A RAF Valley winchman who put his own life in danger during a seas rescue alongside Prince William has been rewarded for his bravery.
Master Aircrewman Richard Taylor (pictured right) based at RAF Valley, braved high winds and rough seas to save survivors of a sunken cargo vessel has been rewarded for his bravery at the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society’s annual Skill and Gallantry Awards.He was presented with an Individual Commendation at the ceremony which recognises the UK’s unsung heroes who risk their lives in dangerous sea and air rescues.
In the early hours of November 27 last year, the crew of Rescue 122, piloted by Flight Lieutenant Thomas Bunn RAF and co-piloted by Flight Lieutenant William Wales launched a search and rescue mission after the ship MV Swanland broke in two and sank in stormy conditions, forcing the survivors to abandon the ship in dinghies.
After locating the wreckage and one of the dinghies with two survivors in it the difficult decision was taken to delay their rescue and search for others who might be injured in their dinghies or struggling in the open sea.
A second dinghy was located and although scanning equipment showed no survivors it was decided that it should be searched anyway to make sure. Master Aircrewman Richard Taylor was winched down to search the second dinghy, but the high seas caused the winch operator’s system to malfunction throwing Master Aircrewman Taylor into the sea on several occasions.
Undaunted he finally managed to get into the second dinghy to search for survivors but then a large wave flipped the dinghy over. Struggling for breath, he finally surfaced to find he had passed clean through to the other side of the dinghy still attached to the hoist cable. At this point he showed great mental and physical strength as, in order to free himself and the winch cable, he had to swim back through the dinghy before being winched clear.
With no survivors found, the helicopter returned to the first dinghy where he recovered two survivors.
Chief Executive of the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society Commodore Malcolm Williams, said: “Master Aircrewman Richard Taylor showed real courage and professional determination during this night time rescue in treacherous conditions.
Master Aircrewman Richard Taylor has also been awarded a Queen’s Commendation for Bravery in the Air to add to the Queen’s Gallantry Medal he already holds.
Founded in 1839 the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society aims to provide financial help to merchant seafarers, fishermen and their dependents who are in need.