zealand Ministers)

George Medal

'Mrs. Dickson continued a tense vigil communicating the gunman's nocturnal activities to Police'

Eva Helen Dickson

'Mrs. Dickson was a resident at Aramoana when a man ran amok with a firearm on 13th November 1990. After hearing shots being fired, Mrs. Dickson went to investigate and found smoke coming from a neighbour's house. As Mrs. Dickson endeavoured to prevent a man walking in the direction of the shooting, the gunman appeared and began firing shots. With two artificial hips and restricted arm movements through surgery Mrs. Dickson, aged 72, was unable to run for cover and ushered the now wounded man to the roadside where they both fell to the ground. Mrs. Dickson ascertained the man had been seriously wounded in the lower back and was unable to move. With a display of great courage and resource Mrs. Dickson dragged herself to a nearby telephone booth where she urgently summoned an ambulance and Police. She then crawled approximately 100 metres back to the wounded man and comforted him. Concerned at the delay in medical aid Mrs. Dickson then crawled to her home and made further emergency calls. The injured man was rescued by Police but later died of his wounds. Mrs. Dickson continued a tense vigil communicating the gunman's nocturnal activities to Police by telephone throughout the night. Mrs. Dickson's selfless and humane actions in staying with the wounded man in the face of grave danger and conveying situation reports to Police while alone at night with the constant fear of the gunman's appearance, are deserving of the highest praise.

26 November 2007

Gazette issue 58522

Queen’s Gallantry Medal 

'... he continued to fight on, in spite of being stabbed'

Anthony Crompton, Civilian

For his actions tackling two men trying to rob a garage in Skelmersdale, Lancashire

In October 2005, at about 2100 hours, two men entered a garage, both wearing masks. The shop was staffed by two female assistants. One woman was bundled to the floor, held down and threatened with a knife. The second man brandished a handgun and ran behind the counter, confronted the other woman and helped himself to money stored under the counter. Anthony Crompton then entered the premises, having seen the attack through the window. He closed the door behind him and ran at the first suspect who was wielding the knife and pulled him off the woman. A fight ensued. The second man realised what was happening and ran to his accomplice, striking Mr Crompton on his head with the handgun but he continued to fight on, in spite of being stabbed. Some of the stolen money was dropped and the masks were removed from the men but the suspects ran off. Mr Crompton chased after them but stopped when he realised that he was badly injured.

27 July 2010

Gazette issue 594987

Queen’s Commendation for Bravery 

'Despite minor explosions continually taking place, both officers tackled the bombers, who were intent on resisting arrest'

Sergeant Torquil Campbell, Strathclyde Police Force

PC Stewart William Ferguson, Strathclyde Police Force

For their actions in dealing with the terrorist attack on Glasgow Airport on 30 June 2007

Sergeant Campbell was the police officer in charge at Glasgow Airport on 30 June 2007. When the bombers attacked he had just met an off duty colleague, PC Ferguson, who was at the airport to collect relatives. On hearing the commotion as the bombers’ vehicle struck the terminal building, both officers raced to the scene, summoning help from colleagues and clearing the public from the area. Despite minor explosions continually taking place, both officers tackled the bombers, who were intent on resisting arrest. PC Ferguson even used a fire extinguisher to try and douse the flames and then used it to deter one of the bombers from launching an attack on him and his colleagues. After much effort, and with the assistance of other colleagues and members of the public, both bombers were subdued and arrested. During the struggle, Sergeant Campbell sustained an injury to his hand and suffered the effects of CS spray but despite this he remained on duty to ensure the safety of the public and to deal with the needs of the two men arrested. PC Ferguson also remained at the scene, securing evidence and maximising its preservation.

23 March 2012

Gazette issue 60096

Queen’s Gallantry Medal

'Anton Turner stood his ground and shouted at the elephant in an attempt to scare it off'

Anton Charles Turner (deceased), Civilian

For facing a charging elephant in order to protect others Anton Turner was working as Chief Guide during the filming of a BBC children’s television series in Tanzania. On 30 October 2009 he was part of a forward party which included two trackers armed with spears. He was armed with a rifle. The rest of the party (expedition team, production crew, children and others, some of whom were British including the children) followed behind. They were all walking along ancient elephant trails with dense foliage on either side of the trail. About mid-morning two bull elephants were spotted ahead on the track. The elephants took a trail to the right so the party moved along the left hand trail. About 20 minutes later, a young bull elephant unexpectedly charged the group at very close proximity out of the foliage. The charging elephant was spotted by the two trackers in the advance party who shouted a warning. This alerted the rest of the group who ran or dived off the side of the path behind bushes and trees. The elephant was in full charge. Anton Turner stood his ground and shouted at the elephant in an attempt to scare it off. He did not move out of the path of the charging elephant and was thrown to the ground. The elephant was shot twice by another guide before fleeing along the path. But Anton Turner was fatally injured. The action he took was to protect those in his care.

11 December 2013

Gazette issue 60713

George Medal

'Using both his hands, he attempted to wrestle the revolver from the gunman'

PC Ian Andrew Dibell, Essex Police (deceased)

For attempting to disarm an armed assailant

On 9 July 2012

PC Ian Dibell was off duty and at home when he was alerted that a firearm was being discharged nearby. He went to investigate, returning briefly only to pick up his warrant card and mobile telephone. Outside a lone gunman was in pursuit of two of his neighbours who were running away, having already been shot at. The gunman was in a car that had come to a temporary stop and this enabled PC Dibell to intercept the vehicle. He leaned in through an open window and attempted to disarm the gunman. Using both his hands, he attempted to wrestle the revolver from the gunman but was fatally shot when a bullet was discharged. The gunman took his own life the next day. The coroner’s verdict was that PC Dibell was killed unlawfully. PC Dibell intervened in a dangerous situation to protect the public from an armed and dangerous gunman. He acted without hesitation and by returning to his home to collect his warrant card and telephone indicates that he was preparing to act as a police officer to protect the local community from further harm. He knew that a gunman was shooting at members of the public and must have assumed the gunman was still armed. He could have observed from a safe distance and requested assistance without tackling the gunman. But he believed that innocent lives were at risk (including children returning home from school) and that he had to act quickly and decisively. PC Dibell chose to place himself in a violent, volatile and dangerous situation in order to protect others. He was off duty, unarmed and attempted to disarm and detain a gunman who had already demonstrated a willingness to use his weapon.

2 September 2014

Gazette issue 60977

Queen’s Commendation for Bravery

'With no cover available Trethowan dived for the ground as bursts of gunfire continued'

Anthony John Trethowan, Civilian

For helping to disarm a gunman in Yemen

On 23 June 2007, Tony Trethowan, a Health and Safety Consultant, was on duty at an airstrip in central Yemen managing aircraft and passenger safety. In accordance with standard operating procedure, the airfield was protected by a detachment of Yemeni military forces and he was accompanied by a military escort. He himself was unarmed and was there to greet an arriving aircraft. Once the aircraft had landed small groups of personnel moved forward to greet the passengers and to proceed with unloading. He was in one of the groups. As they moved towards the rear door, they came under automatic gunfire from a position behind them. A few people who had been standing by the front of the plane were seen to fall down. With no cover available Trethowan dived for the ground as bursts of gunfire continued. It became apparent that the source of the firing was a Yemeni soldier armed with an AK 47 assault rifle. The soldier ran forward around the front of the plane, shooting at the body of the aircraft. A number of individuals were hit by the weapons fire. As the soldier came around the back of the aircraft he began firing directly at people, some of whom were already wounded, firing also in Trethowan’s direction again. As the soldier started moving again one of the military guards shot him, hitting him in the left shoulder. As the gunman was starting to fall to the ground from the impact of the shot, the security manager present quickly ran forward and overpowered him. Trethowan ran forward to assist and a fierce struggle ensued. He helped disarm the gunman and restrained him until help came and the soldier was handed over to military personnel. During the attack Trethowan gave immediate life-saving first aid to a British man who had been badly wounded. That man later said that Trethowan had helped to save his life and very likely, the lives of at least three others. Trethowan also took a leading role in the recovery operation, supervising and directing personnel, managing the medical evacuation and escorting injured persons to medical facilities. One person died in the incident and five others were badly injured.

24 January 2017

Gazette issue 61826 

George Medal

'He continued to pursue the offender despite continued shots being fired directly at him'

Martin Finney, National Crime Agency

For tackling an armed assailant

Martin Finney is a member of a team of investigators and surveillance officers. In May 2014, he was on a surveillance operation in Tottenham, London in relation to the activities of an organised crime group who had a history of witness intimidation, threats and targeted shootings. At about 22.45, the team was ‘stood down’ and Martin Finney began walking back to his vehicle. As he did so, he noticed a male who was hooded and wearing gloves. As the male approached some premises, he drew a handgun and fired three shots into the doorway of a bar/pool club, which contained 20-30 people. Martin Finney ran towards the suspect and issued a challenge and drew his pistol. At this point, Martin Finney was alone and with no communication with the rest of his team. The male turned and ran towards Martin Finney and fired at him, the shot passing within a few centimetres. Martin Finney returned fire with a single shot at the suspect. The shot missed and the suspect continued his escape, then stopped and fired back a further three times. Despite the danger, Martin Finney pursued the suspect into a dark residential street in a high crime area, with no support. He returned fire with a second single shot. The suspect responded by firing again at Martin Finney, who continued verbally to challenge the suspect and advanced across the street to him. The suspect responded by raising his arms and putting down his weapon. It transpired that he had fired all the bullets in his weapon. Martin Finney reacted with outstanding bravery to pursue and apprehend a dangerous criminal, at significant risk to his own life. The offender had discharged his weapon on a number of occasions and Martin Finney was under the impression that he may have wounded or even killed members of the public. He continued to pursue the offender despite continued shots being fired directly at him. He had no body armour and was covertly deployed in plain clothes. The suspect was convicted and sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment.

16 June 2017

Gazette issue 61969

George Cross

'He was fired on twice by the terrorists but managed to force them back' 

Dominic Charles Troulan QGM, Civilian

For saving lives during the Westgate Shopping Mall terrorist attack in Kenya in 2013

On 21 September 2013, a group of heavily-armed terrorists entered the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi, Kenya and started to murder men, women and children indiscriminately. Dominic Troulan, a security consultant working in Nairobi, was contacted by a friend who asked him to go to the incident to try and locate the friend’s wife and daughter. On arrival at the Mall, Troulan contacted the family by telephone and entered the Mall. He was armed with only a pistol while the area was dominated by terrorists armed with grenades and machine guns. Nevertheless, Troulan managed to bring the two women to safety. Realising that large numbers of civilians remained trapped while the terrorists continued to kill indiscriminately, Troulan re-entered the Mall. Over the course of several hours, he went into the building at least a dozen times and on each occasion managed to bring many innocent civilians to safety. He was fired on twice by the terrorists but managed to force them back. By now, Troulan was exhausted, dehydrated and at the limit of his mental capacity. He was about to stop when a distress call was received from a woman who was trapped, injured and bleeding. Once again, Troulan entered the Mall and brought the woman to safety. Despite the strain of his efforts, it should be noted that Troulan had the presence of mind to realise that the terrorists could be hiding among the survivors. Troulan enlisted help and searched the civilians once he had led them to safety, thus ensuring that no terrorists were hiding in their midst.

19 July 2018

Gazette issue 62357

George Medal

'Ignacio Echeverria displayed great courage when he challenged multiple armed terrorists'

Ignacio Echeverria, civilian (posthumous)

For confronting armed terrorists to protect others at London Bridge on 3 June 2017

On 3 June 2017, Ignacio Echeverria was cycling through Borough Market with friends when he witnessed a terrorist attack. On realising what was happening, he ran towards the terrorists, using his skateboard to strike them to prevent them from carrying out further attacks. The terrorists diverted their attention to him and inflicted fatal wounds. It is without doubt that his intervention allowed victims to escape, thus preventing further loss of life. Ignacio Echeverria displayed great courage when he challenged multiple armed terrorists. Using his skateboard as a weapon, he was well aware that it was no match for the weapons that were being used by the assailants. Regardless, he ran towards them with the intention of stopping them from carrying out further attacks on innocent people who were in the vicinity. It is beyond doubt that he displayed great courage in choosing to try to tackle the attackers. He could have taken cover but did not do so. He was unarmed and untrained. The danger was apparent but he made a deliberate choice to try to stop the attack, putting himself in harm’s way.

Queen’s Gallantry Medal

'Neither man knew the two girls yet were willing to risk their own lives to ensure the safety of two strangers'

Stephen John Adams, civilian

Richard Arthur guest, civilian (posthumous)

For saving a young girl from drowning On Saturday 4 July 2015

Richard Guest and his wife were walking along the beach in Tywyn, North Wales, when they heard screams for help coming from the sea. Two teenage girls had gone into the sea and had got into difficulty. Richard Guest noticed that another man, Stephen Adams, was walking nearby and had also heard the screams. Without hesitation, both men quickly entered the sea to try and save the two teenage girls. The sea was extremely rough but the men persisted, and Richard Guest was the first of the two men to reach one of the girls. He held her out of the water until he was able to hand her to Stephen Adams. As they were about to return to shore, the rescued girl told the men that there was another girl in the water. While Stephen Adams helped the girl back to shore, Richard Guest decided to remain behind to search for the other girl who they believed was still in the water. Neither man was aware that the second girl had managed to make her own way safely back to shore. Richard Guest spent some time in the very rough sea searching for the other girl and, having taken the girl to safety, Stephen Adams returned to where he had left Richard Guest. He discovered him face down in the water. He checked for a pulse but there was none and because of the rough conditions, he could not turn Richard Guest over. Realising his own life was in danger, he reluctantly returned to the shore. Richard Guest was later pulled unconscious from the sea by the RNLI and taken to hospital, but he was pronounced dead. Both men demonstrated unselfish courage. Neither man knew the two girls yet were willing to risk their own lives to ensure the safety of two strangers.

George Medal

'Each trip was carried out in exceedingly difficult physical conditions, with a high degree of personal risk'

Richard Stanton, M.B.E.

Thai cave rescue, 26 June – 11 July 2018

Richard Stanton arrived in Thailand on 26 June at the request of the Thai authorities to help attempt the rescue of 12 junior footballers and their coach, who had been lost in the Tham Luang Nang Non cave complex in Chiang Rai Province since 23 June. Over the next three weeks he played a critical leading role in both the planning and execution of the rescue mission. His first significant contribution, on 28 June, was his reconnaissance dive upstream with John Volanthen through three completely flooded sections of passage to what later was designated as chamber 3. Here they assisted four Thai rescue workers who had been cut off by the rising water levels, which continued to rise.

Further exploration on 29 and 30 June had to be abandoned at chamber 3 as a result of strong water currents and poor visibility of around a metre. On 1 July, Volanthen and Stanton were able to travel 800 metres beyond chamber 3 to lay out guidelines; previous efforts by Thai Navy Seals had reached only 250 metres beyond chamber 3. The terrain was uneven and there were numerous blockages and obstructions to navigate. On 2 July, having reached 1500 metres beyond chamber 3, they surfaced to find the football team marooned on a ledge above the water.

Over the following days, Stanton participated in a number of dives to take supplies to the boys. Each trip was carried out in exceedingly difficult physical conditions, with a high degree of personal risk. The level of risk in reaching this far into the cave complex was underlined by the death on 6 July of a Thai Navy Seal, himself a professional diver, who was helping to supply oxygen to the children. Stanton then helped to lead formulation of a plan to rescue the team through diving. The Thai authorities preferred a non-diving option, but taking action was made more urgent as a result of forecast monsoon rains which might prevent any rescue effort or cause the boys to drown before a rescue could be attempted. As a result, a British-led plan was put into action between 8-10 July.

He was a leading member of thirteen divers and a group of Navy Seals who coordinated the rescue operation, bringing out the sedated boys one by one through to chamber 3 where an American medical team took over. The difficulty of the operation was heightened by the youth and physical condition of the children which required them to be sedated and immobilised, and then guided out by their diver through a route of multiple obstacles. Each journey took seven hours through the cave system and divers had to be taught to medically re-sedate the boys during the operation. The entire operation was carried out under the threat of monsoon rains and towards the end of the rescue, water levels began to rise, forcing a rapid exit by rescuers. In an operation of unprecedented complexity, all 13 of the trapped people were successfully rescued.

See also

Pictured: George Medal; Queen’s Commendation for Bravery emblem; Queen's Gallantry Medal. Crown copyright, Open Government License