Get involved! Send your photos, video, news & views by texting COUNTY GAZETTE to 80360 or email us
Echoes of Watchet harbour rescue almost 50 years ago
Cpl Geoffrey Booth with Michael Webber, the 14-year-old boy he rescued in 1964. PHOTO: The Green Tiger
THE nation’s spotlight shone on Watchet last week but it is not the first time the town’s harbour has inspired an act of bravery.
Dockmaster George Reeder, 63, jumped into the wintry sea to save a baby whose pushchair had been blown into the water by a particularly strong gust of wind on Sunday, January 27.
Through his and others’ efforts, six-month-old Sam Cooper-Stevens survived and is now recovering at home with parents Martyn Stevens and Kate Cooper.
The heart-warming story hitting national headlines prompted Graham Eustace, a member of The Royal Leicestershire Regiment, based at Doniford Camp in the early 1960s, to get in touch.
He told the County Gazette how his colleague Cpl Geoffrey Booth rescued 14-year-old Michael Webber of Stogumber, who could not swim, on June 9, 1964, and received the Queen’s Commendation for Brave Conduct on August 24 of the same year for his actions.
His senior officer recommended the award based on the following account of his actions: “Hearing shouts from other passers-by, Cpl Booth’s attention was drawn to a young boy who was struggling in the water.
"Cpl Booth discarded his jacket and with no regard for his personal safety, leapt into the water.
“The tide was running very strongly and Cpl Booth held up the boy while they were pulled for some 60 yards against the tide around the edge of the harbour wall into the calm of the harbour.
"Cpl Booth talked quietly to the boy to calm his fears and persuaded him not to struggle. The youth was unable to swim and it would appear that his life was saved by the prompt and courageous act performed by this NCO.”
The story appeared in the June 13, 1964, edition of the County Gazette, almost 50 years before last week’s account of baby Sam’s rescue.
Watchet Coastguard station master Ian Wedlake praised Mr Reeder’s speed last weekend: “He knew if he didn’t act very quickly the child would have died.
“If it had been much longer it might have been too late – his quick reaction made a massive difference and he knew there were people above to help.”
Do you have any similar stories from Watchet or across West Somerset? Get in touch by emailing email@example.com or call 01823-365022.