There’s no doubt in my mind that the tug would have founded without the Royal Navy’ efforts.

Cdr Moorhouse

Both warships sent sailors across in their sea boats, with one team boarding the tug to pump water and the other tasked with finding the gash in the Christos XXII.

“It was very cold, there was very little light and they were going into an unfamiliar space,” said Commander Steve Moorhouse, HMS Lancaster’s Commanding Officer.

“It was quite a demanding job for everyone.

“They found a reasonably-sized gash in the engine room and hammered soft wood into it. The water was cold, waist deep and at times the sailors had to duck their heads under to get the wedges in.”

While they were struggling against the Channel, Severn’s diesel pumps were in action. Due to the fumes in the enclosed room and the temperature of the water – hands became numb with cold and unable to grasp the hammers – the sailors were rotated over the six or seven-hour rescue mission, with hot food was sent across to keep up their energy levels.

“The team came back very cold and tired but high on adrenaline and big smiles on their faces at a job well done,” said Cdr Moorhouse.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that the tug would have founded without the Royal Navy’ efforts.

“Our training really made a difference. Working in the flooded engine room was just like being in a replica of our damage trainer which trains our sailors in flood damage control.

“You hear a lot of mayday calls off the South Coat and more often than not they don’t turn into anything.

"We quickly realised this was the real thing. We helped as any mariner in the world would do in the same circumstances.”

By daybreak a salvage tug was on the scene with specialist divers ready to patch up the damaged tug, while another vessel had taken the Emstrom in tow.