Saved Boy from Drowning in River Thames

Various sources
Wednesday, May 4, 1932

Two descendants of Lewis John, the third son of Herbert Stockwell Brazell & Sarah, née Stratford, have newspaper clippings reporting how Lewis’ only son, Claud, jumped fully clothed into the Thames near Chiswick and saved a boy from drowning.  The two clippings are from as yet unidentified London papers.

From unidentifed newspaper

The first clipping, which I obtained from Jean Upton when I visited her in March 2006, shows Claud “Barzell” of West Ealing, in what looks like a completely staged scene, being “congratulated by a waterman on having jumped fully dressed in the Thames at Chiswick and saved a boy from drowning”.

Jean had no precise idea when the event might have occurred other than some time in the 1930s.  When I was able to take a closer look at the original (she had made a very good copy on photo paper) there were some local sports results on the back, including a report that “W. B. Torrance, in a replay at St. Andrews yesterday, won the R. and A. Golf Club’s Bombay Medal with a score of 76.”  

So I got in touch with with the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews to see if I could put a date to the clipping. In correspondence with the club’s museum curator, I was told that W.B. Torrance won the Bombay Medal on May 5, 1937 with a score of 76.  So the newspaper report should have been published shortly thereafter.

From unidentified newspaper

However, a couple of years later, when I was visiting Terence and Pat Brazell in Gillingham, Terry showed me another newspaper clipping (right) with a photo of Claud in a much more formal setting, but with some of the text missing.  The caption noted that Claud lived at “Kirchen-road,” just south of West Ealing railway station, and that the boy (perhaps the one in the photo) was named Lovell.  

Then Terry pulled out a certificate that had been awarded to Claud by the Royal Humane Society for rescuing the boy. 

The citation reads:  “At a meeting of the Committee of the Royal Humane Society … on the 14th day of June 1932 … It was resolved unanimously that the Honorary Testimonial of this Society inscribed on Parchment be hereby given to Claude Brazell for having on the 4th May 1932 gone to the rescue of a boy who was in imminent danger of drowning in the River Thames at Chiswick and whose life he gallantly saved”.

So at least we have a definite date!

Considering the more formal settting of the scene in the second photo, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was taken during the ceremony where Claud was actually given his “Honorary Testimonial enscribed on Parchment”.  If so, it will have been sometime after the committee meeting on June 14.

From the Middlesex County Times

Then, courtesy of the British Newspaper Archive, I found an account of the rescue in the Middlesex County Times that also identifies the date as May 4, 1932.  The report appeared in the Saturday, May 7, 1932 edition of the paper and mentioned that the event took place on the previous Wednesday, i.e., May 4.

Just in case the text of the image is too small and fuzzy, here’s a transcript:  “A boy named Lovell, of Lorraine-road, Chiswick, fell into the river at Strand-on-the-Green, Chiswick, on Wednesday. Claud Brazell, of Kitchen-Road, West Ealing, who was on a ladder painting the outside of the City Barge Inn, heard the boy scream and, fully-dressed, dived to the rescue and saved him.  The boy was none the worse for his adventure.”

What delightful details, “painting the outside of the City Barge Inn.” But none of the accounts mention the boy’s first name or his age.

I haven’t beeb able to identify the source of the clippings in the possession of Jean Upton or Terry Brazell.  I suspect the only way to do so will be to visit Ealing Library and browse the local newspaper collections there.

Neither have I been able to identify a Lovell boy of the same approximate age in the 1939 Register living in Lorraine Road in Chiswick, although I will keep trying. Another option would be to ask the Royal Humane Society to check their case records or visit the London Metropolitan Archives to search there.

All the more reason to undertake another trip to London soon. At the same time, I’ll be sure to visit the City Barge Inn for a pint.

And if anybody reading this has any old photographs that show Claud’s father, Lewis John Brazell, I would love to see them. He’s the only one of Herbert Stockwell & Sarah’s children who I haven’t identified in a photograph.