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Missing the giving: From the frontline to the coastline

When Evan Edwards left the Army, he found what he missed most of all was helping other people. Today he’s a volunteer with Rhyl RNLI and says it’s filled a massive gap.

Evan Edwards, RNLI volunteer at Rhyl

After joining the British Army at 16, Evan saw three tours of Afghanistan, two in Northern Ireland and one in Kosovo. ‘Joining up was something I always wanted to do,’ says Evan. ‘My next-door neighbour, who was 5 years older than me, joined first and would come home telling stories. So I followed him.’

After 25 years of service, Evan decided to leave after his final tour in Afghanistan. ‘On my first tour there in 2006, I was sergeant. On my second I was sergeant major then, finally, regimental sergeant major. To take a battalion of soldiers out there, train them, and bring them back was a good note to end on,’ he says.

Evan got a job as a driver but found that civilian life was very different. ‘Adapting to civvy street is the hardest thing I’ve ever done,’ he says. ‘It’s so different to the military – you find yourself very lonely, very quickly. Even though I had a network of soldiers I kept in touch with, the first 2 years were very hard.  But I got through it and my family were a massive help.’

Evan says: ‘The biggest problem I faced was the fact that I needed to give’. And, after settling in Rhyl, he reconnected with the RNLI. ‘As a Swansea boy I remembered the RNLI coming to my school and warning of the perils of the sea.’ 

A different kind of duty

In 2017 Evan offered his services as a lifeboat volunteer. He joined up and got stuck right in. ‘I started learning my trade straight away,’ he says. ‘Typical Army lad, I went at it at 1,000 miles an hour! But the similarity to the services is massive. You’re either training or doing it for real. There’s a set of rules to follow, as we had in the Army. And then there’s the uniform, you’re representing something.’

Evan Edwards (right) takes part in a training exercise

Photo: RNLI

Evan Edwards (right) takes part in a training exercise

Evan explains that the skills he learned in the Army help him as a lifeboat volunteer: ‘Instruction in the Army was always EDIP (Explain, Demonstrate, Imitate, Practise) so having been taught that way, and having taught that way myself, the RNLI drills are exactly the same,’ he says. ‘On the boat it’s all drills, just like the military, even onshore with the ropes.

‘Some of the young lads struggle with the ropes and I take them to one side to help. Because you have to break things down in the military, I can do the same thing here and it helps trainees get it. 

‘It’s all about helping people: that’s what we do in service. On our missions and our operations, everything is geared to helping civilians. At home, we covered for the fire strikes in 2002 and gave support during the foot and mouth crisis. And when you go abroad, you’re serving your country. The RNLI mirrors that so much – sometimes I think I’m still there!’

Evan is now the head launcher, tractor driver, and a crew member for both the all-weather and inshore lifeboats at Rhyl. ‘It’s filled a massive gap for me, because I was missing the giving,’ he explains. ‘Service personnel are givers and when that gets taken away, you’re lost – but now I’ve found the RNLI.’

If Evan’s story has inspired you to get involved with the RNLI, you can find all kinds of different volunteer roles available at a lifeboat station or fundraising branch near you. Visit our volunteering pages to find out how you can help save lives at sea.

Right now, RNLI lifesavers are facing the Perfect Storm. More people than ever need our help. But we can't save them all. Not without your support. Will you make a donation and help RNLI volunteers across the UK and Ireland save lives at sea?  

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