Three volunteer crew members from Cardigan RNLI lifeboat station have been recognised by the Institution for their part in the dramatic night-time rescue of two people trapped on a rocky ledge as large waves broke around them.

Crew Member Clive Williams, 40, has been accorded the Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s (RNLI) Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum for his selfless act of courage when he swam through breaking surf to a rocky shoreline in darkness to save two people.

Further awards have been given to Helmsman Derek Pusey, 49, and Helmsman Leonard Walters, 50, who will receive Framed Letters of Thanks from the Chairman of the Institution.

On 19 September 2013, two people trapped on a rocky ledge at the base of a cliff at Tresaith beach, Ceredigion, were in grave danger of being swept into the sea by the waves breaking at their feet. With a sheer wall of rock at their back and no shelter, they were facing a perilous situation.

Within minutes both Cardigan lifeboats launched into the choppy waters and fading light. First on scene was the Atlantic inshore lifeboat Albatross. Helmsman Leonard Walters skilfully steered as close to the cliffs as possible amid rough seas and gusting winds.

Unable to get any closer, his fellow Crew Member Clive Williams volunteered to swim through the breaking surf in order to reach the casualties. Having struggled through the swirling waters, Clive reached the rocky shoreline where he was knocked of his feet several times by powerful waves as he made his way to the stranded pair.

This feat of skill and bravery was followed by another. Clive had reached the casualties and handed them lifejackets to keep them safe – it was now up to his fellow crew members to navigate the second lifeboat – the smaller D class lifeboat Elsie Ida Meade – into a small gully in order to bring them to safety.

With the waves breaking on a nearby reef on one side and the sheer cliff face on the other, Helmsman Derek Pusey used considerable skill and determination to bring the lifeboat into the gully not once, but four times. Each time he faced the possibility that the lifeboat – and his three crew – could be battered against the rocks in the rolling seas.

Having completed a dummy run and rescued the first casualty, Derek steered the boat into the gully for the third time and collected the second stranded person. A large wave breaking over the reef threw the lifeboat towards the rocks and Derek reacted quickly, waiting for a lull in the surging water to swiftly leave the gully and head out to open water.

Derek’s fourth run into the gully went without incident and, with both the casualties and Crew Member Williams transferred safely to Albatross, the two lifeboat crews returned to shore at nearby Aberporth beach.

George Rawlinson, RNLI Operations Director, said: ‘This was a rescue where breaking waves, submerged rocks and darkness presented challenging conditions and considerable danger for the Cardigan crew. Through team work, skill and courage, Clive, Leonard, Derek and their fellow volunteers saved the two people and the rescue is a testament to their seamanship, commitment and bravery.

I’d like to thank the whole team at Cardigan Lifeboat Station, as well as the local communities for their support of the station, and the vital contribution the volunteers provide to saving lives at sea.’

This was the first service for Cardigan’s Atlantic Inshore lifeboat Albatross which had arrived on station just a few weeks before, replacing their previous lifeboat. The crew had trained in their new lifeboat, but this was the first time the crew would have taken her on service.

The other volunteer crew members involved have been given Letters of Thanks from the Chief Executive of the Institution in recognition of the part they played in the rescue.