Whitstable RNLI sadness at the passing of David Larry Lamberton MBE.
The passing of David ‘Larry’ Lamberton on 16th November at the age of 89 has left a great feeling of sadness amongst the volunteers and supporters of the Whitstable RNLI Lifeboat Station.
Nicknamed ‘Larry’ after BBC Children’s Hour character Larry the Lamb, he was rarely referred to by his real name; indeed, many never new of him as David.
Larry became involved with the station in the early days when working as a docker around the harbour. He often recalled how Barry Hardy, the then Whitstable Harbourmaster who had been asked by the RNLI to form the station, walked up behind him on the quayside one day, put his hand on his shoulder and said, “You’re going to join the lifeboat, aren’t you Larry?”
That was the start of a 50-year association with the station, starting as a shore helper. He then joined the crew, eventually becoming a helmsman before retiring from sea-going duties in 1983 to become a Deputy Launching Authority and then on the death of his brother-in-law, Dave Foreman, taking on the role of Honorary Secretary, as the Lifeboat Operations Manager role was then known.
He oversaw construction of the present boathouse and the introduction of the larger Atlantic 75 lifeboat.
Born in 1932, Larry grew up in the Knightsbridge area of London and during the war was evacuated to Norfolk where he stayed with a farming family.
He did National Service in the RAF from 1950-53, initially serving in Wales, but he was unhappy that everyone spoke Welsh so asked to be transferred and later found himself serving at Fayd in Egypt during the Suez crisis.
One of his duties in Egypt was to direct aircraft into the hangers, but on one occasion he accidentally crashed one wing of an aircraft whilst focusing on the other and as a punishment was sent to man a pig farm, which he did not mind!
One of his friends in Egypt was from Whitstable and it was through him that he became a penfriend of Diane Foreman, and on returning to England he went to meet her. They married in 1957 at St Peter’s Church.
After leaving the RAF, he lived at Wouldham where he worked on a family-run smallholding, and later at Aylesford paper mill. He later moved to Whitstable and worked as a fisherman with his father-in-law, Vic, and brother-in-law, David Foreman. He then worked as a stevedore in Whitstable harbour and at Chatham, and later undertook driving and administration work for a local seafood distribution firm before he retired in his 70s.
He was President of the Whitstable Yacht Club for the last three years.
During his sea-going career with the lifeboat he served on the small ‘D’ Class lifeboats with which the station was originally equipped, and then the first of the Atlantic Class lifeboats sent to the station.
Over the years, he would have responded to calls at all times of day or night to a huge variety of maritime incidents, in all weather and without the modern protective dry suits and helmets available to today's lifeboat crews.
One of his most memorable 'shouts' was in October 1979 when he was one of the crew that launched to the rescue of two teenage girls and two men on a speedboat stranded on a mudbank off Milton Creek in The Swale. The rescue operation took over two hours of struggling to get the casualties from their craft to the lifeboat through the mud. Speaking after the lifeboat returned to station he said, “It was very hard to see what we were doing in the darkness and mud. The casualties were not very well equipped in the speedboat and the girls were wearing high-heeled shoes!”
On retiring from the Honorary Secretary role in 2002, he continued to support the station and his late wife, Diane, who was chairman of the fundraising branch of the station. Larry was awarded an MBE for services to the RNLI.
Whitstable Lifeboat Operations Manager, Mike Judge, said “Larry was a founding member of this station which was formed in 1963 and he served as both crew and a helmsman before taking over the management of operations and then latterly, supporting the raising of funds for the RNLI.”
“In all he brought and engendered a great sense of duty and loyalty to the station and was genuinely interested in all the people involved, directly or indirectly, with the saving of lives and the fundraising activity both locally and the surrounding RNLI family”
Larry's wife, Diane, passed away in 2017. He leaves a son, Andrew, granddaughters Amy and Vicki, and a great grandson, Arthur.
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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