b. 4th Q 1880 Cardiff, Glamorgan. d. ? 1953 East Glamorgan, Wales.
DATE OF EM ACTION: 19/12/1925 Barry Docks, Glamorgan.
Bertie was the youngest of seven children (six boys) born to Robert and Elizabeth Tanner (nee Davis) in Cardiff in 1880. His father who came from Cardiff worked at a gasworks, while his mother came from London. In 1907, he married Margaret Amelia Roach in Cardiff. Little else is known about his life other than his actions at Barry Docks on 19th December 1925. Tanner was personally decorated by King George V with the Edward Medal at Buckingham Palace on 13 July 1926. In addition to the E.M., the Carnegie Hero Fund Trust inscribed his name on their Roll of Heroes, granted him an Honorary Certificate framed in oak, and agreed to meet the cost, of approximately £50 a year, of a three years’ course at the Nautical School in Cardiff for his son to take, with a view to qualifying for the Mercantile Marine Service.
Tanner, who lived in Phyllis Street, Barry Island, was also the recipient of the Daily Herald Order of Industrial Heroism (ref: Daily Herald, 12 July 1926). This was presented to him, and to Gilbert Klee, a Dock Labourer, for assisting in the same rescue, by Mr Albert Arthur Purcell, M.P., at Unity Hall, Barry, on Sunday 18 July 1926. He lived at Phyllis Street in Barry Island for the majority of his married life. He died in 1953 aged 73.
On the 19th December, 1925, five men were engaged on an inspection of the lower chambers of one of the lock gates at the Barry Docks when an explosion of Marsh gas occurred and the workers were overcome by the fumes. The interior of the gate was wet and slimy and the only means of reaching the men was by a narrow ladder. Tanner, who was on watch at the top of the gate, immediately descended. He assisted one man to the surface and again and again descended the ladder until he had brought out three of the men. One man was still left and Tanner again went down but was forced to retire owing to the fumes. By this time other assistance had arrived and Tanner again descended and with the help of others succeeded in bringing the fifth man’s unconscious body to the surface.
Tanner showed great courage and perseverance in continuing at his work of rescue until all the men had been brought up. He descended no less than six times – on the first five occasions into utter darkness without any light. He did not know the nature of the explosion and the danger of slipping on the slimy ironwork was considerable. The risks he ran were serious as had he been overcome by the fumes or fallen from the ladder he would probably have been killed, and his promptitude, coolness, resource and pertinacity were remarkable. Three of the men rescued were severely burnt and the last man brought to the surface unfortunately succumbed to his injuries.
BURIAL LOCATION: UNKNOWN.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: PRIVATELY HELD. UNSOLD AT DNW IN 2011.
Dix Noonan Webb – Image of Bertie Tanner’s Edward Medal group.