Sailor saves neighbours during fire

A sailor from HMS Collingwood put himself in harm’s way to save his neighbours during a fire.

Petty Officer Jon Thornber, 41, was relaxing at his partner’s home when a large bang from outside made him spring into action. 

Together with his partner, Gemma, he quickly realised there had been a huge explosion in one of the neighbouring houses and ran towards the scene where he could see flames already engulfing the property, at the same time calling the emergency services. 

Once at the house, he could see an elderly gentleman in the garden, confused, dazed and suffering from burns. 

Debris blocked the front gate and Jon kicked this aside, guiding the man to safety, before noticing an elderly woman trapped in the hallway.

The windows, doors and frames had all been blown out by the blast and this, together with her injuries, meant she was unable to escape the flames. 

Shouting reassurance and with no thought of his own safety, Jon entered the property, lifted her onto his shoulder and ran back through the debris and away from the house. Looking back, he could then see flames billowing out of the door where seconds before the woman had been standing.

Jon said: “The emergency services arrived very quickly, and I wish to thank them as they are the true heroes who do this every day.

“I also want to thank the neighbours who fetched blankets for the couple and buckets of water to cool their burns. When the fire service arrived, they asked me to stay with a hose and cool the burns down whilst we waited for the ambulance service. 

“During this time, I used my Royal Navy training to keep the victims calm, coherent and as comfortable as possible and tried to get as much information from them to hand over to the Ambulance service. I just did what needed to be done and I didn’t give it a second thought at the time.”


Since the incident, the police service have contacted Jon with a view to nominating him for a community bravery award and the local fire service have invited him, Gemma and his children to the station so they can thank him personally.

However, modest Jon, originally from Halifax in Yorkshire, said: “Since the incident I have had a number of accolades and praise but I just have a massive passion for helping people. 

“In my job, it’s Royal Navy officer candidates, students and colleagues but I feel that saving someone’s life is the ultimate in helping someone, although I wish this had never happened or wish this to happen again. 

“I just want to thank my parents, Michael and Sandra, for the person they brought me up to be, the Royal Navy for the training they have given me, my partner for reacting so quickly and being right by my side for the whole 58 minutes we were involved in the incident, the neighbours that helped as much as they could and lastly the amazing emergency services without whom we would have lost a lot more properties and potentially more lives.”   

Jon is currently nearing the end of his naval career after 22 years’ service where he served on ships including HMS St Albans, HMS Gloucester and HMS Tyne, shore establishments and on deployment to over 30 different countries. 

He has enjoyed each deployment as all his drafts have included an element of his passion to help, mentor and train others.

Reflecting on his latest service to others, Jon said: “My hope is to be reunited with the couple once they have recovered to give them my best wishes and hopes for a full and speedy recovery.”


During this time, I used my Royal Navy training to keep the victims calm, coherent and as comfortable as possible and tried to get as much information from them to hand over to the Ambulance service

Petty Officer Jon Thornber