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Man revisits Brixham spot 60 years after lifeboat crew saved him

By HECAbbott  |  Posted: August 31, 2014

  • David Williams' rescue was front page news in the Herald Express the following day

  • David Williams at Torbay Lifeboat Station

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A MAN has revisited Brixham to see the spot where he fell down a cliff 60 years ago — and to see the lifeboat station which helped to save him.

David Williams, formerly from East London and now from Essex, is now 75 but he still remembers August 24, 1954, when he fell over 40ft onto the rocks at Sharkham Point and shattered his right ankle.

He said: “Some holidaymakers visiting Brixham will spend time at the RNLI lifeboat station. A few may wonder what stories are behind the brief references on the board which recalls the times the lifeboat was called out in an emergency. Some of us remember all too graphically that we owe our lives to the bravery of the crews.

“The reference for August 24, 1954, says: ‘Boy fallen down cliff. Landed one.’ I was that boy and it is a memory that has remained with me for 60 years. The front page of the Herald Express the following day is now framed on a wall in my office.”

David’s summer holiday at St Mary’s Bay holiday camp with his parents nearly ended in tragedy.

He said: “I was unaware of the danger of scrambling up the rocks and I had done it the previous day. I tried to take hold of a tuft of grass and it came away in my hand. I fell. It was worse than painful. I was on my own but a man saw me and raised the alarm.

“There was no chance of lifting me up the cliffs to safety so the lifeboat was called out to negotiate the dangerous rocky coastline. That brave crew managed to get me into a stretcher and some hours later I was on my way to Torbay Hospital for an operation which managed to treat my severe leg injuries and prevent amputation.”

David walked with a slight limp for many years and suffered occasional pain but the prediction that he would suffer from arthritis by the age of 40 and walk with a stick did not come true.

Ten years ago — 50 years after the accident — determined to keep on the move as long as he could, David qualified as a City of London tour guide and lecturer and today he enjoys walking the streets of the capital telling visitors about its history and sights.

David, who worked as a documentary filmmaker for over 40 years, said: “I owe my life to the lifeboat crew, local people and medical specialists. Their bravery and skill on that day gave this young lad a chance to recover and have an interesting career and the opportunity to tell the story endlessly to my three children and nine grandchildren.

“No doubt they will have life-changing moments like we all do. Mine was on the rocky shoreline at Sharkham Point 60 years ago.”

During a long weekend in Brixham, David and his wife Pat went back to the cliff — but stayed well away from the edge — and visited Torbay Lifeboat Station.

He said: “I was curious to see the place again. You get nostalgic about things as you get older.

“We had an excellent couple of hours at the lifeboat station. They managed to find the old board that registered my fall. We discussed my rescue and looked over the lifeboat. We were told a lot of stories about the men who were serving then and details of the lifeboat operations today.”

Read more from Torquay Herald Express

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