This Sunday, December 8, marks 60 years since the lifeboat Mona was launched from Broughty Ferry during severe weather and capsized, with the loss of all hands.
Ahead of the anniversary, the Evening Telegraph is running a week-long series of features looking at the work of the RNLI and the people who risk their lives to save others.
Today, chief reporter Lindsey Hamilton speaks to Benny Thomson, whose life was saved by the crew from Broughty Ferry, and who then went on to become a volunteer himself.
Broughty Ferry lifeboat volunteer Benny Thomson knows more than most the importance of the dedication of every single lifeboat crew member he works alongside.
Benny’s life, and that of his best mate Gavin Smith, was saved in a dramatic rescue operation in the freezing waters of the North Sea at St Andrews Bay in 2012.
Benny and Gavin were moments from death when they were finally plucked from the water, frozen and exhausted.
Broughty Ferry and Arbroath lifeboats were among the emergency services desperately searching for the two men after a fun day out on a jet ski went dramatically and almost fatally wrong.
Their machine had broken down and sunk and the men had been in the water for more than four hours when they were eventually hauled on board one of the lifeboats.
Benny said: “We had been in the water in growing darkness for hours and we were beginning to give up hope of being rescued – especially after a rescue chopper passed right overhead without seeing us.
“We knew the lifeboats would be out looking for us but unfortunately they had been given the wrong location and were focusing their attentions on the wrong area.
“Meantime, we were growing colder and weaker by the minute. We had managed to stay hopeful and positive for a few hours but it was horrendous and we were on the point of giving up when Gavin saw a light.
“To begin with I thought he was seeing things but then I saw it too, although it kept appearing and disappearing.
“We barely had any strength left but I just kept blowing desperately on a whistle. The guys on board could hear us but not see us.
“They got to us just in time. Gavin was going under. They grabbed us and hauled us on board.”
Seven years on and Benny is now a key member of the Broughty Ferry lifeboat crew, serving with coxswain Murray Brown, one of the men involved in his rescue.
The camaraderie between Benny and Murray is clear to see, with the banter flowing between the two, but Benny is in no doubt as to just what Murray and the other members of the lifeboat crews did that day.
They gave him his life back and allowed him to go back to his wife and children.
Following his rescue, Benny decided to thank everyone involved in the best way he knew how – he became one of them.
The following February, Benny went along to the Broughty crew’s open day.
“I kept in regular touch with them after that and kept going along to see them. Eventually I asked to join them,” he said.
“The rescue changed my entire life. I left my offshore job and became a fireman in Fife and moved to Broughty Ferry with my family.”
Benny has been involved in many shouts himself now.
He said: “One I found particularly hard to deal with was an 18-year-old girl who had fallen from the Tay Bridge.
“She was so young I was really affected. We got her on to the boat and I stayed with her on the way back to the station. She told me about her life
“What she told me that day will always stay with me.
“I’m glad I was part of the team that managed to save her life that day.”