WHEN Rhyl's RNLI crew launched in record time just after 1am on September 17, 1962, they were faced with storm conditions and 20ft waves.
The seven-man crew were heading for a stricken passenger hovercraft moored just off the coast at the lifeboat station with the aim of rescuing those on board and preventing it breaking up and spilling 250 gallons of fuel.
The hovercraft, which took passengers between Rhyl and Wallasey, was normally housed at Rhyl harbour but was due to be towed to Liverpool after its lifting engines had been damaged.
Volunteer onshore crewman David Mottram, 84, said: “The hovercraft pilots had been warned there was a storm coming,” he said.
“There was high tide and high winds. The hovercraft could not hold and the mooring sheered. It was drifting in with 250 gallons of fuel on board.
“Our little boat weighed eight tons and the hovercraft weighed 18 tons.”
As coxon Harold Campini launched the vessel the force of the waves lifted it up, almost rolling it over.
He then manoeuvred the 35-foot Anthony Robert Marshall through treacherous conditions alongside the hovercraft allowing the three crewmembers to jump to safety.
West Rhyl councillor Ian Armstrong, who was working as an auxiliary coastguard on the night, said: “We got two of them off but one of the pilots inflated his lifejacket behind the controls and he had a job getting out.
“I’ve never seen anything like the waves, there were huge swells.”
Shore crews then tied moorings onto railings along the promenade to secure the hovercraft and stop it breaking up.
Mr Mottram, who now lives in Llandudno, said: “I was with the shore crew and we put ropes on it trying to hold it.
“We finally managed to stop it outside the Alexandra Hospital.
“We are all very proud of what we did, we made history by being the first rescue of a hovercraft.”
Mr Campini was awarded the RNLI Silver Medal for Gallantry and other crew members were given the Thanks of Vellum.
“It was a combined effort,” added Cllr Armstrong.
“It was so risky. One mistake and the lifeboat would have rolled.”
Despite surviving the storm the hovercraft was taken away to Southampton, and eventually transported to Canada, marking the end of flights for up to 70 passengers from Rhyl to Merseyside.