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Gerald Beddard

Around 95% of our people are volunteers, generously giving up their time while juggling family life, work, hobbies and other commitments.

Gerald Beddard, a volunteer tour guide at RNLI College

Photo: RNLI/Nathan Williams

We’ve asked some volunteers to choose something that represents the RNLI for them. This month, it’s the turn of Gerald Beddard, a volunteer tour guide at RNLI College. The item he’s chosen? The lifeboat crew themselves.

‘When I was 5 I was allowed to shake the RNLI collection tins while my mum pinned badges to people’s lapels. That was my first memory of the charity and I’ve supported the lifeboats ever since. I also have happy memories of going on holiday to Llandudno as a child, where the lifeboat would be sat out on the prom ready to launch. I was allowed to climb on it and play, my imagination running wild about the daring rescue I was about to do.

‘The people who come on RNLI College tours are a mix of supporters who already know about the charity, and people who just happen to be in the area. Those that don’t know about us are amazed that so many of the people in this organisation are volunteers. They’re also surprised at how much the kit and equipment costs. But, as I tell them, you can’t skimp on costs when it’s people’s lives on the line.

‘I’d say the lifeboat crews are what make my role – and everybody else’s here – possible. I’m also a volunteer boatswain: all the kit and equipment and training aids I look after are for the crews. The crews are what inspire visitors on the tours to support us. If we were a family, and we sort of are, the lifesavers would be at the centre, and people like me would be the cousins, aunts and uncles who make sure they’re OK. There are roles for everybody, so many different skills are needed.’

Tours of RNLI College in Poole, Dorset, give a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to be a crew member or lifeguard. Book a tour with our Reception Team.