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First Christmas on Crew for Southwold's Phil as Charity Seeks Support to Save Every One

Lifeboats News Release

A volunteer crewmember with Southwold RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) is getting ready to face his first Christmas on call as a crew member, as the charity launches its Christmas appeal. Phil Willis is calling on the public to support the RNLI’s lifesaving work this Christmas as he and his fellow lifeboat volunteers are ready to launch and answer a call for help.

A man in a blue jumper standing in front of an orange lifeboat smiles at the camera.

Phil signed up earlier this year – one of hundreds of new volunteers nationwide since the start of the Covid pandemic, for whom a change in working circumstances, or simply a calling to help people, provided motivation to join the charity.

Phil says: ‘I grew up by the sea in Devon and have always known about the charity and its work. Moving to Southwold was the first chance I had to join as crew and I jumped at the opportunity. Around half the crew are professional mariners and learning from them has been incredibly useful. Everyone’s been so supportive.’

With thousands of volunteers around the UK and Ireland, each RNLI crew member signs up to save every one from drowning – the charity’s mission since 1824. This Christmas many will leave loved ones behind to answer the call, each time hoping to reunite another family, and see those in trouble at sea safely returned. Over the past decade, RNLI lifeboats have launched over 1,200 times during the festive period. These rescues would not be possible without donations from the RNLI’s generous supporters, helping to fund the essential kit, training and equipment needed by lifeboat crews all year round. 

Kitting out a new crew member with clothing, boots, helmet and lifejacket costs around £2,000, with a further £1,400 to provide the world class training offered to all new recruits. On station, volunteers learn everything from boat-handling, search and rescue and  navigation, to radar training, radio communications and casualty care. At the RNLI College, the state-of-the-art Sea Survival Centre features a wave tank and lifeboat bridge simulator, where crews experience simulated real-life conditions including darkness, thunder, lightning and rain.

Phil says: ‘This is my first Christmas as a member of Southwold RNLI. The best thing about being on the crew is the camaraderie. I’ll be at home this Christmas, but my pager will be with me. That’s how it is for thousands of volunteers like me at stations across the country. But it wouldn’t be possible without the generosity of people donating to the RNLI.’

Gary Doy, Lifeboat Operations Manager at Southwold RNLI, added: ‘We’re really proud of Phil. He joined the crew at a difficult time during the pandemic, but has been patient and embraced all his training with real determination. I’m sure he’ll be an important part of our crew for years to come.

‘At this time of year, the weather’s at its worst and lives can be on the line. Through people supporting this year’s Christmas appeal, we can get so much closer to our goal of saving every one.’ 

To make a donation to the RNLI’s Christmas Appeal visit:

RNLI media contacts

For more information please contact Jim Rice, RNLI Regional Media Manager on 07810 658072 or [email protected] or RNLI Press Office 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.

Learn more about the RNLI

For more information please visit the RNLI website or Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. News releases, videos and photos are available on the News Centre.

Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or by email.