Thomas Aitken EM

b. 31/01/1874 Kenilworth, Warwickshire. d. ? 1944 Reading, Berkshire.

DATE OF EM ACTION: 03/10/1912 Tilehurst, Berkshire.

Thomas Aitken EM

Thomas was born on 31st January 1874 the eldest of nine children of James and Flora Aitken. Little is known about his childhood though the family moved from Kenilworth in Warwickshire to Tilehurst near Reading, Berkshire. He married Elizabeth Hannah and they had six children. He died in Reading, Berkshire in 1944, aged 70.



On the 3rd of October, 1912, Mr. George Lowthian, Consulting Engineer to the Tilehurst, Pangbourne and District Water Company, Limited, descended a well at the pumping station at Tilehurst to examine a set of pumps while they were working, accompanied by Aitken, the foreman. The engineer was standing on a staging, nearly in the centre of the well, about 80 feet below the surface, when a plank suddenly broke and he fell about 34 feet. He crashed through an old pump staging, shattering his left foot and ankle, but managed to get hold of an iron bar about 4 feet below the old staging and 6 feet above water. Aitken, who had almost crossed the plank when it broke, caught hold of a beam and crawled round the pump to a ladder. He was in darkness, for the light had fallen with the engineer, but he groped his way down the slippery ladder to the second staging. He obtained a light, and found the engineer clinging to the girder below the staging. He reached him, and, with great difficulty, as the engineer weighed 14 stone and the whole place was very slippery, succeeded in dragging him to the top of the girder and thence to a place of safety on a ledge of brickwork. Then, ascending to the surface, he arranged for tackle to be let down into the well, and, going down again, managed to bring the man safely to the top. The engineer’s strength was nearly exhausted when Aitken reached him, and he undoubtedly owes his life to Aitken’s prompt and courageous action in going to his rescue at great risk to his own life.