Southwark News would like to add its voice to the growing chorus clamouring for Bermondsey’s Folajimi Olubunmi-Adewole – known as Jimi – to be given a posthumous George Cross, the UK’s highest civilian honour for bravery.
Twenty-year-old Jimi jumped into the Thames in the early hours of Saturday morning (April 24) to rescue a woman he didn’t know. He died; she lived. His family and others who knew Jimi said these heroics were completely in character for the young man: selfless, kind and “his own person”.
And yet, for people who didn’t know Jimi, the sheer bravery and disregard for one’s own safety is nearly impossible to understand. To see a terrible situation like at London Bridge on Saturday morning and decide to plunge into the darkness shows a special kind of courage. His former headteacher described it this week as “awe-inspiring”, and that is no exaggeration.
Some 407 people have been awarded the George Cross since it was instituted in 1940 by King George VI. One of the stories of the people who were given the George Cross is strikingly similar to Jimi’s.
John Howard Davies, aged 13, was on a Scouts trip in 1949 in Sully Island, off the coast of Wales near Cardiff. Some of his fellow Scouts were cut off by the rising tide from the mainland and were struggling. John had reached the safety of the mainland, but seeing that his friends were in trouble, dived back in. He was able to keep a friend afloat long enough for a rescue boat to save him.
Tragically John himself was exhausted and could not be saved. He was given a posthumous award, alongside 14-year-old Margaret Vaughan, who also swam back but survived.
There must be similar recognition of the heroism of Jimi’s actions on Saturday. He was safe, on dry land, going home to Bermondsey, tired after another shift in an upmarket restaurant. It would have been the easiest thing in the world for him to think of the terrible tragedy unfolding as someone else’s problem. But he decided it was his problem too, and in doing so gave up his own life.
To nominate Jimi for a George Cross, write to the Honours and Appointments Secretariat here: firstname.lastname@example.org. Give a detailed description explaining why you’re recommending Jimi and include as many details as possible about his actions.