PCSO Bethany Thomas was walking her dog on the beach at Littlehaven when she spotted the 29-year-old woman about 20 metres out from the shore - face down in the water.
Although she is a non-swimmer and terrified of open water 27-year-old Bethany put her fears to one side and waded out to the woman fully dressed.
In doing so she braved underwater currents and by the time she got to the woman she was almost up to her chest in water.
The woman was face down in the water and unable to control her limbs but Bethany put her arms round the woman’s shoulders and managed to haul her out of the water and on to some rocks.
The woman was cold and struggling to breathe but managed to tell Bethany that she had taken cocaine to help with body pain she was suffering from.
Bethany then managed to move the woman to the nearby hotel where she looked after her until an ambulance arrived.
PCSO Bethany Thomas, of Durham Constabulary, said: “I heard a noise and just headed towards it. It was only when I got closer I realised it was a woman in the water.
“I am terrified of water and I can’t swim but I didn’t have time to think about that. There was literally no-one around to call for help. It was about waist high by the time I got to her.
“I am honoured to receive an award but never expected it. I just did what anybody would do in that situation.”
Now Bethany has been awarded a Royal Humane Society Testimonial on Vellum which has been personally approved by Princess Alexandra, the Society’s President.
In addition to the award she is to receive she has also won the personal praise of Royal Humane Society Secretary, Andrew Chapman.
He said : “What Bethany did was truly heroic. She is a non swimmer and terrified of open water yet with no thought for her own safety she waded into rough seas that in the end came up to her chest to save the woman in the water.
“It was an amazingly selfless act and she richly deserves the award she is to receive. If she had not acted as she did the woman in the water would almost certainly have drowned.”
The roots of the Royal Humane Society stretch back more than two centuries. The Queen is its patron and its president is Princess Alexandra.