Ramsgate RNLI celebrates the life of one of its retired crew.

Lifeboats News Release

This week the flag at Ramsgate RNLI station is flying at half mast as we mourn the loss of one of our retired crew, Derek Pegden who passed recently.

the crew of the lifeboat on the deck


Derek 2nd left at the naming ceremony for the Kenneth Thelwell II

Derek joined Ramsgate RNLI at the age of eighteen as crew on the All weather Watson class boat ‘Michael and Lily Davis’ in April 1964, and retired in 2016 having given nearly fifty three years of voluntary service.

In January 1974 he also took on the role of helmsman for the inshore lifeboat as well as being promoted to 2nd Coxswain and Assistant Mechanic for the Station in July 1976 when the new Waveney class of lifeboat was brought in.

This boat ‘Ralph and Joy Swann’ , with Derek as a crew member, was involved in one of Ramsgate RNLI Station’s most meritorious rescues when the Silver Medal for bravery was awarded to Coxswain Ron Cannon, with Medal Service certificates being given to the crew.

On Boxing Day 1985, a north easterly gale was blowing when the French trawler ‘Glore a Marie II’ ran aground south of Ramsgate. A mayday radio call went out and with the weather now gusting up to hurricane force the lifeboat crew assembled. The first problem was getting onboard the boat in the harbour as the conditions even in the harbour were bad, and the sea was breaking over the East Pier and the windows at Port Control lookout building some ten metres above sea level had been smashed.

Eventually at 20.15 the lifeboat launched and with visibility worsening had to resort to using parachute flares before they glimpsed the trawler’s searchlights. The boat had run aground off the entrance of the River Stour and with language problems adding to the difficulties two crew members were put onboard, and then the boat was eventually towed into deeper water and the engines restarted meaning the boat could follow the lifeboat back to the safety of Ramsgate Harbour.

Another rescue that Derek was involved in was the probably the stations most famous rescue of recent times. On 20 November 1991 the Tyne class ‘Kenneth Thelwell’ was launched to the ‘Ross Revenge’ from which the pirate station Radio Caroline broadcast.

On the night of the 19 November in terrible sea conditions, unbeknown to the six people onboard, the ‘Ross Revenge’ had dragged its anchor and drifted eighteen miles from its original position. Initially a RAF Helicopter was sent to airlift the people onboard, but they were so concerned about what would happen to them ashore, and the boat being impounded that they declined. Eventually they accepted offers of help from a tug from Dover, and Ramsgate lifeboat launched at 04.45 in severe gale force winds, reaching the casualty at 05.35.

With the weather worsening and the tug being unable to launch, the casualties now decided to abandon their boat, so the lifeboat approached when at the last moment a large swell lifted the lifeboat picking it up and throwing her two hundred metres away on her starboard side. The lifeboat was now in trouble itself as it was beached, but with Ron and Derek calmly worked together with Ron on the helm and Derek, using every ounce of his sea knowledge, advising on the sea state they managed to float her once more.

The helicopter was called for once again and this time the six people onboard were taken to safety. As the lifeboat returned to Ramsgate they tuned into a local radio station as ex-Radio Caroline DJ Johnny Lewis was playing a record entitled Run for Home, this was a memory that always stayed with Derek.

In June of 1992 a letter of thanks was sent from, the then Director of the RNLI, Brian Miles to Ramsgate Station addressed to the crew of the ‘Kenneth Thelwell II’ of whom Derek was one, who had gone to the assistance of two yachts ‘Simona’ and ‘Storm Song’ on 22 February 1992.

It was noted that the lifeboat had launched just before 19.00 at night, in February, in very rough seas and gale force winds, and with the assistance of a helicopter from RAF Manston found the casualty at 20.30 approx fifteen miles south east of Ramsgate. The yacht ‘Simona’ had a rope around her propeller and was being towed by the ‘Storm Song’.

The lifeboat took over the tow and took off the crew of two onboard. Fifteen minutes later the ‘Storm Song’ reported that she was unable to make headway in the forty knot winds and a crew member was unwell. So the ‘Storm Song’ was also taken in tow and two crew members from that boat were taken onboard.

The lifeboat headed for Ramsgate and was joined by the trawler ‘Angelena’ who escorted them. On approaching Ramsgate the ‘Simona’ began to sink, so the tow rope was slipped and she sank. The remaining boat, ‘Storm Song’ was safely berthed in the marina with the four survivors shortly after midnight.

When his close friend Ron Cannon retired from active crew in 2001, Derek decided it was time to retire as well. With Ian taking over from his father and Paul Cannon eventually taking the role as Second Coxswain he felt it was time for the station to have a fresh start with a younger crew. However his expertise was too precious to lose so he was offered the role of DLA, Deputy Launch Authority, one of the first people to be contacted when the Coastguard contacts the Station, and who then collates all the information available before a lifeboat is launched.

This was a role he held until 2016.

Derek will be sadly missed as he retained his links with the crew throughout his retirement and our heartfelt condolences go to his wife Tamara, his sons Austin and Adam and his grandchildren.

Without crew like Derek who are volunteers we really would not be able to continue saving lives at sea.

Karen Cox Ramsgate Lifeboat Press Office Tel 07779848431 Email. [email protected]

Paul Dunt RNLI Regional Media Officer London and South East. Tel. 07785296252 Email [email protected]

Photo of Derek Pegden

RNLI/Family photo

Derek Pegden
4 men receiving certificates

RNLI/Karen Cox

Derek Pegden on the right, receiving a long service certificate at the Royal Temple YC

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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 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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