The tragedy of the man commemorated on the wall of Heroic Self Sacrifice in Postman's Park as "James Hewers", is that we cannot actually be exactl sure what his name was.
In the early newspaper reports on the tragedy that cost him his life, he is referred to simply as "a man called James"; whereas, in later reports he is names either as "James Yewen" or "James Hewens."
The plaque memorializing him reads, "James Hewers, On Sept 24 1878 Was Killed By A Train At Richmond In The Endeavour To Save Another Man."
One of the first newspapers to break the story of what had occurred was The Pall Mall Gazette, which, in its edition of the 24th September 1878, published the following brief report:-
"Last night a man named John Charles Jepson was seen to fall between two carriages of the 11.35 P.M. train as it reached the station at Richmond.
He sustained a fracture of the skull and serious internal injuries, and died this morning at the infirmary.
A man named James, in attempting to rescue Jepson, received a scalp wound and fracture of the leg and thigh, and is in a precarious state."
On Wednesday 25th September, 1878, the Bristol Mercury published the following account of the tragedy:-
"At 11.25 on Monday night, an accident occurred on the up-line of the London and South-Western Railway at Richmond Station, causing the death of one man and serious injuries to another.
It appears that a man then unknown was seen to stagger across the platform just as the up train reached the station. He fell between two of the carriages, and James Yewens, in attempting to save the man, fell himself between the buffers just before the train stopped.
The injured men were conveyed to Richmond Infirmary, where it was found that the man unknown had received a compound fracture of the skull; and that Yewens had a serious scalp wound, left thigh and left broken, and injury to the pelvis.
A description of the man unknown was circulated by the police yesterday morning, and he has since been identified as John Charles Jepson.
Yewens died at two o'clock yesterday morning, and there was little or no hope for Jepson's recovery."
The newspapers continued to report on the accident over the following week.
The Taunton Courier, in an article which appeared its edition of 2nd October 1878 repeated the facts that had appeared in the aforementioned newspapers, but also added that James Yewens resided at 2, Derby-villas, East Sheen, Mortlake, whereas John Charles Jepson, had lived at Suffolk-place, Queen's-road, Mortlake.
On Saturday the 5th of October 1878 The Reading Mercury carried the following report on the inquest into the deaths of the two men:-
"The man Hewens, who sustained severe injuries in attempting to rescue a man named Jessop, who was crushed beneath a train at Richmond last week, died a few days after the accident.
An inquest on the bodies of the two men was held on Tuesday, and a verdict of accidental death was returned in each case."
The brief mention that Jepson had been seen to "stagger across the platform" suggests that he may have been intoxicated at the time of the accident, and that James Hewers (to use the name he is remembered by in Postman's Park) had bravely sacrificed his life in trying to prevent him being crushed by the train.
The two men were buried in common graves at Mortlake Cemetery, James on the 28th September 1878, and John on the 30th of September 1878.