William King EM

b. ? d. ?

DATE OF EM ACTION: 22/03/1922 Sunderland, Durham.

Very little is known about dockyard worker William King other than his actions when attempting to rescue two men overcome by gas at the South Dock, Sunderland on 22nd March 1922.



The stills used at the works are large cylinders ten feet in diameter and twenty feet deep. While one of these stills was standing empty, and, as it was thought, disconnected from the adjoining stills, a workman named Dougherty descended it by means of a rope ladder through the small manhole, fifteen inches in diameter, in the cover. When he reached the bottom he collapsed. His mate realising that gas must have accumulated in the still, immediately shouted for help and ran to get a rope. A workman named George Rogers, who was working near, without waiting for a rope, immediately went down the still for the purpose of rescuing Dougherty, but he also was overcome. Other workmen had arrived in the meantime, and one of them, William King, at once entered the still with a handkerchief round his mouth and a rope attached to his body. He was overcome and had to be pulled out. Thereupon Whitehead made two attempts to reach the men at the bottom of the still, first equipped with a gauze respirator and then with a hood with oxygen pumped into it, but on both occasions he had to be pulled out. King then made a further attempt at rescue, and went in wearing a respirator and having a safety-belt round his body. By this time other workmen had removed the pitch-pipe from the bottom of the still and began to force air in, and in the second attempt King was successful in reaching the men who had been overcome. He attached ropes to the bodies and they were drawn out; artificial respiration was tried but they were found to be dead. The danger due to sulphuretted hydrogen accumulating in the still was well known in the works, and King and Whitehead were fully aware of the risks they ran; they acted promptly and courageously and showed coolness and intelligence in the measures taken for the attempted rescue of their fellow workmen.