A pensioner was celebrating yesterday after being named Britain’s oldest lifeguard – aged 78.
Sprightly Harry Williams has saved hundreds of drowning swimmers from pools, rivers and seas since he became a lifeguard 50 years ago.
One of his most daring rescues saw him drag three youngsters to safety from swirling currents underneath Brighton Pier.
The grandfather-of- three retired several years ago but continues teaching young lifeguards at the New Parks Leisure Centre in Greenfields., Leics.
Lifeguard chiefs have now hailed Harry’s achievement as ”truly commendable”.
Thrilled Harry said: ”It is something of on honour to find out I’m the oldest lifeguard.
”I was amazed and although I don’t actually think of myself as being old, it’s still nice.
”When it comes to rescuing, people have often seemed to be in the right place at the right time.
”I’ve rescued two people in America, three from under Bournemouth Pier, one at Mablethorpe and one from the River Soar.
”In an ideal world a lifeguard wants to do everything possible to stay out of the water. But when somebody needs help, you just have to dive in.”
Harry first learned how to save lives when he joined the Scouts as a teenager and was taught first aid and water rescues.
After two years of national service with the Royal Marines aged 21 he became a volunteer lifeguard and then landed his first official role aged 28.
Harry reckons he has saved hundreds of drowning swimmers from pools and outdoor lakes during his career.
One man who had a heart attack was moments from death but Harry dived into the pool and hauled him to the side to perform CPR.
On more than a dozen other occasions Harry saved drowning swimmers while he was on holiday.
He was once on holiday in America when he spotted a youngster pulled under by strong currents and jumped in to save them.
And on one occasion he dived in to the River Soar in Leicestershire to save a young lad who had been fooling around in the treacherous river.
Harry even saved the life of his wife Audrey, 82, when she fell down the stairs at their home and fractured her skull and suffered spinal damage.
The lifeguard retired from his day job as a care assistant for disabled people several years ago but still continued his work as a lifeguard.
He now teaches classes of 22 young lifeguards at the New Parks Leisure Centre and plans to continue for as long as he can.
Harry, who has no children of his own but is stepdad to Audrey’s three kids, added: ”I can’t imagine a time when I’ll ever want to give it up lifeguarding and lifesaving.
”It’s a bit of a hobby but I love it. I’ve suffered two strokes and it keeps me fit and healthy. I love passing on what I know.
”The most important rescue I ever did was saving Audrey and ironically it was away from the water.
”I’m glad I had learned the skills I have because they helped me save the person who is most dear to me.”
The leisure centre’s duty manager Tom Lacey said: ”Harry is a bit of a legend and a character.
”All the young lifeguards look up to him and there is a waiting list of people who want to learn from him.”
Tara Dillon, executive director of IQL UK, the creators of the lifeguarding qualifications Harry teaches, said: ”Harry’s life-long commitment to lifesaving is truly commendable.
”We are so pleased he continues to provide young lifeguards, as well as the local community, with essential lifesaving skills. Long may he continue his work.
”Harry is officially the oldest serving lifeguard in the UK. It’s a fantastic achievement.”