Harwich RNLI look back on a challenging year that leaves them ready for 2022
What a year 2021 has been for Harwich RNLI, facing many familiar Covid challenges alongside navigating changes in personnel, coming to terms with the sad loss of close colleagues and friends, while recording one of their busiest years on record.
The year started with the tragic news of volunteer Second Coxswain John Teatheredge’s passing on Boxing Day. Having been a fixture of the station since 1977 John’s passing touched everyone on station, the sense of loss only interrupted by their pagers sounding at 10:30pm on New Year’s Day with the first of the year’s 117 call outs.
January also saw the resignation of Dave Thurston as Lifeboat Operations Manager after five years, which sparked a search for his replacement that resulted in the appointment of Peter Bull to take over the volunteer role in June.
There was another change in personnel during 2021 as Full-time Coxswain Neal Sandquest resigned his position in June to take up a full-time position at the Port of Felixstowe. It is hoped Neal will return as a volunteer in the new year once settled into his new role. June also saw three volunteers pass out as inshore lifeboat helms, bringing the number of helms to seven.
Harwich’s next Full-Time Coxswain generated wide scale interest with their appointment in September, as Di Bush would be the first full-time female coxswain in the RNLI’s near 200 year history. Having been the station’s full-time mechanic, Di’s appointment left the station recruiting once again.
Adrian Griggs was appointed full-time mechanic in October after retiring from the fire service. In addition, a recruitment drive that started in March saw seven new volunteers start their training to become lifeboat crew, with nearly all completing their first rescue by the end of the year, a remarkable achievement on their part considering the restrictions on training due to covid.
Having started the year with the loss of a close friend and colleague, the volunteers were saddened again with the loss of Station President Jim Davis, and lifelong supporter and retired Ladies Guild Chair Barbara Wells who passed away at the beginning of June.
September saw the 25th anniversary of the first operational Severn Class Lifeboat Albert Brown, being placed on station at Harwich.
All the while the volunteers were experiencing one of their busiest years with 117 call outs, 48 of which came in just two months, July and August.
The Atlantic inshore lifeboat Tierney, Harvey, and Sonny Reid launched 100 times and the all-weather Severn Class lifeboat Albert Brown launched 17 times during the year, the most notable coming when the Albert Brown was launched to an inflatable 36 miles off shore with two people reported on board. This was also Di’s first call out as full-time coxswain.
The lifeboat was at sea for seven hours, returning the two people to shore, before it was called out again one hour later to search for missing people. Unfortunately nothing else was found, but in a 24 hour period the volunteers were at sea for 13 hours.
Finishing off with few words from Harwich’s Lifeboat Operations Manager Peter Bull:
'What a busy year! I am hoping that in 2022 we can re-open once again to the public. As I have always said the station belongs to the community, who fund us to enable the volunteers to go out and save lives. Myself, the crew and everyone else involved with the station are just the custodians of it.
'I would like to thank you for your support in 2021, it has been overwhelming, even though it has been a difficult time for us all, and I hope you will continue supporting us. With the resumption of our much loved and well attended coffee mornings it has been lovely to see the regulars returning and new faces supporting the lifeboat station. If you’d like to see what we are doing please follow us on facebook, or pop down to the quay and see our new media screen.
'Finally I would like to thank Gillie Johnson, our fundraising chair, all the fundraisers, the collection box collectors, Rupert Cutler for all his help and support during this transitional period, all the volunteers who do things behind the scenes that you very rarely see, Di, Adrian and all the crew, who give up their time 365 days a year day or night, to go out and help people in difficulty, but a special thank you must go out to the families of all these people, who put up with them disappearing firstly for training and again at the most inconvenient times when there is a call-out. It is only with their support that we were able to respond to the 117 call-outs.
'To each and every one of you please stay safe, have a Happy New Year and fantastic 2022 and remember dial 999 and speak to the Coastguard if you see someone you think is in difficulty.'
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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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