John Howells EGM

b. ? 1854 Pembrokeshire, Wales.  d. ? 1925 Pembrokeshire, Wales.

DATE OF EM ACTION: 03/12/1920 Needle Rock, Fishguard, Wales.


Coxswain Howells was also awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, together with three Silver and nine Bronze awards to the crew members of his life-boat: ‘3 December 1920. The three masted Dutch motor schooner Hermina, anchored outside Fishguard breakwater, Pembrokeshire, was dragging her anchors in a north-westerly gale. The self-righting motor lifeboat Charterhouse launched but, when she arrived, the schooner was grinding heavily on the rocks with tremendous seas making a clean breach over her. Veering down, in spite of great difficulties, seven men were taken off but the Master and two Mates refused to leave. Coxswain Howells prepared to return to Fishguard, but the lifeboat had sprung a leak and it was found impossible to restart her engine. Her sail was hoisted, but she lost her mizzen sail, which left her with only the mainsail set. Second Coxswain Davies and crew member Holmes succeeded in setting the jib sail and, although waterlogged, the lifeboat managed to reach her station at midnight, three hours later. Although flares were shortly after seen from the Hermina, the lifeboat was unable to return, and the schooner’s Master and First Mate were rescued by life saving apparatus; the Second Mate had drowned.’

In April, 1921, Coxswain Howells, his crew and lifeboat went on the train to London to receive their R.N.L.I. awards. Howells was 66 years old at the time of the rescue. As part of the R.N.L.I. Centenary celebrations in 1924, seven of the eight surviving Gold medallists were received at Buckingham Palaceon 30 June by King George V, who presented each man with the Empire Gallantry Medal.

A total of 130 Empire Gallantry Medals were awarded in the period 1922-40, 62 Military, 64 Civil, and 4 Honorary awards. The Empire Gallantry Medal was superseded by the George Cross in September 1940 and surviving holders of the E.G.M. became entitled to exchange their award for the George Cross. Coxswain Howells had by this time died and his award is, therefore, in addition to the four Honorary awards which were not eligible for exchange, one of only ten E.G.M’s not exhanged for the George Cross.



For rescuing, in circumstances of great peril, seven of the crew of the motor schooner Hermina of Rotterdam, which was wrecked in a N.W. gale on Needle Rock, off Fishguard, on the night of 3rd December 1920. To effect the rescue involved taking the life-boat into a position of great danger among rocks.