Keighley Marine awarded gallantry medal after cliff drama

Marines David Willers, Chris Mahomet, Corporal Chris Westbury and Henry Mitchell at the RSPCA awards ceremony. Picture courtesy of the RSPCA

Marines David Willers, Chris Mahomet, Corporal Chris Westbury and Henry Mitchell at the RSPCA awards ceremony. Picture courtesy of the RSPCA

First published in Keighley

A marine from Keighley has been awarded a medal for gallantry by the RSPCA for the part he played in the daring cliff-top rescue of a pony.

Chris Mahomet swung into action alongside four other Royal Marines and members of the Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service when the wild Dartmoor pony was spotted on a precarious ledge over a cliff.

Now Mr Mahomet, a member of the 539 Assault Squadron, has been given the Bronze Gallantry award for considerable displays of courage, skill and tenacity in the rescue of an animal.

The pony had tumbled 80ft down a cliff at Rame Head near Torpoint, Cornwall, in February last year.

Rope rescue teams and two Royal Marine were called in to save the pony, which was 30ft above a rocky cove only accessible by boat.

RSPCA inspector, Alan Barnes, together with two members of the fire service’s road rescue crew, carefully made their way down the cliff to the pony.

The wild animal, which was part of a cliff-top 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. The path was inflated and the pony was carried and floated across the choppy sea in a makeshift stretcher onto the landing craft.

The animal 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 tucked into some hay!

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 she survived the fall down the cliff.”

The Bronze Gallantry award was presented to Corporal Chris Westbury and marines Henry Mitchell, David Willers, Steven McNicholas and Chris Mahomet, as well as Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service’s specialist line rescue team from Bodmin.

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