Humane Society Medals

Until the British Government introduced gallantry awards for saving life, it was left to private individuals and organisations to reward those people who had risked their life to save other people.

One such organisation that was established is the Royal Humane Society:


The Royal Humane Society was formed in 1774 for the purpose of diffusing knowledge about the techniques of resuscitation and other techniques for saving drowned people. This aim was later modified to include

… all cases of exceptional bravery in rescuing or attempting to rescue persons from asphyxia in mines, wells, blasting furnaces or in sewers where foul air may endanger life.

The following table describes the four medals that are awarded by the Royal Humane Society.

Stanhope (Gold)Blue with yellow and grey edgesAwarded annually for most gallant rescue recognised by the society.
SilverBlue with white edges and central yellow stripeAward to those who put their own lives in extreme danger to rescue another.
BronzeBlueAward to those who put their own lives in danger to rescue another.
PoliceNavy blue with central yellow stripeAwarded annually to honour the most outstanding act of heroism by a police officer.
Royal Human Society Medals.

The Stanhope (Gold) Medal), introduced in 1873, is named in memory of the naval officer Chandos Scudamore Scudamore Stanhope.

Captain Chandos Scudamore Scudamore Stanhope (1823-1871) was a naval officer who made several life-saving attempts. He received a Royal Humane Society Silver Medal in 1851 for a life-saving rescue of a seaman.

While at Malta, on 7 July 1871, he died of smallpox. His friends made a donation to the Royal Humane Society, with the proviso that the interest from the donation should fund a gold medal, to be awarded for the greatest act of gallantry in the previous year.

The following six certificates are awarded by the Royal Humane Society (in decreasing order of seniority):

  • President’s Award: Awarded to a person, under 18 years old, who has received an award from the Society and whose act is considered the most meritorious of the year.
  • Testimonial on Vellum: Awarded when someone puts themselves in very grave danger to save, or attempt to save, another person. Now uses card instead of vellum.
  • Testimonial on Parchment: Awarded when someone puts themselves in danger to save, or attempt to save, another person. Now uses card instead of parchment.
  • In Memoriam Testimonials: Awarded to the next-of-kin of a person who died attempting to save the life of a person.
  • Certificate of Commemoration: Awarded to those who have made a contribution toward saving or attempting to save the life of a person, while not necessarily putting themselves in danger.
  • Resuscitation Certificate: Awarded to non-medical people who have effected a successful resuscitation of another person, who appeared at some stage to be dead.


Emily White was an 11 year old school girl residing at 1 London Road, Nottingham.

On 18 March 1883 Emily White and her 8 year old sister Charlotte were leaning against a garden fence when it gave way, throwing Charlotte White into the Nottingham Canal. The water, which was up to 6 feet deep, was described as being “… little better than a sewer …” and “… in a most offensive state …”, but Emily placed the baby that she was holding on the ground and, at great risk to herself, jumped into the canal and successfully rescued her sister; who was up to her shoulders in filth.