Medals to a Fisherman of The Brixham Fishing Fleet Disaster 1910

The Brixham Fishing Fleet Disaster 1910tidmarsh mounted group

tidmarsh group rev - Copy


We are pleased and proud to announce the most important recent addition to our stock.


This is a 5 medal group to a Brixham, South Devon, fisherman consisting of Gallantry Medals for Saving Life at Sea and his First World War entitlement.




The medals from left to right are:


Sea Gallantry Medal with the naming


JOHN HENRY TIDMARSH “FRIENDSHIP” 17TH DECEMBER 1910tidmarsh sea gallantry obvtidmarsh sea gallantry rev


First World War British War Medal with the naming


16966 D.A. J.H. TIDMARSH.  2 HD.  R.N.R.


First World War Victory Medal with the naming


  16966 D.A. J.H. TIDMARSH.  2 HD.  R.N.R.


tidmarsh group obverse



Shipwrecked Fishermen and Mariners Royal Benevolent Society Medal named to



tidmarsh mariners revtidmarsh mariners obvThis medal has this superb Dolphin suspender.tidmarsh dolphins - Copy


We have also kindly been sent the Citation from the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society.

The Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society was founded in 1839. For 175 years we have provided financial help to merchant seafarers, fishermen and their dependants who are in need. We pay an immediate grant to the widow of a serving seafarer who dies, whether death occurs at sea or ashore. Regular grants are paid to former seafarers, their widows and partners, whose circumstances justify on-going support. Special grants are made to meet particular needs in crisis situations. Practical assistance is given to seafarers of any nationality shipwrecked on the coast of the British Isles. Since 1851 the Society has presented annual awards for skill and gallantry at sea. Further details about are history and work will be found at

Information as supplied is as follows:

Committee of Management 30th December 1910

An account was read in the ‘Western Guardian’ of the saving of two lives from the Brixham trawler ‘Friendship’ by Captain A Gempton and Henry Tidmarsh (3rd Hand) of the Brixham trawler ‘Gratitude’ in the Bristol Channel on the 16th, and the Secretary was directed to obtain authentic verification of the facts stated through Miss Browne (Honorary Agent at Brixham) if possible, with a view of the case being considered as a fitting one for life-saving awards.

 Committee of Management            Friday 6th January, 1911

 In the Chair

Commander WF Caborne CB RNR (Deputy Chairman)

Commander the Honourable Cecil Cadogan RN

Admiral P de Kautzow

Vice Admiral RG Kinaham

Admiral Sir G Digby Morant KCB

Mr DO Monle

Sir Fredrick G Heygate Bart

Captain Robert Pitman CMG RN

Captain EB Pusey RN

Fleet Paymaster EM Rae RN 

Referring to last Minutes, further particulars respecting the rescue of 2 men from the ‘Friendship’ by the ‘Gratitude’, which had been supplied by the HA at Brixham, were read, and it was unanimously decided to award the Society’s Silver Lifesaving Medal and £3 to the Skipper of the latter vessel, Albert S Gempton, and the Medal and £2 to Henry Tidmarsh (3rd Hand) who accompanied him in the boat, it being noted that on May 8 1891, the same Skipper had been awarded a barometer by the Society in recognition of gallant services. 

From the Society’s Quarterly Statement

 At their meeting on January 6 the Committee made the following special awards for gallant saving of life: To Albert S Gempton, Skipper of the Brixham trawler Gratitude, the Society’s Silver Medal and a purse of £3 and to Henry Tidmarsh (3rd Hand) the Medal and £2.  When in the Bristol Channel on December 17 1910, in a heavy gale and high sea, the Friendship, and another Brixham boat, was seen in a helpless condition, with but little canvas left, and having on board only two lads, as the Skipper and Mate had been washed overboard.  By a sad coincidence, Cowling, 2nd Hand of the Gratitude, discovered that he had thereby sustained the loss of his brother-in-law.  Gempton at once determined to rescue the survivors, and Tidmarsh having volunteered to accompany him, the Skipper embraced his son, aged 14, who was with him on his first trip, and leaving the Gratitude, under the charge of the 2nd Hand and the cook, he and Tidmarsh, taking lifebuoys, ropes, etc, rowed in the smack’s small boat through the tempestuous sea to the Friendship, which was boarded with great difficulty. The lads, worn out with pumping, had gone down to the cabin, despairing of help and awaiting death, but were brought up on deck, placed in the boat and safely transferred to the Gratitude, which eventually reached Brixham on December 20, with the Friendship in tow.  It is noteworthy that the Society had previously rewarded Captain Gempton for courage in life saving, having in May 1891, awarded him a barometer in recognition of his rescue of the crew of the Crusader in a blizzard, also in the Bristol Channel.



Lloyd’s Medal for Saving Life at Sea



tidmarsh lloyds obv - Copy


tidmarsh lloyds rev - Copy


The Lifesaving medals were awarded following the incident described below:






From the Devonian Year Book 1912:


During the fearful gale of December 16th 1910, in the Bristol Channel, four Brixham smacks – Eva, Speedwell, Marjorie and Vigilance – were totally lost with all hands, and two hands were swept overboard from the smack Friendship and drowned. The total loss of life was thus eighteen, of whom ten men were married, leaving to mourn their loss ten widows and thirty children under fourteen years of age. There were many casualties in other boats belonging to the fleet, the total loss of property being estimated at about £6000.


The Friendship and her two apprentices were saved by the heroic efforts of Captain A. S. Gempton and the third hand, Tidmarsh, of the Brixham trawler Gratitude, who have both been awarded the silver medal for gallantry*.


The Friendship was on the port tack off Lundy about 3 p.m. when the sea swept Captain Richard Foster and his mate Charles Stokes to a watery grave. Two apprentices, Keatings and Cheadle, managed to hold on, and hour after hour they laboured at the pumps in fear that the smack would founder. At 3 a.m. Captain Gempton observed the Friendship with only a piece of the mizzen sail standing, and he manoeuvred his craft close to the derelict. Above the turmoil was heard the cry of the apprentices:


“We are sinking – can you save us?”


The pleading was immediately answered by Captain Gempton:


“I’ll try my best, with God’s help!”


The third hand, Tidmarsh, volunteered with that alacrity which characterised his skipper. The boat was launched, and each took a lifebuoy. Before entering the boat, Captain Gempton kissed his son Samuel (who was on his first fishing voyage) and said:


“Good-bye, you may not see your dad again;  I am going to try to save two lives.”


The Gratitude was manoeuvred into a windward berth, and the boat dropped down to the Friendship, the sea being mountains high at the time. Once the boat was washed right on to the derelict’s rail and twice she was nearly filled with water.


But the rescuers found no response to their labours. The lads, prostrated through pumping had abandoned all hope. The stentorian call “Come on, my sonnies, we are come to save you!” aroused them. They replied “Thank God for that!”


They were soon in the boat, and were thankful when they reached the Gratitude. With the aid of the Varuna’s crew, the Friendship was then boarded, and pumps set to work and preparations made to tow her to Brixham which proved to be a lengthy and difficult task.


This was the third occasion on which Skipper Gempton rendered similar service. During the famous blizzard of March 1891, he saved nine sailors from the perils of the sea, and two or three years ago, he gallantly snatched a French trader from drifting ashore in Bigbury Bay and towed her safe to Brixham harbour.


Albert Stooks Gempton was born in Brixham in the December Quarter of 1859. He married Susan Ann Tucker in the June Quarter of 1889 and two sons have been traced so far – Albert, born in 1894 and Samuel, born in 1896. Susan died in 1909 at the age of 43 and in 1914, Albert married again – his second wife was Mary Dart of Galmpton.


On  4 January 1918, 8 miles SE by E from Berry Head, the Gratitude was captured by a U-boat and, sunk by bombs. It is believed the crew were able eventually to reach safety but were questioned by the Germans for some time.


Albert Gempton and John Tidmarsh were awarded the Board of Trade Sea Gallantry Medal for their bravery on the night of 16th/17th December 1910.


(Acknowledgement to DEVON HERITAGE,  Richard and Muriel Brine)






(Officially The Board of Trade Medal for Saving Life at Sea)




Apart from early occasional awards to civilians, the first official medal for gallantry displayed at sea by civilians was the Board of Trade Medal for Saving Life at Sea (SGM) in silver and bronze awarded to British subjects, or to foreigners serving in British ships. Foreigners who have displayed gallantry in foreign ships in saving the lives of British subjects are eligible for Board of Trade Gold and Silver Medals ‘for Foreign Services’. In all cases these awards are made by the Sovereign on the recommendation of the President of the Board of Trade, or successor. They carry no pecuniary grant: there is as yet no published list of persons who have received them, although awards to British subjects are now notified in The London Gazette. The ribbon and medal are worn on the left breast, and holders are entitled to append the letters SGM after their names. These letters stand for Sea Gallantry Medal.


The Board of Trade’s authority to issue such medals for gallantry at sea in British ships is derived not from Royal Warrant but from the Merchant Shipping Acts of 1854 and 1894, 677 (i) (L). They are the only medals now current that are issued under the authority of Parliament. When first struck in 1855, from the design of W. Wyon, Engraver to the Royal Mint, they were not intended to be worn, but in 1903 they were reduced in size and made wearable and since then, when awarded to British subjects in the United Kingdom, have as a rule been personally presented by the Sovereign at Investitures. The obverse of the medal gives the effigy of the reigning sovereign and the Royal Cypher with the words ‘Awarded by the Board of Trade for gallantry in saving life’. The reverse shows a man clinging to a spar and beckoning to a lifeboat; also a man supporting a rescued seaman and a woman and child on a raft. The ribbon is scarlet with two narrow white vertical stripes.


In the nine years 1914-22, apart from 194 awards of plate, the awards of Board of Trade medals, for British and foreign seamen, were: gold, 8; silver, 349; and bronze, 116. The total cost of the medals in nine years was about £250, and of the plate about £1,708, and there were monetary awards of £1,153.




As stated previously, the Sea Gallantry Medal (SGM), in silver and bronze, was the first official decoration of its kind for which British subjects, or foreigners serving in British ships, were eligible. Though awards are made in the name of the Sovereign by the President of the Board of Trade, or his successor, the basis of awards is not a Royal Warrant but a section of one of the Merchant Shipping Acts. The ribbon is scarlet with two narrow white stripes.






A.S. GEMPTON, skipper, J.H. TIDMARSH, 3rd hand, of ketch Gratitude (Fishing-ketch Friendship of Brixham). (17.12.10)








John Henry Tidmarsh later joined the Royal Navy in World War 1 and was also Mentioned in Despatches.




The London Gazette


Of  Tuesday, the 4th of June, 1918.


Number 30732 Page 6769 & 6770




Admiralty, 7th June, 1918.




The KING has been graciously pleased to approve of the award of the following honours, decorations and medals to the undermentioned


The following Officers and Men have been mentioned in despatches: —


2nd Hnd. John Henry Tidmarsh, R.N.R., O.N. 16966 D.A.


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