The sound of ringing pagers interrupts memorial preparations at Harwich RNLI
Lifeboat volunteers from Harwich RNLI had just finished preparing the lifeboats and station for former Second Coxswain John Teatheredge’s memorial service and scattering of ashes, when the pagers sounded after reports of a missing swimmer were made.
At 12:30 Saturday 24 July, just as Harwich’s volunteers had completed the preparations of the station and lifeboats for the arrival of John Teatheredge’s family for his memorial service, the pagers sounded.
While changing into his protective dry suit, helm Lee James, who was supposed to have been part of the memorial service, reflected on what had just happened: ‘I knew as soon as I heard the pagers go off, John would be looking down with a wry smile, having a chuckle. Being a man who often missed important events due to his pager going off, it feels quite fitting in a way our pagers went off when we gather to remember him and scatter his ashes.’
UK Coastguard had received reports of a swimmer being observed entering the water off Felixstowe beach and not seen returning. Tierney, Harvey and Sonny Reid, Harwich RNLI’s inshore lifeboat was launched immediately, and once on scene the volunteer crew of four, began a search between Landguard Point and the River Deben, in swells of up to two metres.
They were soon joined in the search by Walton and Frinton RNLI volunteers, and their Tamar class all-weather lifeboat – Irene Muriel Rees – which had been due to join the memorial flotilla. Coastguard rescue helicopter 163 joined the search too, along with Coastguard mobile search and rescue units. The search area was also expanded to include to Walton Backwaters and Harwich Harbour.
At 3:05pm after an extensive search with nothing being found, all search teams were stood down by UK Coastguard until further information was received. While returning to station the Harwich crew were requested to assist a capsized sailor off Shotley. On arrival, the crew quickly assessed the situation, and pulled the sailor from the water, who was cold and exhausted after being in the sea for 20 minutes.
After checking the welfare of the sailor, the crew righted the dinghy and took them both to Shotley Marina, where they were passed to the care of the Coastguard Mobile Rescue Unit.
The words of Peter Bull, Harwich RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager, captured the feelings throughout the station: ’It was as if he’d planned it, to ensure he got a farewell to be proud of.’
John Teatheredge’s family said: ‘It was an overwhelming showing from the maritime community in paying their respects, we are incredibly grateful. We’re also glad all the family, friends and colleagues had a chance to join us in a moment of reflection we’ve been waiting for.’
Harwich RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat, Albert Brown, was accompanied by a small flotilla of pilot and tug boats as it made its way to the South Shelf Buoy, where John’s ashes were scattered on the sea he worked and loved.
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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.