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Mini Biographies of Scots and Scots Descendants (M)
John Malcolm

I thought you might find this story interesting for your biography section.  It is a report regarding the incident in November 1941 for which my Granddad - John Malcolm - was awarded the Bronze Medal for Gallantry in Saving Life at Sea.  John Malcolm was born in Wick,Caithness in 1910.  Before joining the Coastguard service in 1939 he was in the Royal Navy for 3 years.

Dianne Malcolm



A ship had drifted ashore in darkness in a very rough sea, with wind reaching gale force.  When the Coastguard reached the scene of the wreck at 11 p.m. the vessel lay 300-400 yards from the shore.  Attempts were made to establish communication by means of rocket apparatus but this was not successfully accomplished until 9:50 the following morning when rescue operations by means of breeches buoy were commenced.  During the forenoon the line attached to the breeches buoy was fouled by an under-water obstruction about half way out to the wreck.  All attempts from the shore to clear the line were unsuccessful and Coastguardsman Malcolm volunteered to “under-run” the line to the point of obstruction.  Holding on to the line which was held taut by men on the beach, Malcolm pulled himself along through the sea.  Three or four times he became submerged as the terrific seas swept up the beach, but he held on and reached the point where the line was fouled.  After two attempts he succeeded in clearing it and in so doing was catapulted into the air.  He managed to retain his hold and was hauled ashore.  Rescue operations were then resumed and all the forty-three members of the crew of the shipwrecked vessel were safely brought ashore by means of the breeches buoy.

Coastguardsman Malcolm knew the dangers and hazards of his action, which was carried out in bitterly cold weather and during an on-shore gale.  In addition to the risk of becoming entangled in the life-saving gear, had he lost his hold, he would inevitably have been swept away by the heavy seas and strong current.  Nevertheless, he persisted with determination and courage.  There is no doubt that, but for his brave action, rescue operations would have been seriously hampered, with the probability that some of the shipwrecked men would have lost their lives.

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