Poole volunteers remember
Poole Lifeboat volunteers will lay a wreath at the cenotaph in Poole Park and alongside our ‘Dunkirk Little Ship’ the Thomas Kirk Wright at the Old Lifeboat Museum on the quay and we will remember the sacrifices made in the dark days of war.
In June 1940 the Thomas Kirk Wright was in the thick of it, working off the beaches at Dunkirk evacuating French soldiers, she survived shore fire from the German positions less than 40 yards away and made two trips saving over a hundred lives.
Like the Thomas Kirk Wright one of our other Museum volunteers also saw action on the waves in World War II, David a sprightly nonagenarian served during the war in the Royal Navy, another of our stalwart volunteers, Gaynor, an octogenarian, recalls as a child growing up by the sea, seeing Mulberry Harbours in the port, where she lived, no doubt preparing for the allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944, these lovely people are living history and will share their stories, we must continue to listen and share, acknowledge the connection.
Throughout the year we are sometimes asked to sprinkle the ashes of a loved one in and around the Harbour and Poole Bay. The choice of Poole is usually a connection with the sea, a holiday, a sailor, seafarer and many have served in the Royal Navy or Merchant Navy during the war. We have a lovely leather bound book at the station, where one of our volunteers, records the names and the lat and long of the spot where the ashes were cast onto the waters, some caught by the wind and others taken by the tide, it is done solemnly and with reverence by the crew and we hope for the families some peace and solace knowing that the book will always remember their loved ones and keep the connection
At the station, we had the absolute pleasure of meeting Fred at our naming ceremony in the summer, Fred Kirk another spritely nonagenarian from Nottingham, whose connection with the sea, he said, was day trips to Skegness, then added that he experienced the high seas of the Atlantic, Pacific and running supplies and ammunition into Burma, during the War. He selflessly gave a sum of money in memory of his dear wife Dorothy, who he had in his own words, ‘rubbed along’ with for 63 years till she passed away, five years ago, Dorothy and Fred will be remembered, his generous bequest towards the new boat house commemorated by a brass plaque on the wall, the connection will always be there for the crew that met him at the naming ceremony and the future crew who will benefit from the beautifully equipped building, that keeps our boats safe, ready to launch.
Some of us volunteers had the honour to meet Harry Patch, in 2007, me amongst them, at that time he was 109 years of age and one of the oldest people in the country, he was at the RNLI college to name the D class lifeboat ‘The Doris and Harry’, after himself and his late partner. The D class was for the relief fleet, so an open invite to the Poole Lifeboat station had come through for people to attend if they wished, so a few of us went along, it was raining hard ,a soggy summers day as I recall and Harry said at the time "'I'm feeling proud and overwhelmed - I didn't expect to see all these people here, Doris was always interested in the RNLI and I gave the boat in memory of her, It's my tribute to Doris."
Harry funded the D class lifeboat with proceeds from a book about his recollections of the Great War, written by his friend and biographer Richard Van Emden.
Harry was in a wheelchair, frail, but his eyes bright and I remember thinking of all that he had experienced, through his extraordinary long life, but as he saw it he was an ordinary man who led an ordinary life and his experiences on the Western Front were no worse than those shared by many other soldiers, he wasn’t a hero, he was a survivor.
But what was extraordinary was that he lived so long, bringing first hand memories into the 21st century, memories that he shared of a conflict that has passed into history. Harry passed away in 2009, he was ‘The last Fighting Tommy’.
We reflect a poignant moment in all of our history, a 100 years on, the centenary of the Armistice, we will all give thanks for peace and for those that returned, and remember the sacrifice of the 800,000 soldiers who died 100 years ago.
When the octogenarians, nonagenarians and centenarians are no longer with us side by side, we will remember our connections, their stories and why we are all able to live in peace today.
We will remember
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, in a normal year, 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.