TWO police officers who courageously plunged into the freezing cold sea to rescue what appeared to be a drowning couple have been handed bravery awards.

PC Andrew Perry and Sgt William Bowen were called to assist after reports came in that a man and a woman were desperately trying to stay afloat in the stormy and dark sub-zero waters off Harwich Beach.

The officers only had the light from their torches to see what was happening during the incident, which took place just three days after Christmas in 2020.

The torches were just powerful enough for the officers to see at least one person in the waves in what appeared to be chest-high water around 20 metres from shore.

Risking their safety, the officers dived into the water and waded out to carry out the rescue.

Sgt Bowen managed to get to the woman, who the officers then helped back to shore.

Once back on the beach, Sgt Bowen administered vital first aid and kept the woman warm as ambulance crews arrived.

Before rushing to help his colleague, PC Perry had been wading in the rising swell, trying to find the man witnesses had claimed to have seen struggling and shouting for help in the rising surf.

PC Perry realised that the reports of a second missing man may have been incorrect and had been prompted by the fact that some of the woman’s clothing was floating and bobbing in the waves.

The woman later told officers she had been attempting to take her own life.

She made a full recovery and got the mental health treatment she needed.

The officers have been handed Essex Police Federation Bravery Awards and will attend a ceremony on May 26, where an overall winner will be announced.

Sgt Bowen said the only thing on his mind as the officers got on the scene was the welfare of the woman they could see floating in the water.

“It’s a bit of cliché, but you’re doing your job,” he said.

“Adrenaline kicks in, and you just try and do your best.

“But the first initial thought was just relief, that she was okay and there wasn’t somebody else in the water."

"It all runs through your head about how you could have gotten there quicker and more you could have done.

"So it was a massive relief and probably a bit of pride later on,” he said.

“It’s nice to be recognised at the awards.”

PC Perry added: "“I wouldn’t say I was a hero, I was just doing my job.

"But it is nice to get a pat on the back for doing a good job.”

Essex Police Federation chairman Laura Heggie said both officers reacted with true police instinct to get into the water to protect life.

“We are so proud of the actions of Andrew and William,” ahe said.

“It would have been pitch dark, freezing cold and the officers had no real idea of what was out there when they went into the sea to try and save lives.

"It was an incredibly courageous and selfless thing to do."

“Police officers are much more than crime fighters and these two can give Baywatch a run for their money."