New Walmer RNLI lifeboat to be named in honour of much-loved Sussex man

Lifeboats News Release

The second lifeboat to be funded in memory of a Sussex man will be officially named at a special celebration at Walmer RNLI Lifeboat Station in Kent on Sunday.

The D class lifeboat, which will be named Duggie Rodbard II, took over from the earlier lifeboat, Duggie Rodbard, which has helped the volunteer crew save lives off the Kent coast for the last ten years.

Special guest at the official naming ceremony at Walmer lifeboat station will be Val Rodbard, who was married to Doug until he passed away in 2002, aged just 59. Her appearance continues a long history of association with the lifeboat station.

The Rodbards’ association with the RNLI began in 2006 when, after Duggie’s death, his best friend John Farley, decided to commemorate his life by donating funds for a new lifeboat for the charity’s fleet. The RNLI proposed Walmer as a station that was in need of a replacement lifeboat, and the resulting vessel was named Duggie Rodbard in May 2007.

Val, who still lives near Lewes, Sussex said: ‘I first met John and his wife, Wendy, in 1967, when I was Doug’s guest at their wedding. Doug and John met in London and became friends, and I met Doug years later when he moved to Sussex. Doug was John’s best man and the four of us went on to become very close; we shared many holidays and adventures both large and small.

‘John reciprocated as Doug’s best man when he and I got married in 1973, and our friendship continues to this day. When Doug died John and Wendy suggested they fund a lifeboat as an appropriate memorial to Doug, which I thought was a lovely idea.’

And, inspired by the lifesaving legacy of that first lifeboat, when it neared the end of its operational life, Val decided to continue the RNLI relationship - and Doug’s legacy - by funding the replacement.

She said: ‘Walmer became a very special place for me. I got to know and understand the dedication of the crew and everyone involved at the lifeboat station and, through them, what the RNLI stands for. When I realised it might be possible for me to fund a successor boat I was delighted when the RNLI and Walmer agreed.’

Ali O’Neill, RNLI Philanthropy Manager, said: ‘Not only has Val’s kind donation funded the new lifeboat at Walmer, there was some funds left over, and the station agreed that surplus should go towards funding of a new mechanic’s workshop for the station. This was very apt Doug was an instinctive engineer and was never happier than when tinkering with all matters of a repairing and engineering nature.

‘We’re delighted that Val is carrying on what John and Wendy started, and she will be made very welcome indeed at the ceremony on Sunday.’

The first Duggie Rodbard lifeboat was on operational service from December 2006 until April 2016. In that time, she was launched by the volunteer crew a total of 109 times, and used to rescue 54 people. Among those were four people classed as “lives saved” – an important classification where a person surely have died were it not for being rescued by the RNLI.

The replacement Duggie Rodbard II went on service on 19 April this year and so far has been launched 10 times. The first launch happened within just a few hours of going on service. It was involved in the search for a large group of missing children and two adults who got lost during a coastal walk on a beach in the vicinity of St Margaret’s Bay and Dover Harbour. And the crew used her to rescue ten German teenagers in danger of being completely cut off by the incoming tide on the same stretch of coastline.

• Media are welcome to attend the naming ceremony of the new lifeboat at 2pm on Sunday 2 October at Walmer RNLI Lifeboat Station, The Strand, Walmer, Deal CT14 7DY

Notes to editors

Originally introduced in 1963, the D class lifeboat has evolved into a highly capable
modern lifeboat. It is the workhorse of the RNLI’s fleet and is ideal for working
close inshore, near rocks or in shallow water in moderate conditions. It can be
righted by the crew if it capsizes and is also part of the RNLI Flood Rescue
Team’s fleet of boats.

RNLI media contacts

• Tim Ash, RNLI Public Relations Manager (London/East/South East) on 0207 6207426, 07785 296252
• For enquiries outside normal business hours, contact the RNLI duty press officer on 01202 336789

Key facts about the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

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