FOUR Barrow police officers who took part in a torchlight race against time to prevent a suicidal 18-year-old from drowning himself have been awarded top national bravery honours.

The four, PCs Eric McKinley, 47, Callum Lennox, 36, Rick Harvey, 27 and Craig Stevenson, 30, have each been awarded Royal Humane Society testimonials on parchment for their part in the fight to save the teenager on the night of 18 May last year.

The incident happened at Canal Foot, Ulverston. Police were alerted and the four officers went to the bay. It was pitch black and they were working only by torchlight with the ever-present danger of the Morecambe Bay tides stranding or sweeping them away.

Despite the challenging conditions they miraculously found the teenager but as they talked to him the tide began to rise fast around him and he was overwhelmed by the water and sucked into the tidal wash.

As he struggled to stay afloat the four officers linked arms so they could go into the water and reach him. The officer at the front of the human chain was up to his chest in the water. However, he managed to grab the youth as the tide washed him past and the officers then pulled him back to the shore and safety.

As well as the awards they are to receive the four officers have also won the personal praise of Royal Humane Society Secretary, Andrew Chapman.

Speaking at the Society’s London headquarters as he announced the awards, he said: “The waters in the bay can be treacherous as can be seen from the speed in which this young man got into trouble. By going into the water after him the police, who were working only by torchlight were putting themselves in serious danger.

“However, they didn’t hesitate to go in the water after him and managed to grab hold of him in the nick of time as he was being swept away by the tide. He would almost certainly have drowned but for their efforts and superb team work. All four richly deserve the awards they are to receive.”

No date has been fixed for presentation of the awards but they are expected to take place in the near future.

The roots of the Royal Humane Society stretch back more than two centuries. The Queen is its patron and its president is Princess Alexandra. It is the premier national body for honouring bravery in the saving of human life.

It was founded in 1774 by two of the day's eminent medical men, William Hawes and Thomas Cogan. Their primary motive was to promote techniques of resuscitation.

However, as it emerged that numerous people were prepared to put their own lives at risk to save others, the awards scheme evolved, and today a variety of awards are made depending on the bravery involved.

Since it was set up the Society has considered over 87,000 cases and made over 200,000 awards. The Society is a registered charity which receives no public funding.