Police officer who risked his life to save Whaley Bridge dam wins bravery award

A police officer who risked his life to help save Toddbrook Dam from collapsing and flooding Whaley Bridge has won a bravery award.

Wednesday, 13th October 2021, 4:45 pm
Updated Thursday, 14th October 2021, 10:31 am

PC Geoff Marshall was actually off-duty when the incident began to unfold on August 1, 2019, after damage to the spillway was discovered following days of heavy rain.

There were real fears the dam could collapse, with the water cascading down and flooding Whaley Bridge and the surrounding area.

An emergency operation to save the dam was launched, with more than 1,000 residents in Whaley Bridge being told to leave their homes as emergency services, partner agencies and volunteers all worked together at the site.

PC Geoff Marshall, left, was named as a regional winner at the Police Federation Bravery Awards. Photo - Anderson Photography

PC Marshall volunteered to work on the spillway and secured himself with a rope while his colleagues passed sandbags down.

He was the final link in a chain of officers working to place 300 sandbags at the top of the dam wall to stop water getting in.

He was told by engineer David Brown ‘you will have between 30 seconds and two minutes to get off the dam if it collapses’.

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PC Marshall at Toddbrook Reservoir

Derbyshire Police Federation Chair Tony Wetton said: “Were the dam to have failed, it is highly unlikely any of those involved in the sandbagging operation would have survived.

"All the officers present elected that they could not stand by and risk the death of around 2,000 people, including colleagues, without doing something."

For around two hours, officers and mountain rescue volunteers worked to place bags on the wall and buy enough time to temporarily secure the reservoir.

The operation continued for days as water was pumped out of the reservoir, before finally, on August 7, it was declared safe enough for those residents who had been evacuated to return home.

Speaking earlier this year about why he made the decision to volunteer, PC Marshall said: “It came down to me being old and stupid.

“I couldn’t have lived with myself if the dam had gone and a younger officer had been at risk. Some of them have children at home.”

PC Marshall was named as a regional winner in the Police Federation’s Bravery Awards.

Praising PC Marshall, Derbyshire’s Chief Constable Rachel Swann said: “Geoff’s actions that day were brave and selfless. He placed himself in great danger to protect the town of Whaley Bridge. I am delighted that his courage has been recognised.

“Every officer and member of staff involved in the operation did outstanding work in very challenging circumstances and I am proud of them all.”