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A gang of Painters working on the Viaduct in 1914.
See "Picasso" in the Stories Page.
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James Dally and the Edward Medal (second class).

By Edward Besly, National Museums & Galleries of Wales
Published: 11 January 2005.

In October 1914 James Dally saved a colleague from a 52m fall from the Crumlin Viaduct. In 1915 he was awarded the Edward Medal for his bravery.

On 25 February 1915 Frank Potter, General Manager of the Great Western Railway (G.W.R.), wrote to the Home Office enclosing a report on an incident on the Crumlin Viaduct, near Newbridge in Monmouthshire, and recommending that the Albert Medal, then Britain's highest civil gallantry medal, be awarded to an employee, James Dally.

On 28 October 1914, the viaduct was being painted by contractors employed by the G.W.R., using a staging which consisted of planks supported by horizontal timber "putlogs". Around 5:00 pm, as the two men were moving the staging, one of the putlogs broke, and the foreman, Mr Skevington, fell 52m (175 feet) to his death in the goods yard below. The second man, Thomas Bond, managed to grip an iron stretcher on the main bridge structure, but was left dangling in mid air.

Bridgeman James Dally, of Crumlin, was nearby, supervising the operation. He immediately crawled out from the gangway on to the diagonal bracings (which were eight centimetres, three inches, wide) between the bottom booms of the main girders:

"I asked him to swing his legs in an upward direction, so as to get them around the stretcher, if possible. This he succeeded in doing. I then got hold of Bond's legs; & told him to move one hand at a time & by that means he was drawn nearer to the gangway & when he was near enough I got a better hold of him, & eventually landed him safely on the gangway."

According to the London Gazette , "The man would probably have lost his life had it not been for the courage and presence of mind shown by Dally." Bond himself had no doubts: "I was suspended in the air; but if Mr Dally had not been on the gangway at the time, & taken the action he did I could not have saved myself... I owe a deep debt of gratitude to Mr Dally, for had it not been for the encouragement he gave me, & the prompt effort he made, I would have undoubtedly met the same fate as Mr Skevington."

In the event, Dally was awarded the Edward Medal, which he received from King George V on 12 July 1916. This medal had been created in 1907 to reward "heroic acts performed by miners and quarrymen" and in 1909 its award was extended to acts of courage in other industries. It was eventually revoked in favour of the George Cross in 1971.