FORMER High Sheriff of Wiltshire, Sir David Hempleman-Adams, has been commended for his heroic actions during a daring rescue.

The explorer, who is also a St John Ambulance Trustee, and his partner, Dr Ros Smith CStJ, chairman of Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust in Cambridge, have had their life-saving skills recognised, with each being awarded a Life Saving Medal of the Order in Silver.

Sir David, who lives in Box, has previously been made a Knight Commander of the Victorian Order, in recognition of his services to the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme.

The Life Saving Medal is awarded by the Grand Prior of the Order of St John, the Duke of Gloucester, in recognition of people who perform conspicuous acts of bravery, at personal risk to themselves, in saving or attempting to save the lives of others.


Sir David, 64, and Dr Smith, 57, were awarded the medals in recognition of their actions to save two lives on Mont Blanc in July last year.

The pair were on a planned ascent of the mountain.

Sir David had climbed the mountain successfully on several occasions and was accompanying Dr Smith on her first ascent.

After a few days of acclimatisation, the pair chose a day with good weather conditions and made the ascent to the summit.

However, Sir David realised that with high winds building and cloud cover descending, along with wind-blown snow, it would be safer to descend without delay.

On the way down the mountain, with the weather continuing to worsen, the pair stopped at an emergency refuge, discovering a young Polish couple inside.

The man was suffering from altitude sickness and the woman from hypothermia.

After helping them with their illnesses, Sir David and Dr Smith then agreed to accompany the couple back down the mountain.

Although the rescued man was keen to follow his GPS, which showed more direct route, Sir David’s experience took them on a different route in order to avoid a crevasse field, with Dr Smith providing encouragement and calming the couple.

During the descent visibility dropped to zero but thanks to Sir David’s knowledge of the mountain and Dr Smith’s focus on assisting the couple, everyone arrived safely at a mountain hut.

Sir David said: “The award of the Life Saving Medal of the Order is very humbling indeed. I would like to pay tribute to Ros, who did extraordinarily well in a life-or-death incident in extremely hostile conditions.

“I was just very pleased to be in the right place with the right experience to assist this couple and ensure that they managed to descend this imposing mountain safely.”

Dr Smith said: “It’s a tremendous privilege to be given an award by an organisation such as the Order of St John which is committed to humanity.

“David’s leadership and knowledge of the mountain and the weather conditions saved the day.

“The couple followed him down the mountain even though we were leading them in a direction that disagreed with what they thought their GPS was telling them.

“He managed to instil confidence in himself just through calm gravitas.”

Sir David has been associated with St John in several roles over the past 25 years.

Both Sir David and Dr Smith completed their Covid-19 vaccination volunteer training with St John this weekend.