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David returns to cliff rescue site 60 years on

By Herald Express  |  Posted: September 08, 2012

defining moment: David Williams back at Sharkham Point

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A HOLIDAYMAKER has returned to Torbay to pay tribute to rescuers who saved his life almost 60 years ago.

In August 1954, David Williams, an adventurous 15-year-old on holiday with his parents at the St Mary's Bay Holiday camp, tried to climb Sharkham Point in Brixham.

He fell 30ft and only escaped with his life thanks to the efforts of an ambulance driver, the lifeboat, two bobbies and a doctor.

Now Mr Williams, who lives in Essex, has returned to the scene of his accident.

He has even been to see the permanent reminder of the rescue marked on the Brixham lifeboat board.

He says: "My right ankle was severely damaged. Fortunately some brave and understanding people came to my rescue and that is something which I have never forgotten.

"The accident occurred during the late afternoon of August 24, but I still remember the details clearly.

"Mr Alfred Vincent, an ambulance driver, was part of the emergency team on that day. Two policemen, Sergeant W Bond and Constable A Edwards put themselves at risk as they tried to reach me lying on the rocks.

"Dr Coughlin, a man whom I discovered years later did not have a head for heights, administered a pain-killing injection.

"It was impossible to get me back up the cliffs and into an ambulance so the lifeboat was called out and Second Coxswain A Bartlett brought the lifeboat George Shee close inshore and took me to safety."

David was taken to Brixham then Torquay Hospital where a specialist surgeon saved his leg from amputation below the knee.

He says: "All this may have been 58 years ago, but it remains a defining moment in my life.

"My nine grandchildren are very familiar with the story and I have now made up for the time I lost in schooling. My grades in 1956 were not good enough to earn a place at university but in 2010 after four years part-time study, I graduated from Birkbeck, University of London with a BA (Hons) degree in history.

"For someone who almost lost his leg and was told to expect serious arthritis by the age of 40, life has been generous. Today I walk the streets of London as a registered City of London tour guide and lecturer.

"I never pass an RNLI collection box without dropping in some coins and often think of those who came to my rescue all those years ago."

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