Rye Harbour RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager retires after 50 years' service

Lifeboats News Release

Richard Tollett, Rye Harbour RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager (LOM), retired on Friday 21 July at the age 70, after almost 50 years of service.

Pete Barnes, Tony Edwards and Richard Tollett

Stephen Tollett

Richard Tollett (right) retirement presentation

Richard started his RNLI volunteer career as a lifeboat crew member in 1968. He then took on the role of Honorary Secretary in 1986 and eventually became Lifeboat Operations Manager in 2004. His colleagues, family and friends from the RNLI saluted his long career at a celebration evening held at the village hall at Rye Harbour.

There were speeches from the incoming LOM, Tony Edwards, his old friend Pete Barnes, ex-Littlestone RNLI station, and from Richard himself. Everyone contributed towards a new Canon SLR digital camera as a memento of their friendship.

During his years with the RNLI Richard was involved with 1,130 launches, rescuing 932 people and saving 189 lives, which is an incredible record.

When asked which rescue was the most memorable Richard replied: ‘There were 189 of them! Every time a life was saved it was an important and memorable occasion. That is what being an RNLI volunteer is all about.’

Richard did recall a rescue involving a Rye-based fishing vessel, the Irene H, on the 2 November 1986: ‘On arriving at the scene we were confronted with a vessel which was quickly taking on water and the crew were pumping furiously. The pump had run out of fuel and they were trying to fill it with petrol. As two of the lifeboat volunteers boarded the boat the fuel exploded and two of the crew wearing their fishing jumpers were set on fire.

'One of the lifeboat crew quickly grabbed them both and jumped overboard to extinguish the flames and they were then picked up by the lifeboat. The rescue took over 11 hours in total as equipment was flown in by helicopter, casualties evacuated, and the boat secured and towed to harbour.’

Seafarers and the public have a lot to thank Richard for in a long and valuable career with the RNLI and everyone at Rye Harbour RNLI would all like to wish him a long and very happy retirement.

RNLI media contacts

  • Steve Griffin, RNLI Rye Harbour Volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer, 07710 297606/ steve.griffin.rnli@outlook.com
  • Tim Ash, RNLI Public Relations Manager (London/South East/East), 0207 6207426 / 07785 296252 / tim_ash@rnli.org.uk
  • Paul Dunt, RNLI Press Officer (London/East/South East) on 0207 6207416, 07786 668825, paul_dunt@rnli.org.uk
  • For enquiries outside normal business hours, contact the RNLI duty press officer on 01202 336789
Richard Tollett pictured at the naming ceremony for the original 'Hello Herbie' lifeboat

RNLI/Tim Ash

Richard Tollett pictured at the naming ceremony for the original 'Hello Herbie' lifeboat

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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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