IT’S NOT often you have the opportunity to remember a courageous deed in a practical way but Staines Boat Club members have managed it by naming their new rescue boat after a former oarsman who died whilst saving the life of a fellow crewman.
Alan Choules was just 29 when he was a member of a rowing eight involved in an accident close to Penton Hook Weir on Sunday, April 25 1971. The boat broke up and the whole crew was thrown into the water. Alan, who was a local policeman, supported the young cox of the boat, holding his head above water as they were swept towards the weir.
Several witnesses reported that Alan shielded the boy’s head as they went through the weir. He continued to support the boy until two men rowed a boat out and were able to pick the youngster from the water but by that time Alan himself had disappeared. Two other Staines rowers, David Firman and Alan Wickens, also lost their lives in the accident.
Alan bravery was recognised by a posthumous award from the Royal Humane Society and also a Carnegie Hero Trust Fund award.
The word tragic is much overused in the media but this really was a tragic loss of life underlined by Alan Choules’ selfless bravery.
Retiring Staines BC captain Craig Twaddle suggested that the new rescue launch – a sleek catamaran – should be named in Alan’s honour and the club committee readily agreed.
So it was that Alan’s widow, Carol, who now lives in Farnborough, his two daughters, grandchildren and brother, Jim, were invited to formally name the boat.
Craig told me: “The family were very pleased to be invited to take part in the ceremony and were very touched that so many past and present members of the boat club came along to watch. It was a fitting tribute to a lovely man.”
THE HERALD and News reported last week that the Environment Agency has announced a public consultation on plans to spend £300m on improving flood defences on our stretch of the Thames.
Measures could include widening Desborough Cut and the creation of three diversion channels to take flood water out of the main river. The channels would run from Datchet to Bell Weir, from Chertsey Road, Staines to Chertsey Lock and from Chertsey Lock to Shepperton.
A public exhibition of the plans will take place tomorrow (Thursday, October 1) at Staines Community Centre and on Tuesday, October 27 in Wraysbury Village Hall.
I’d be very interested to hear from readers what they make of these plans.