Explore the collection: Royal Humane Society certificate

The grim exterior of the Police and Prison Museum in Ripon Prison & Police Museum
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Bravery award

December’s Object of the Month is a certificate awarded by the Royal Humane Society to Police Constable John Herbert Hughes of the West Riding Constabulary. PC Hughes was awarded the certificate in 1925 for restoring the life of a boy dragged from Skipton Canal.

The certificate is printed on parchment and mounted and framed. It has been signed by the Chairman and Secretary of the Royal Humane Society and details the deeds of PC Hughes. The Royal Humane Society is a charity that grants awards for acts of bravery in saving human life and for the restoration of life by resuscitation. It was founded in 1774 and continues to exist today.

John Herbert Hughes, known as Jack, was born in Oldham in 1880. He joined Oldham Borough Police and was appointed a Police Constable (Third Class) in 1904. After a year, he joined the West Riding Constabulary in Yorkshire and was posted to the Staincliffe Division near Dewsbury. He advanced through the ranks to Constable (Second Class) and Constable (First Class), before moving to Bolton-by-Bowland near Clitheroe. He was appointed a ‘Merit Class’ Constable after seven years’ service and proved himself to be a well-respected and dependable police officer.

John served at Rotherham as a member of the West Riding Constabulary coal strike reserve in 1921 and later at Doncaster in 1926.

In 1925, John was stationed at Skipton. Whilst out on his beat on 18 May 1925, he came across a young boy who had just been pulled from the Skipton canal and who was unconscious and laid out on the towpath. John put his first aid skills to use and resuscitated the young boy. His acts were immediately reported by the Chief Constable of the West Riding Constabulary, Colonel Jacynth D’Ewes F Coke, to the Royal Humane Society, who awarded this certificate in acknowledgment of his actions.

John continued to serve at Skipton until he reached 25 years’ service. On 8 September 1930, at the age of 50, he retired from the West Riding Constabulary, but later returned to police duties in 1939 as a Police War Reserve Constable. He was awarded the World War II Defence Medal in 1945.

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