Frederick Paffett’s courage at sea

Even the smallest objects can tell big stories, and this medal his no exception. It highlights the staggering bravery of local man Frederick Paffett.

This is an Albert Medal, awarded for saving lives at sea. The medal was first instituted on 7 March 1866 and was named in memory of Prince Albert. Only 216 of this type of medal were ever awarded.

This particular medal was awarded to Chief Stoker Frederick Paffett for his very brave actions during a disaster on board HMS Daring, a torpedo-boat destroyer, on 10 June 1901. Frederick was in the stoke-hold when an explosion blew out the number 2 boiler. The stoke-hold filled with steam and the five men inside were badly scalded – two so badly that they never recovered. At the time of the explosion, Paffett was standing near the ladder and, although it was difficult to see, helped the men to safety. He then returned and found the steam valve of the starboard fan with the objective of opening it to prevent a further explosion. Steam badly scalded his left arm which was shielding his face, and when he could do no more he returned to the ladder.

Frederick was badly disfigured for the rest of his life; his face scarred and his left arm almost useless.

After the presentation of the Albert Medal, Frederick was entertained at a banquet in his honour at Portsmouth Town Hall, attended by naval and civic dignitaries as well as local MPs.

But this was not the only disaster in which Frederick Paffett was involved. In 1893 he was serving on HMS Camperdown when it collided with the battleship HMS Victoria during close manoeuvres off Tripoli on 22 June. Victoria sank almost immediately with the loss of 321 men. The Camperdown sustained an enormous hole in the bow and everyone, including Stoker Paffett, ran on deck. However, Frederick had second thoughts and he returned to try and close the door to a watertight compartment. He struggled through waist-high water and, with all the strength he could muster, forced the door shut. He had to swim back due to the depth of water but his actions helped save the lives of the men on the ship. He was promoted to Chief Stoker in recognition of his efforts.

Frederick Paffett lived the rest of his life in Stubbington and died there at the age of 66. He is buried at St Edmund’s Church, Crofton.