One day, sometime around 1970 I was making a visit to my sub-divisional headquarters, which in those days was situated in Copeland Street, Stoke-on-Trent. A man came rushing up the front steps into the Enquiry Office shouting that a man had jumped from the Canal Bridge in Glebe Street and into the canal. This was only a very short distance from the Police Station.
Several of us downed what we were doing and rushed across the road and through a Council Yard to gain access to the Towpath. Sure enough – there was our man. He was in the middle of the canal basin about thirty feet from the towpath. When he had jumped in he was fully clothed, right down to a trilby hat. He was also wearing a belted gabardine raincoat. When he had landed in the water, air inflated his raincoat and got trapped by the belt to form a lifesaving float. He was bobbing about in the water like one of those doll figures that budgerigars try to knock over but they refuse to lie down. His trilby hat was firmly in place.
The Sergeant duly dispatched two of our number to a nearby transport firm to borrow a rope which he proposed throwing across the canal to the stricken being who by this time was shouting for help. Whilst my colleagues were away, the Sergeant kindly instructed me to prepare my self to go in to the canal to effect the rescue if his plan failed. I removed my overcoat, tunic top and my boots. Much to my relief, the plan worked! The rope was thrown out, our man grabbed it and with a lot of ‘heave-hoeing’ he arrived at the towpath. At this point I stepped backwards, still in my stocking feet, straight into a large puddle. Fortunately that was as wet as I got.
The following day I made an evening trip to my local hostelry for a “swift half”. To my embarrassment, as I entered the Bar, a round of applause and various comments to do with me being the local “hero” greeted me. When asked what they were all on about, somebody gave me a copy of the local evening newspaper and pointed to the headline “Canal rescue” on an inside page.
Where its Author got his information from I do not know, but on reading the item I discovered that I had apparently dived into the canal and swum out to rescue our man. There was much laughter, as you can imagine, when I explained what had really happened and that the wettest I got was by stepping in the puddle.
The moral of this I think is that you should not always believe what you read in the papers!