TRIBUTES have been paid to a former Scout leader who ran a Hampshire search and rescue service for half a century.

Philip Pearce-Smith, who has died aged 88, founded the Lepe-based League of Venturers and was awarded the MBE for services to the community.

Mr Pearce-Smith, who was affectionately known as Captain Tiffy, lived at Long Lane, Holbury.

Writing online Calshot RNLI Lifeboat said: "Tiffy was a huge character among the local search and rescue community. Often outspoken, he did not suffer fools gladly but endeared himself to many with his kind heart and commitment to the cause.

"He dedicated a huge part of his life to the Venturers providing opportunities to youngsters for many years.

"Some of our current crew came through the Venturers ranks and all will have fond memories from their time under his command.

"In later years, even with his health in decline, Tiffy continued to fight for what was right and we will fondly remember his pleasant eccentricity and occasional visits to the station for a chat."

One of the other tributes posted online says: "He was a man with a heart of gold who certainly put me on the right path."

Mr Pearce-Smith, a former member of Fawley Parish Council, was a colourful and often controversial figure.

He founded the Venturers with his late wife Pamela in 1961 and was its chief executive until 2011, when he stepped down after announcing he had Alzheimer's disease - a diagnosis he later claimed was incorrect.

In 2012 he launched legal action against the Venturers, claiming he was owed £20,000 in loans he had made to the charity over the years.

The following year he formally severed all ties with the organisation, which later became the UK Youth Marine Training Academy.

In 2016 Southampton County Court ordered the Academy to pay him £22,876, plus his £45,000 legal bill.

Speaking at the time Mr Pearce-Smith said it lacked the funds to pay him and announced he was asking the courts to place it into compulsory liquidation.

“I’ve got no choice – it’s the only way I can get any money,” he said.

“It breaks my heart – so many youngsters gained from their experience with the Venturers and went on to have good careers. But my victory is a just one."