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GALLANTRY B.E.M. EIIR TO TPR. MICHAEL E. DOWNS, 14/20TH KING'S HUSSARS

*** RESERVED *** An extremely rare British Empire Medal for Gallantry awarded to Trooper M. E. Downs, 14/20th King’s Hussars, ‘The Youngest Soldier in the British Army’ to receive the award, consists: British Empire Medal (Military) EIIR for Gallantry with Oak Leaves to 23923263 Tpr. Michael E. Downs, 14/20th King's Hussars in box of issue.
Description

B.E.M. For Gallantry Gazetted 21 May 1963:

"At 9.30 p.m. on 25 November 1962, Trooper Downs and a companion were walking along the Promenade at Blackpool when they saw an old man supporting himself by the sea wall. After passing the man they then heard the sound of groaning and splashing coming from the sea. Trooper Downs saw the old man in the water, being carried away from the wall. The tide was fairly high, the sea choppy and there was a heavy swell; it was also very foggy. Trooper Downs, after telling his companion to telephone for assistance and removing some of his clothing, dived into the sea and swam towards the man who was now 50 yards from the sea wall. After a strenuous struggle in the rough water Trooper Downs succeeded in holding the man up with his right hand and started to swim back by breast stroke with his left hand. This was extremely difficult owing to the weight of the man’s clothing, but after a great effort he managed to reach the sea wall. Here Trooper Downs dragged the man towards the steps where he was able to pull him almost clear of the water and support him until the arrival of an ambulance. Unfortunately the man died on the way to hospital. Trooper Downs displayed, in the face of forbidding conditions, great gallantry and determination in his efforts to rescue a fellow man."

Local newspapers quickly covered the story of 17 year old Michael Downs’ gallantry, one of them revealing that the young soldier had been absent without leave - ‘He went back after the incident and got a telling-off from his C.O., but they were delighted with what he had done in trying to save the man in the sea and no action was taken against him’. While another stated that whilst he had been awarded a school proficiency certificate for swimming, he had failed the lifesaving test. Michael Downs was subsequently convicted of murder at Manchester Crown Court in July 1989.

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