For the last two decades he has given up his free time and risked his own personal safety in the service of saving others.

Now Tom Bird, a long-standing crew member at Falmouth Lifeboat Station, has been awarded a long service medal by the RNLI, for 20 years as a lifeboatman.

Tom first joined the RNLI in 2001 and has attended 538 shouts since then, crewing both the inshore and the all-weather lifeboats during that time.

He also shares the mechanic position for the inshore lifeboat Robina Nixon Chard, and is responsible for the boat’s maintenance.

In 2006 Tom was one of seven members of Falmouth's RNLI team to receive a national award, after they rescued eight people on board a powerless 32-metre cargo vessel during a violent storm the previous year.

Galina had lost all power 11 miles east of Falmouth and was in danger of being driven ashore.

Falmouth's lifeboat coxswain at the time – Mark Pollard – was awarded an RNLI Bronze Medal for fortitude, exemplary leadership, and outstanding seamanship, while Tom received a medal service certificate for the crucial part he played in the infamous local rescue.

Tom has been supported in his lifesaving efforts by his employer, Pendennis Shipyard in Falmouth, which has allowed him to leave at a moment's notice when that all-important emergency pager sounded.

Falmouth lifeboat coxswain today, Jonathon Blakeston, said: “I would like to extend my thanks and congratulations to Tom for two decades of service and dedication to the town’s lifeboats. It’s a remarkable achievement.

“I would also like to thank Pendennis Shipyard where Tom works, for allowing him to attend hundreds of shouts since 2001.

“Tom is long-serving and well-respected member of the crew. We are very grateful to him for his years of volunteering and for helping to keep the Falmouth community safe at sea.”