An Axminster man who turned Good Samaritan and risked his life to save an elderly Yeovil couple after they were trapped in their car in floods has been awarded one of the country’s top bravery honours by Royal approval.

Charles May of Greendown House, Greendown, Axminster, is to receive a Royal Humane Society testimonial on vellum personally signed and approved by Princess Alexandra the Society’s President.

The horror incident in which Mr May stood waist deep in swirling flood waters holding on to the couple’s car to save it from being swept away with them inside happened at Wetmoor Lane, Muchelney Ham, Langport on the Somerset Levels on the afternoon of 6 January this year.

Today, in addition to the award he is to receive Mr May also won the personal praise of Dick Wilkinson, secretary of the Royal Humane Society.

As he announced the award at the Society’s London headquarters he said : “Put simply, Mr May was the right person in the right place at the right time. He was truly a Good Samaritan. He put his own life on the line to save this couple. Things could so easily have gone wrong and he and the couple could have been drowned.”

Describing what happened Mr Wilkinson said that the rain on the bitterly cold day in question was “horizontal.”

The car carrying Anthony Fleet, 84, and his wife Patricia, 82, of Spindleberry, Fordhay, East Chinnock, Yeovil, had passed Mr May earlier when it turned down a country lane.

Mr Wilkinson said that the car finished up entering an 18 inch deep puddle which made the engine cut out.

He continued : “By then they were 75 yards from dry land. Earlier when they passed Mr May he was concerned for their safety and decided to wait to see if they came back up the lane.

“When they did not he reversed his own vehicle back to check they were alright and saw their car which had been moved by the wind and the strong flow of the water and was floating with the rear end uppermost and drifting.

“With no thought for his own safety he waded out into the flood water and by the time he reached their car he was waist deep. He and the car could have fallen into ditches which were eight to ten feet deep. However, he struggled to hold the car and at the same time called the emergency services.

“He then held on to the vehicle for 15 minutes until the fire service arrived and discovered that the couple in the vehicle were trapped inside by the central locking system. The water level in the car was rising at a rate of around an inch a minute.

“In the end though fire fighters wearing dry suits managed to secure the car and get the couple out and to a waiting ambulance.

“Mr May’s actions that day were truly heroic and he richly deserves the award he is to receive.”

No date has yet been fixed for presentation of the award which has been made after Mr May’s name was put forward to the Royal Humane Society by Avon and Somerset Police but it is expected to take place in the near future.

The roots of the Royal Humane Society stretch back more than two centuries. Its president is Princess Alexandra and 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.

The Society also awards non health care professionals who perform a successful resuscitation. Since it was set up the Society has considered over 86,000 cases and made over 200,000 awards. The Society is a registered charity which receives no public funding and is dependent on voluntary donations.