1979: Bronze, Silver and Gold

Former Humber Coxswain, Brian Bevan MBE, is the only crew member to receive Bronze, Silver and Gold Medals for Gallantry at the same awards ceremony.
A portrait of former Humber Coxwain Brian Bevan in 1997
A portrait of former Humber Coxswain Brian Bevan in 1977

Brian Bevan MBE, former Coxswain at Humber Lifeboat Station, is the only crew member in the RNLI’s long history to be presented with Bronze, Silver and Gold Medals for Gallantry at the same awards ceremony.

Coxswain Bevan and his crew launched to three medal rescues in just 7 weeks. Looking back at this extraordinary Winter on its 30th anniversary, Brian recalled:

‘Spurn Point can seem bleak at the best of times but we had the worst weather I’ve ever seen – we seemed to have weeks on end of strong easterly and north-easterly winds and snow.

‘You don’t often have to chip thick ice off a lifeboat and you could see waves coming at you like the side of a house. I’ve not experienced anything like that since.’

Silver Medal rescue

Coxswain Bevan’s first award was received for his part in rescuing six people from the Dutch coaster Diana V, 74 miles east of Spurn Point, on the night of 30-31 December 1978.

In storm force winds and temperatures of -4°C, sea water was freezing on the deck of the lifeboat. The Arun class lifeboat, City of Bradford IV, made three runs in, being thrown against the heavily listing coaster before the crew rescued a 12-year-old girl, a woman and four men. The lifeboat escorted the damaged vessel into the River Humber and by the time she returned to her moorings had been at sea for 13 hours.

Valentine’s Day rescue

The Gold Medal was awarded for Coxswain Bevan’s outstanding courage when rescuing the crew of a Panamanian motor vessel Revi in the early hours of 14 February 1979. The Revi was in danger of sinking 30 miles north of Spurn Point.

When the lifeboat arrived she was being completely swamped by heavy seas in storm force 10 conditions. After several attempts, two crew were rescued, leaving the captain and mate onboard. After a dozen more attempts, the lifeboat was brought alongside and the mate managed to jump 2m onto the lifeboat.

The captain was left hanging onto the Revi’s stern rails waiting to jump. After several more approaches by the lifeboat, the Revi was swamped and her captain feared lost.

Second rescue in 24 hours

Just 24 hours after his last rescue, Coxswain Bevan and his crew launched again, to spend over 17 hours at sea in storm force winds and blizzards.

They joined Wells lifeboat crew on a service to the Romanian cargo ship Savinesti with 28 people onboard. The ship had suffered engine failure 37 miles from Spurn Point and was in danger of running aground.

The snow meant visibility was very poor and there was a thick layer of ice on the lifeboat. Wells lifeboat, a smaller, open Oakley class, stood by in violent seas for 2 hours until the Humber lifeboat arrived to escort the Savinesti to the safety of the Humber River.

For this service, Coxswain Bevan received a Bronze Medal and Wells’ Coxswain David Cox received a Silver Medal.

Surprise celebrity status

Portrait of former Humber Coxwain Brian Bevan MBE

RNLI / Nigel Millard

Portrait of former Humber Coxswain Brian Bevan MBE

Becoming one of the most decorated lifeboat crew members in history brought unexpected fame.

As well as giving interviews, Brian was asked to open the London Boat Show, was the subject of the programme This Is Your Life and had lunch with the Queen.

‘All of which was much more harrowing than any of the rescues I was involved in,’ confessed Brian.