William Davies EM

b. ? d. ?

DATE OF EM ACTION: 19/06/1931 Dagenham Docks, Essex.

Little is known about the life of William Davies, a diver working at Dagenham Docks in Essex on 19th June 1931, which led to the award of the Edward Medal.



At about 9.30 a.m. on 19th June, 1931, a diver named Milton was working in a twelve-foot cylinder which was being sunk in the Dagenham Dock, Essex. The water was standing considerably higher in the cylinder than in the river and suddenly a rush of water occurred, which carried Milton under the cutting edge of the cylinder and left him buried in the river bottom under mud and clay to a depth of about sixteen feet. Fortunately his life line and air pipes remained intact. Diver Scannell, who was on the spot, immediately went down inside the cylinder to try to reach Milton, but found it impossible. In the meantime a request had been sent to Battersea Jetty summoning Diver William Davies and Diver Smith to assist in the work of rescue. Immediately they arrived Davies went down inside the cylinder and confirmed Scannell’s view that there was no hope of a rescue from the inside. He then went down outside the cylinder with a high pressure water jet and a weighted line. After several attempts he managed to get down about twelve feet into the mud, but the mud caved in on him, nearly burying him. He was forced to come up, but left the weighted line behind him. It was then decided to lift the cylinder slightly in the hope that the resulting inrush of mud under the cutting edge might bring Milton inside, but before the necessary gear could be obtained signals were felt on the weighted line. Davies immediately went down again with a water jet and after some very strenuous work succeeded in getting about fifteen feet into the mud, and, following the line, at last reached Milton. With the help of the other divers, Milton was finally brought to the surface, practically unhurt, at 4.30 p.m., seven hours after he was trapped.

Davies ran a very serious risk in going to a depth of about fifteen feet into the mud. If he had been overcome by exhaustion or lost his hold of the water jet or if the jet had failed, the mud would probably have settled round him and trapped him, and there would have been only slight prospects of his extrication. He is an experienced diver and was quite aware that he was risking his own life when he entered the mud to rescue Milton.