Police officers praised for their bravery after coming across a rival gang mass brawl involving knives and machetes near Rugby

The fight was so severe that one man had his throat cut from ear to ear, leaving his larynx and Adam's apple exposed

PC John Thirlaway, Sgt Steve Willis, PC James Waterson and PC Neil Wheeler

Four police officers who saved lives after coming across a rival gang mass brawl involving knives and machetes have won a bravery award.

PC John Thirlaway, Sgt Steve Willis, PC James Waterson and PC Neil Wheeler put themselves in harm's way after the attack happened in front of shocked motorists near Ryton.

The officers are part of the Thames Valley Police and will now join 10 other colleagues who are being celebrated in person at the Thames Valley Police Federation Bravery Awards.

The incident they attended in October 2018 was so severe one man had his throat cut from ear to ear, leaving his larynx and Adam's apple exposed. Another victim received deep lacerations to his head and had ammonia thrown in his eyes.

Police described the crime scene as 'dynamic and dangerous' as the officers who attended could not immediately tell who was a victim and who was an offender as the utterly terrifying fight unfolded at around 6.30am.

"It was completely surreal,” PC Waterson said. "In my 13 years in the police, I have never dealt with anything quite like that, ever.

"I remember once the ambulance turned up and the men were taken off I just remember staring at John, and part of my uniform was all covered in blood; there was blood all over the place.

"We didn't really speak much; we just made eye contact with each other just to say, are you alright?"

The four officers had been returning from an operation outside the Thames Valley Police area when they came across what they initially thought was a road traffic accident ahead of them on the edge of Ryton, at the roundabout for the A445 and A423.

PC Thirlaway then drove towards a roundabout to get the road shut, only to discover a huge fight involving machetes and other blades taking place.

Getting out of the vehicle, PC Thirlaway shouted at the men to put their knives down before three men approached him. One was clutching at his throat, which was bleeding profusely, while another was clutching his bleeding head. The men were urging the officer to help their brother while informing him their attackers were armed with machetes and were hiding in nearby bushes.

PC Thirlaway could see the man's Adam's apple was hanging from his neck and immediately tried to bandage it and administer first aid.

PC Waterson, a trained PSU advanced police medic, then came to his colleague's aid packing the wound with the man's own t-shirt. PC Wheeler was also assisting with the first aid.

Shortly after, an ambulance arrived on the scene but with a cardiac patient in the back was unable to stay, meaning the officers had to try and save the man's life without backup emergency support - still 15 minutes away.

As the officers tried to give first aid, more people arrived and proceeded to have a fist fight, heaping more stress on the officers as they tried to deal with the situation. This was where Sgt Willis managed and controlled the incident using his years of experience.

More police units soon arrived, allowing the officers to concentrate on the wounded men. Although the culprits managed to escape they were later captured.

The man with the cut throat was told his attacker had missed his main artery by 'millimetres'. He and the man with the gash wound to his head, who also had ammonia squirted in his eye, incredibly both made full recoveries, thanks to the officers' efforts.

Three men were jailed for ten and a half years each for their part in the horrific incident.

PC Thirlaway said: "I was in the army for ten years. I did a tour of Sierra Leone, Iraq and Afghanistan, and I hadn't seen anything like that. We had to stay professional, and our priority was making sure these two men were okay.

"It's nice to be recognised for the job, and for us to be nominated for the Thames Valley Police Federation Bravery Awards is a brilliant thing. I'm proud, and I'm proud of my colleagues; watching James do his first aid stuff, he knew exactly what he was doing, and collectively we saved people's lives."

Thames Valley Police Federation Chair Craig O'Leary said the quartet had shown incredible bravery in the most horrific circumstances.

"It’s lucky that they were in the right place at the right time," he said. "This was a pre-ordained, incredibly violent attack in broad daylight, and it must have been a terrifying scene for them to come across.

"But Steve, Neil, James and John – our very own Fab Four - dealt with a dynamic and dangerous scene extremely professionally. They assessed the danger and put themselves at no small risk to save lives.

"They are absolute heroes for saving these lives in what was a really hostile environment. We're very proud of them."

Sgt Willis, PC Wheeler, PC Waterson and PC Thirlaway will attend an awards ceremony in the Thames Valley Policing area on September 9th, where an overall winner will be announced.