An RNLI crewman has clocked up more than 1,000 lifeboat launches to emergency calls – rescuing 295 people and saving 47 lives in reaching the milestone. Tower lifeboat station helmsman and former Brighton RNLI volunteer Stan Todd reached the impressive milestone in December, after clocking up more than 34 years saving lives at sea and on the River Thames in central London.
During that time he has plucked drowning swimmers from certain death, rescued sailors from sinking yachts in Hurricane winds and found frightened children drifting miles out to sea in rubber dinghies.
Despite responding to his first call for help back in 1980, the desire to save lives still burns brightly within the 55-year-old from Patcham in East Sussex.
Stan said: ‘When the emergency bell goes there is still the adrenalin rush the pager used to give me 30 years ago. I like not knowing what is going to happen each day and that if someone out there needs me, I’ll do everything I possibly can to be there for them.’
Nicknamed Stormy Stan for his ability to helm a lifeboat in the fiercest of seas, Stan first joined Brighton RNLI as a volunteer aged 21 in August 1980. He spent 21 years rescuing people off the south coast before being recruited to the newly formed RNLI service on the River Thames in 2001 as a full-time helmsman at Tower lifeboat station in central London.
Stan, who also served in the Army with the Second Battalion Queen’s Infantry, said: ‘My most memorable rescue at Brighton has to be during Hurricane Charley in 1986. We were called out to the yacht Asterionella that was being smashed to pieces against the harbour wall. Its crew of three were firing flares for help.
‘The waves reached 30ft as they crashed together and our lifeboat capsized three times during the rescue. After the third roll I managed to wade to the beach and stick our anchor firmly in the gravel to secure the lifeboat.
I then swam out to towards the yacht’s life raft which my fellow RNLI crew member Roger Cohen had managed to attach a tow rope to. We both then swam the 200m back to shore through the waves, towing the life raft and the people aboard to safety.’
For his heroics Stan, along with lifeboat helmsman Alan John Young and crew member Roger Cohen, were all given bravery awards by the RNLI. Despite the ordeal, all three men went back out to sea just five hours later to respond to another emergency. According to Stan this was the best way to deal with the fact their own lives had been in severe danger.
He said: ‘It’s healthy to feel fear. If you don’t feel fear you shouldn’t be doing this because you will become complacent. It’s not only yourself you are looking after. You’ve also got the crew and the casualty’s life in your hands. Fear is healthy. It keeps your senses sharp.
‘There are a lot of highs being involved with the RNLI but you also come into contact with tragedy and death and that can affect you. For me it would be tough to do this job without having an understanding wife. If I go home and I’m a bit quiet my wife will know it was a tough day and we’ll talk about it. It’s true that behind every successful lifeboat crew member there is a good partner.’