As the mist cleared they found the aircraft impaled in the mast, 300 feet up, with the pilot half out of his cockpit, unconscious. The three reached the stricken aircraft at about the same time.

Helped by the two others, Nicholas Rath reached out, pulled Edward de Ville out of the plane and brought him down. After a month in Haslar Naval Hospital he made a full recovery.  

The rescuers were all awarded the Albert Medal (the forerunner of the George Cross) for their bravery.

The commemoration was held in the original wireless telegraphy room, and although the masts are long gone, the assembled crowd were given a feel for what it must have been like for the participants in the daring rescue.

Michael Bayliss, grandson of the pilot, gave an account of Edward de Ville’s subsequent life in Venezuela, Richard Knowlton Junior, spoke of his namesake grandfather’s life in Salisbury, and Rory McKenna came over from Ireland to speak about his countryman Nicholas Rath.  Michael Bayliss also spoke about George Abbott, who had no descendants but came from Nelson, Lancashire and returned there.

Royal Navy Chaplain David Wylie held a short but poignant service of thanksgiving for the saving of Edward de Ville’s life.  

In all, 34 descendants of the pilot and his rescuers attended. At the conclusion, Michael Bayliss presented commemorative photographs on behalf of Edward’s 26 living descendants to the representatives of the descendants of his saviours, one to Richard Knowlton Junior and the other to Breda Mullen, granddaughter of Nicholas Rath.

HMS Collingwood

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