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Morecambe lifeboatman retires after over 34 years of RNLI service

Lifeboats News Release

Morecambe Lifeboat Station would like to announce the retirement of Harry Roberts MBE after 34 years of volunteer service to the RNLI. Harry is an integral member of Morecambe RNLI and his knowledge will be deeply missed by all.

RNLI CEO Mark Dowie presents long service certificate to Harry Roberts MBE after 34 years RNLI volunteer service

RNLI/Amy Roberts

RNLI CEO Mark Dowie presents long service certificate to Harry Roberts MBE after 34 years RNLI volunteer service
Harry first joined the volunteer RNLI lifeboat crew in 1986 as a crew member as the station was short staffed at the time. With dedication and training he swiftly worked his way up the ranks to become senior helmsman.

Harry has many memorable rescues and was awarded a ‘Thanks on Vellum’ in 2000 for his ‘seamanship, boat handling, decision making and leadership’ in a Force 5 rescue of the yacht ‘Lady Friendship’. The rescue involved Harry taking Morecambe Lifeboat Stations D Class lifeboat Brenda Reed into force 7 conditions, battling the powerful winds and the 3.5m waves.

Whilst powering towards the yacht in a coastline riddled with World War II sea defences one frightful five metre wave almost caused the lifeboat to capsize but fortunately the momentum carried her on top of the wave. Harry requested backup from Fleetwood Lifeboat Station, after a difficult tow set up in treacherous conditions, the yacht was successful towed to Fleetwood. The prestigious award was presented to Harry and his two volunteer crew members.

In 2002 the RNLI introduced the inshore rescue hovercraft to their fleet. This enabled vital rescue work in areas inaccessible to conventional lifeboats such as Morecambe Bay. Harry was involved in the initial building of the Griffon Hovercraft and the trials within Morecambe Bay. He went on to become the first volunteer Hovercraft Commander for the RNLI then senior hovercraft commander at the station for several years.

In 2005 Harry stated:

“Our hovercraft is invaluable. A lot of our rescuers would be very difficult to execute in any other craft. This craft gives us a far quicker response time by allowing us to take the direct route across the estuary and mudflats, often to otherwise inaccessible areas.”

The Morecambe Bay cockling disaster in 2004 proved both the RNLI hovercraft and its volunteer crew were indispensable. Harry was commander of the hovercraft the night of the tragedy which saw him flying the hovercraft for 22 hours. After this tragic event, the stations crew were both physically and mentally exhausted. But due to the dedication and commitment of the station and crew, they re-launched at 11pm the next evening for another emergency call out. The cockling tragedy is still a very poignant memory for Harry, Morecambe Lifeboat Station and Morecambe as a whole.

Harry was awarded an MBE in 2008 by Queen Elizabeth II for his services to maritime safety. This was the second time Harry met the queen, the first being in 1999 when the Eric Morecambe statue was unveiled. The medal was awarded in the ball room in Buckingham Palace. Harry commented:

"My colleagues at the lifeboat station were very pleased for me but the honour is for the station as well. It's more than just me, it's teamwork. I can't do it without them."

In 2018 Harry retired from his senior hovercraft commander role due to ill health. He then accepted the new pivotal role of Deputy Launching Authority. This is a vital decision making role which assesses if it is safe for the lifeboat and hovercraft to launch when an emergency call comes through.

Harry is also retiring from his role as station mechanic, a role he has held at the station since 1993. Previously D-Class mechanic and since 2002, Hovercraft mechanic, this saw him look after the maintenance of the 'Hurley Flyer' and her transporter 'Spirit of Morecambe'.

Harry concluded:

"It's time to hang up the yellow wellies after 34 years! There is going to be a big void in my life. But due to problems with my health it is time to retire. I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with some brilliant people over the years, many have become good friends. All the best to you all in continuing to carry out the life saving work of the RNLI. Thank you for all the good wishes and take care out there."

A spokesperson from Morecambe RNLI said:

"Harry has been a very popular and respected member of the station personnel. Over the years Harry has seen many changes, both in the RNLI as a whole, the boathouses, the rescue vessels and the training requirements. The senior hovercraft commander, Deputy Launching Authority and mechanic roles carry a great deal of responsibility and commitment. Without a dedicated, competent and disciplined crew, rescues in the bay would be impossible. Over the past 34 years, Harry has inspired and trained many volunteers. He will be missed deeply by all volunteers at Morecambe Lifeboat Station."

RNLI media contacts

For more information please telephone or email Amy Roberts, RNLI Morecambe Lifeboat Press Officer on 07852592439 or contact Chris Smith, RNLI Morecambe Lifeboat Press Officer on 07949205956

or contact the RNLI Public Relations Department 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 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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