Alumnus William Harrison and Laura Mannes were featured in news articles across the country when they received the Office of the Governor-General’s personal medallion.

Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove presented the medallion for the couple's role in saving lives during the 2015 Paris terror attack.

Lady Cosgrove, Laura Mannes, William Harrison and Sir Peter Cosgrove, at the medallion presentation.


Qualification: Bachelor of Health Science (Paramedicine)

Job: Paramedic at the London Ambulance Service.

That fateful evening in Paris

Having recently graduated, William and Laura had been working for the London Ambulance Service for just under a year when they travelled to Paris with Laura’s parents who were visiting from Australia.

They were shopping for food below their Parisian holiday apartment when they heard the terrifying sound of gunshots fired less than 100 metres away. “It sounded like fireworks; they were loud, they were irregular and straight away you could smell the gunpowder.”

People were screaming and everyone in the busy street started running towards them.

The couple led Laura's parents and others into safety through the foyer and stairwell of their apartment building. Once the gunshots had stopped, William and Laura looked at each other and he posed the question they were both thinking -“Should we go triage?”

They grabbed towels and sheets and rushed over, finding a restaurant and a car full of wounded and deceased people. There was no ambulance, no police and no one helping - just a crowd looking at the horrific scene.

William says that the training he'd received at VU had prepared him well to deal with critical incidents, and his instincts kicked in. “We got to the car and two people were still alive. They were bleeding heavily and we used what we had to stop their bleeding.”

William walked over and into to the restaurant, checked every person and found one survivor. “There was nothing we could do for anyone else inside.” The police arrived and they were told to return to their hotel.

William and Laura returned to London the following day and told family and their manager about what had happened. One post on social media from William’s sister led to another, and the story went viral. Upon their return to work, William and Laura received a Chief Executive’s Commendation Award from the London Ambulance Service.

Career-defining moments

Another career-defining moment for William came on Christmas Eve 2016, when he was dispatched by ambulance to attend a 3-month-old baby in distress.

The fast-response unit had the child on the floor and the child wasn’t breathing very well, and was discoloured and non-responsive.  William quickly started some interventions that turned out to be life saving. He was also able to settle the baby’s mum and get mum and baby into the ambulance. At the hospital they were met by the paediatric specialist, who congratulated him for saving the child’s life on Christmas Eve.

“The baby’s mother gave me this massive hug in the middle of the resuscitation bay. That’s why we do this job.”


William with his classmates at VU

A future in ambulance service

William and Laura plan to stay in London for a few years before applying to join Ambulance Victoria or Ambulance Tasmania.

William has kept in constant contact with five ‘life-long friends’ from his time at VU, and looks forward to working with them in the future. 

There is no doubt that this group of VU trained life-savers will have many experiences to share at their regular reunions.  We hope they keep safe and keep saving lives for many years to come.