Marines and firefighters awarded special RSPCA medals

The RSPCA has awarded medals to marines and firefighters for their role in the daring rescue of a pony from a clifftop.

Five Royal Marines and three members of the Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service were presented with gallantry medals for saving the pony which had tumbled 80ft down a cliff in February last year 2013.

Rope rescue teams and two Royal Marine crafts swung into action when the wild Dartmoor pony was spotted on a precarious ledge over a cliff at Rame Head near Torpoint, Cornwall. The pony was 30ft above a rocky cove only accessible by boat.

An RSPCA inspector Alan Barnes, together with two members of Cornwall Fire and Rescue’s road rescue crew carefully made their way down the cliff to the pony.

The wild pony, which was part of a clifftop grazing project, was slowly coaxed along a steep slope of loose rock down to the beach.

Five members of 539 Assault Squadron Royal Marines, based at Turnchapel in Devon, had scrambled a landing craft and fast craft which collected a vet and nurse from a nearby cove and dropped them on the beach to sedate the pony.

The marine fast boat then picked up six firefighters and an inflatable rescue path and dropped them at the beach where the path was inflated and the pony was carried and floated across the choppy sea in a makeshift stretcher onto the landing craft.

The pony and all the rescue workers were taken from the beach by boat to an adjoining cove. Miraculously the pony, nicknamed Marinea in honour of her rescuers, was none the worse for her adventure and taken to a nearby stables where she immediately drank a large bucket of water and and tucked into some hay.

Happily Marinea was later reunited with her herd.

The RSPCA’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr James Yeates, said: “This was a complicated rescue which took several hours and involved many organisations with a variety of skills.
“Plans had to be adapted to cope with changing weather and sea conditions as the rescue unfolded but thanks to the professionalism of everyone involved, and despite all the risks, it ended in the best possible way – the safe return of this little wild pony.

“It’s remarkable that she survived the fall down the cliff and she had the most amazing story to tell the rest of her herd.”

Channel 5 newsreader and former GMTV presenter Emma Crosby, who presented the medals said: “This was a brilliant example of teamwork. The RSPCA’s rope rescue team and inspectors worked with the fire and rescue service, the lifeguard, local vets and the royal marines to get this pony to safety.

“Each of them played an absolutely vital role that day and thanks to their professionalism, ingenuity, courage and teamwork this pony survived a potentially deadly ordeal.”

The Bronze Gallantry award, for considerable displays of courage, skill and tenacity in the rescue of an animal, was presented to Corporal Chris Westbury and marines Henry Mitchell, David Willers, Steven McNicholas and Chris Mahomet of the 539 Assault Squadron Royal Marines and Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service’s specialist line rescue team from Bodmin led by crew manager Phil Hoare, Guy Herrington manager of Truro Fire Station and Martin Wingrove, group manager of Cornwall Fire and Rescue service.

Colonel Garth Manager, commanding officer of 1 Assault Group Royal Marines, said: “I am really very pleased that they are being recognised by the RSPCA for their part in the rescue last year.  It shows the versatility we pride ourselves on in the Royal Marines that these men can help out in the local community one day rescuing animals and the next day be supporting the Royal Navy and Defence around the Globe.”

Geoff Brown, Cornwall Council’s Cabinet Member for Homes and Communities, added: “This is recognition of another job well done and further demonstrates the teamwork of all concerned and the hugely varied role of Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service.”

The following were awarded a Certificate of Merit for their role in the rescue:
RSPCA Inspectors: Paul Kempson, Alan Barnes, Jon Phipps, Jo Pearson, David Hobbs, Beccy Wadey and Animal Collection Officer Peter Ferris
Nigel Bunker, Torpoint Coastguard, who helped with communications
Vet Sam Pawson and vet nurse Georgina Parker from Clifton Villa Vets.

The RSPCA Honours is now in its fourth year and includes awards for special merit and ability amongst the charity’s inspectors; humanitarian awards for those who have made an outstanding contribution in the field of animal welfare; and awards for special investigations.

This year winners include TV farmer Jimmy Doherty for his work raising awareness of farm animal welfare and two professors who have scooped a new award in memory of astronomer and honorary RSPCA vice president Sir Patrick Moore who sadly died in 2012.

The awards ceremony was held on Saturday March 1 at 61 Whitehall in London.


Notes to editors:

A full list of award recipients is available from the press office. Photos of some of the recipients receiving their awards  will be available from the press office from 10am on Monday, March 3.

*Cornwall Council’s press office can be contacted on 01872 322186.
*Marine Mitchell is from Ilkeston in Derbyshire, Corporal Westbury is from Derby, and Marine Mahomet is from Keighley, West Yorkshire. We do not have hometowns for the other two members. Marine McNicholas was unable to attend the ceremony because he is currently serving abroad.
For more information about the roles they played in the rescue please contact the RSPCA press office.

RSPCA, Wilberforce Way, Southwater, Horsham, West Sussex RH13 9RS
Press office direct lines: 0300 123 0244/0288  Fax: 0303 123 0099
Duty press officer (evenings and weekends) Tel 08448 222888 and ask for pager number 828825
Email:  Website:

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