The Royal Life Saving Society was founded in 1891 to teach skills in life saving in water following the recognition that preventable deaths from drowning in England and Wales had reached some 2,000 a year. The medallion was awarded after an individual attended instruction classes and reached a required proficiency in basic lifesaving and artificial respiration techniques. The motto shown on the obverse of the medallion was Quemcunque Miserum Videris Hominem Scias (‘whomsoever you see in distress, recognise in him fellow man’).
Cecil Alfred ‘Patsy’ Pallett was born in London in 1888. A decorator by occupation, he was brought up at 33 Diamond Road, Slough and attended the Slough National School. He joined the Slough Company of the 1st Bucks Rifle Volunteers in February 1906, transferring to the Bucks Battalion of the new Territorial Force in April 1908. In August 1908, however, he enlisted in the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, serving with the 2nd Battalion.
No less than seven of his brothers served in the Great War: the five then serving including Cecil being noted in articles on the ‘soldier brothers’ appearing in the Windsor and Eton Express, Middlesex and Buckinghamshire Advertiser, and Uxbridge and West Drayton Gazette in April 1915. Alexander served in the 1/1st Bucks Battalion, Charles in the 6th Rifle Brigade (died of influenza in 1918), Cyril in the 2/1st Bucks Battalion and 7th OBLI, George in the 1/1st Bucks Battalion, Horace in the Royal Engineers, Robert in the Royal Garrison Artillery, and William in the Rifle Brigade. After being wounded in early 1917, Cecil was posted to 1/1st Bucks Battalion in Italy in November 1917. He chose to re-engage for 21 years as a regular in September 1918. Appointed acting Colour Sergeant of the 1/1st Bucks in October 1918, he was confirmed in the rank in December 1918 and was then retained for duty with the Army of Occupation in January 1919. He was commissioned as Quartermaster in June 1929 and returned to the Bucks Battalion as such. In 1931 he was living in Havelock Street in Aylesbury when his house was burgled but, by 1939, when his wife died, he was resident in Tring Road, Aylesbury. In 1936 he expressed an interest in applying to be the assistant secretary of the Bucks County Territorial Association and was made acting secretary when Colonel Philip Hall became ill in 1938, continuing then as assistant secretary until the outbreak of war.
In January 1940 Cecil Pallett embarked as Captain Quartermaster of the 1st Bucks Battalion, his rank since June 1937. At Hazebrouck he successfully extricated around 40 men from the town as it was being overrun on 28 May 1940 and withdrew to the village of La Motte. There, as his citation for the Military Cross gazetted on 20 December 1940 put it, ‘he took up a position and held the enemy in check while a considerable number of the troops were able to withdraw. Quite undaunted by the fact that troops on either side of him in La Motte had withdrawn he remained in position during the 28th of May until he was practically surrounded, and then withdrew in face of the enemy and under fire. He re-organised his men just outside the village, led an immediate counter-attack and drove the enemy out of the village over or into the canal. He held the village for some time further and considerably delayed the enemy advance. Finally he withdrew and led his men safely back to Dunkirk.’
On reaching England, Pallett was initially appointed as temporary commanding officer on 12 June 1940 but was posted as acting Quartermaster of 145 Brigade on the following day. Returning to the battalion, he was promoted to major in June 1941 but was then posted as Quartermaster to the 30th Battalion, The Green Howards (Alexandra, Princess of Wales’s Own Yorkshire Regiment) in May 1942 and served subsequently with that garrison battalion attached to Allied Forces Headquarters in Italy. Pallett died in Yorkshire in March 1962. Unfortunately, the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum chose to sell his MC medal group at auction by in December 2020. The hammer price of £4,200 was beyond the means of the BMMT.