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Heroic firefighters remembered
Warrnambool Fire Brigade received a replica of the Horrockses Trophy with ACO Bob Barry AFSM representing CFA at a ceremony that commemorated the bravery of firefighters. Descendants and relatives attended the event which took place at Warrnambool Fire Station on Sunday 30 August.
The Horrockses Trophy was donated by an English material company in 1904 and awarded to Victorian brigades whose members had been recognised for acts of outstanding bravery.
The firemen awarded the trophy had their names engraved on the shield which was then held by the brigade until it was awarded again. Warrnambool Fire Brigade and Geelong are the only two brigades to be awarded the shield twice.
The first occasion occurred in November 1919 when Thomas Sutton fell down the cliff at Gault’s Cave near Lake Gillear. He was 24 years old and had only recently returned from war service. His family were the caretakers at Jubilee Park and the accident occurred as he was heading with his brother to gather bait.
Allansford and Warrnambool police and fire brigade were alerted after Thomas’s father was unable to rescue him using a rope.
Captain Robert George Wood and firefighters Humm and Bristol responded in a car bringing ropes and a 40-foot ladder. This ladder couldn’t reach the injured man and another car was organised to bring two 25 foot ladders to the scene. These were strapped together by the light of kerosene lamps to reach down nearly 100 feet and Captain Wood carried the injured man on his shoulders to the top in the dark. Dr Connell attended the scene and organised for Sutton to be admitted to hospital with severe bruising and abrasions but no breaks
The second time the Horrockses Trophy was awarded to Warrnambool members was in 1938 when Station Keeper Stan Tinker, accompanied by Lieutenant Leslie Smith and Fireman George Price, carried out another rescue on the cliffs at Lake Gillear.
A 14-year-old Thomas Hand had been hit on the head by a rock while climbing on the cliff and had fallen to the bottom. The three firemen attendedwith two ladders and ropes, and again lashed the ladders to reach down a distance of 150 feet. Stan Tinker descended, strapped the unconscious boy to his back and carried him to the top. The boy was admitted to Warrnambool Base Hospital in a critical condition with severe head injuries.
Other rescues have been carried out by members of the brigade including another cliff rescue carried out in similar circumstances in 1926 by Francis Clyde Wood.
Efforts were made by the brigade to trace descendants of the firefighters recognised by the Horrockses Trophy. Members of the Wood and Tinker families were able to attend the ceremony and it was a measure of the men that neither family realised how courageous their forefathers were. Ross Wood commented that his grandfather had spoken of the event but had never indicated the danger involved in the rescue. The Tinker family were also unaware of how much was made of the rescue at the time.
Fire brigades no longer depend on ladders to complete cliff rescues and there was a demonstration of current rescue equipment at the event.