The tenant of Jethou almost came to a watery end in August 1962. William Hedley Cliff had set out from his island home to the neighbouring island of Herm on a punt. He was accompanied by his friend, 52-year-old Mr DCH Attenborough, who was visiting from the mainland. Attenborough lived in Bayswater, London.
However, something went wrong. The distance between Jethou’s small harbour arm and the Rosaire Steps on Herm is just 500m, but the two men didn’t make it. The punt turned over and they had to cling on for their lives.
One life lost
Attenborough didn’t manage to hang on long enough. According to The Guardian,
…he held on until about 4am yesterday [5th August] when he shouted ‘I can’t hold on any more’. Thirty minutes later he floated away.
Rescuers continued searching for him until noon the following day when they had to admit defeat.
Altogether, Cliff who had moved to Jethou following his retirement from the RAF, had clung to the punt for ten hours. When reunited with his wife and son, he said that had he not been picked up then he would soon have suffered a similar fate to Attenborough.
Squadron Leader William Hedley Cliff was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) on 24 March 1942 for bravery on the afternoon of 12 February that year. He had been part of the No 42 Squadron, which had carried out a raid on enemy installations off the Dutch coast.
According to a report in the government’s official public record, The London Gazette (PDF), this was carried out “in the face of harassing fire from screening destroyers [and] pressed home with the utmost determination at very close range… [It] demanded a high degree of skill and courage.”