Port Talbot RNLI hosts Merchant Navy Day
Port Talbot RNLI had the honour of hosting this year’s Merchant Navy Day and dedication of the new Memorial Board at its new permanent home at Port Talbot Lifeboat Station
On Sunday 4 September, Port Talbot RNLI crew joined by local dignitaries for the remembrance and dedication service.
It was the first service since before the pandemic, which made it even more poignant than usual. The stations President William Hopkin and John Lewis said a few words. RNLI Chaplin Phil Denyer delivered the service. We were delighted to have the Lord Lieutenant in attendance.
John Lewis, a 60-year veteran of Port Talbot RNLI, paid tribute to the merchant seaman some as young as 15 who paid the ultimate price who never returned to their homes in Neath Port Talbot.
John reminded us the price paid by our Merchant Seafarers, with the loss of over 32,000 men and boys.
John also recounted how one of our very own towns folks sailed on the San Demetrio. Which in 1943 was hit by shells fire by the German Heavy Cruiser, Admiral Scheer, during the battle of the Atlantic. This set the San Demetrio alight, requiring the crew to abandon ship.
Of the three lifeboats which escaped the inferno two were picked up by other ships. After drifting for three days the occupant of the third re-boarded the still burning San Demetrio, extinguished the fires, managed to restart the engines returning to Britain. They managed with no navigational aid apart from a compass rescued from the very lifeboat that saved their lives, they sailed into the Clyde ten days later.
To this day some of the Port Talbot RNLI crew still earn their living at sea, while saving lives at sea in their spare time.
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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