Alfred Lowe was a mere boy of 17 when, in 1948, a liberty boat in which he was returning to HMS Illustrious, anchored in Portland Harbour, overturned and sank in a rough sea approximately 50 to 100 yards from the ship’s stern. He was awarded the Albert Medal for his bravery in rescuing a midshipman from the sea in complete disregard for his own safety. In 1971, it was announced that recipients of the Albert Medal could exchange their medals for the George Cross. Mr Lowe received the George Cross in 1973 and presented his Albert Medal to the Recruit School at HMS Raleigh as an inspiration for new recruits.
Born in London in 1931, Mr Lowe joined the Royal Navy in 1947. He was one of 51 sailors on the liberty boat returning to HMS Illustrious in 1948 and was trapped under a canopy when the boat sank. Struggling free, he surfaced, saw a life-belt and swam towards the ship. As he reached the stern a line was thrown to him; just then Mr Lowe heard a cry for help and saw a midshipman about 10 yards away in great difficulty. Disregarding his own safety, Mr Lowe grabbed the line and swam to the now unconscious midshipman and pulled him to the ship side. With the assistance of a Petty Officer, Mr Lowe managed to secure the midshipman to a rope and he was hoisted onboard. Unfortunately the Midshipman subsequently died and was one of 29 sailors who lost their lives in the accident.
Mr Lowe later qualified as a radar operator and diver serving on board HMS Concord during the Korean War when he was Mentioned in Despatches for ‘distinguished service in Korean waters’. Leaving the Royal Navy as a Petty Officer in 1959, Mr Lowe emigrated to New Zealand in 1963.