February 23rd 2019

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Something rotten led to fish-kill: perhaps fishy environmentalism

EDITORIAL Resistance grows to Beijing's soft-power push

CANBERRA OBSERVED Climate change: deadly ... to political leaders

TECHNOLOGY Electric cars: UK taxpayers subsidise rich greenies


CYBER SECURITY Chinese smartphone threat extends way beyond Huawei

SOCIETY Such grandeur of spirit

POLITICS John Hewson should have as sturdy a Constitution

FINANCE Hayne royal commission sets agenda for bank reform

FAMILY RELATIONS Dad: a girl's first and most influential love

COMMENTARY Words gone feral: rights and equality

MEDICINE AND CULTURE Book captures tragedy of falling foul of a fanatic

SOCIETY AND CULTURE A dog's life: reflections of a grey nomad


MUSIC Serialism a killer: Ideas tend to get in the way

CINEMA Cold Pursuit: Revenge served up manic

BOOK REVIEW Why the West and nowhere else

BOOK REVIEW The escalation of horror and atrocity


FAMILY AND SOCIETY The end of Liberalism

SPECIAL EDITORIAL Has Cardinal George Pell been wrongly convicted?

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Such grandeur of spirit

by Hal G.P. Colebatch

News Weekly, February 23, 2019

In 1947, a lifeboat named after Edward, Prince of Wales, put out from the village of Mumbles, in Wales, in a terrific storm, to aid the stricken ship Santampa.

Mumbles sounds like the name of a British village in a Stella Gibbons satire, but the business afoot that night was in earnest.

The Edward’s coxswain, William Gannon, had previously received gold and silver medals for life-saving in storms.

Among the unpaid volunteer crew was William Howell, a survivor of a wartime torpedoing. Friends and relatives had begged him not to go out – the storm was too fierce.

They all knew that some years previously six men had died when a boat from the same station had overturned in a similar storm. Howell replied: “I must go. They came after me when I was shipwrecked, and I cannot leave them out there.” Another of the crew, Richard Smith, had just been demobilised from the armed forces and was due to be married two days later.

Attempting to rescue the people aboard the Santampa, the Edward overturned in mountainous seas and its entire crew of eight perished.

The late historian Arthur Bryant wrote a few days later:

“It is by such grandeur of spirit that a nation lives. These men were united in fidelity to their duty towards their fellow-men … They were animated not by hatred or self-seeking, but by love, without exclusion or exception at the service of mankind. They did not ask whether those they died to save were politically or ideologically worthy of their sacrifice, whether they were richer than themselves or poorer, whether they were Britons or men of another race, whether their shirts were black or red, It was enough that the were fellow creatures in need of succour. In doing so they followed, consciously or unconsciously, in the steps of the Founder of the Christian Faith.

“They have made the name of their country glorious throughout the world and left to those who come after an inspiration and a faith.”

In 1983, I was in a pub in the south English village of Selsey during a violent and destructive storm. My companions at the bar included a QC and an airline pilot, drinking lemonade and soda-water. I remember the strain on their faces as they waited for the sound of a gun, the slightly forced jokes. For they were also members of a volunteer lifeboat crew. Mercifully, the gun did not go off that night.

Now fast forward to the present day, and an incident that throws its own light on the public culture of modern Britain. I can only hope it is not typical.

An eight-year-old girl, Bethany Ganderton, fell into a small lake near Wigan. Her 10-year-old step-brother, Jordan Lyon, jumped into the water to try and save her, but got into difficulties himself. It was a dark and dull day, and it was hard to see what was happening.

Two fishermen, both over 60, rescued Bethany. Two fit and young Police Community Support Officers then arrived on the scene – and did nothing except radio for help, on the grounds that they (Andrew Furnival, 24, and Helene Weatherburn, 20 – they deserve to be named) were not “trained” to rescue drowning children. Jordan was still missing, and possibly still alive and struggling in the dark water.

One, perhaps acting on a flash of inspired initiative, eventually had the bright idea of going to fetch help, peddling away on a bicycle. By the time help arrived, Jordan Lyon was dead. I do not know if they were the same heroes as the beaux gendarmes who, seeing an old-age pensioner being robbed by a gang of girls, hid behind a bush, leaving it to another pensioner to intervene, but they were of the same service.

The Assistant Chief Constable of Manchester Police, David “Dave” Thompson, evidently determined to miss an excellent opportunity to shut up, has said that the behaviour of these sad sacks was fully justified.

First, according to Assistant Chief Constable Thompson, CPSOs were not trained to handle drowning incidents. Second, there was no indication where Jordan was in the pond. Third, visibility was poor. Fourth, by the time they arrived, the boy was “probably” already dead. And anyway, only one CPSO had stood on the bank contemplating the scene. When the other had bravely trundled off for help.

The argument that there was no indi­cation where the boy was is hard to believe, since his stepfather and a policeman were able find his body within minutes of entering the water when they arrived.

As to poor visibility in the water, former Home Secretary David Blunkett, who is blind, and who set up the Community Police Support Officers scheme said: “I like to think that you or I, when we arrived on the bank, as normal human beings, would have had a go.”

One commentator remarked: “Unfortunately for poor
Jordan Lyons, CPSOs have been well trained to overcome the natural human instinct to save a drowning child … trained not to attempt something for which they had not been trained … Officers from all emergency services are encouraged to behave in this shameful way by the training the receive. Their superiors know they can only be sued by ‘Health and Safety’ for what they do, not for what they do not do. So they are encouraged to do nothing.”

In H.G. Wells’ late 19th-century novel of the distant future, The Time Machine, the time-traveller becomes chillingly aware of the uselessness and decadence of the people – the Eloi – when they fail to come to the aid of a drowning child. It was apparently the worst and starkest example of decadence that Wells could think of.

Former Tory Shadow Home Secretary Ann Widdecombe asked: “What were those CPSOs thinking as they stood there? Did they need training to know that you die if you breathe in water for long enough? Did they need permission to imagine how they would feel if it were their child? Did they have any pity for the small drowning being?”

Author Frederick Forsyth offered the best explanation, one whose icy contempt seemed to cover everything: “They had not been trained to wade.”

There has been a suggestion that little Jordan Lyon should be awarded a posthumous George Cross for valour. I imagine Arthur Bryant would have supported it.

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