The Watts Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice is located in Postman’s Park, a delightful City garden, just a short distance away from St Paul’s Underground Station.
The actual memorial consists of a single wall on which are located 54 tile-plaques, each one of which commemorates a personal act of self-sacrifice.
One of the truly poignant things about the acts of selfless sacrifice commemorated here is just how many of them were carried out by children who gave their own lives to save the lives of siblings, relatives or playmates.
JOHN CLINTON – THE BOY HERO
One of the plaques remembers ten-year-old John Clinton, who, according to his plaque, was “drowned near London Bridge in trying to save a companion younger than himself July 16th 1894.”
JOHN CLINTON’S HEROIC SELF-SACRIFICE
The story of little John Clinton’s act of bravery was told in The Illustrated Police News, on the 28th of July 1894:-
“At Guy’s Hospital on Friday, Mr S. F. Langham held an enquiry with reference to the death of John Clinton, aged 10, son of a carman, who was drowned after having gallantly rescued his companion from the Thames on Tuesday.
CAMPBELL MORTIMER’S TESTIMONY
Campbell Mortimer, a little boy who lived in the same house as the deceased, stated that on Tuesday evening they were playing alongside the foreshore of the river near London-bridge. They had taken their shoes and stockings off, and witness had walked out beyond his depth. He called out, and the deceased at once went to his assistance and succeeded in rescuing him.
The Coroner: And what became of your companion?
After Jack pulled me out he slipped off the camp shed and we did not see him again.
JAMES POLMER’S TESTIMONY
James Polmer, a lighterman, who witnessed the occurrence, said he was too far off to render any assistance. He hurried to the spot, however, and saw that the boy had been carried by the tide under the steam boat pier.
About seven minutes later the wash of a steamer carried the body from the pier, but life was then extinct.
A doctor who was passing over the bridge at the time tried to produce animation by artificial respiration, but with no success.
The jury returned a verdict of accidental death, and found that no blame was attributable to anyone.
A BRAVE BOY
This is not the first instance that the deceased had behaved with prompt gallantry.
His father states that a short time ago the baby set fire to the curtains and its own clothing.
On seeing the baby’s danger, the deceased at once seized it, and, rolling it along the carpet, extinguished the burning clothes. He then pulled down the curtains to prevent them setting fire to the woodwork, and sustained severe burns about his hands and arms.
He was a most obedient and affectionate child.”
THE FUNERAL OF JOHN CLINTON
In its edition of the 4th of August 1894, The Illustrated Police News carried the following report on the funeral of John Clinton, which had taken place on Tuesday the 31st of July 1894:-
“On Tuesday afternoon the remains of John Clinton the “Boy Hero” were laid to rest in Manor Park Cemetery.
It will be fresh in the minds of our readers that the deceased lad, who was only 10 years of age, was playing on the foreshore of the river near London Bridge with another boy named Campbell Mortimer.
The latter had waded into the water beyond his depth, and Clinton succeeded in rescuing him, but fell back himself into the water and was drowned.
A DUTIFUL AND AFFECTIONATE CHILD
The brave boy, whose father is a struggling carpenter residing at Brandon-street, Walworth, is described as having been a most dutiful and affectionate child, and his school teachers give him an excellent character.
The funeral cortege consisted of a hearse and two mourning coaches, and the Coffin was almost hidden with wreaths. One sent by the boy whom he saved for the simple words “He Saved me”; another came from the Metropolitan Fire Brigade; and a third was sent by Board School teachers.”
HIS GRAVE TODAY
A memorial stone to John Clinton can be seen on the left of the main path as you walk towards the chapel in Manor Park Cemetery.