Porthcawl RNLI 50th Anniversary Magazine

Page 1

1965 – 2015

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A Message from our Council Leader


ridgend County Borough has always had a close association with the sea. Featuring seven bays, busy shopping streets, blue flag beaches and cultural hubs such as the Grand Pavilion, the town of Porthcawl remains a popular destination for visitors and tourists, and can boast a rich heritage as both a coastal resort and an important working port with links to local industry. But the stunning beauty of the likes of Rest Bay belie how dangerous this eye catching stretch of the Welsh coast can sometimes be. Over the years, well known wrecks have occurred at the likes of Tusker Rock, Scarweather Sands, Nash Sands and Sker Point, and while nowadays we thankfully no longer see such incidents on a large scale, scores of smaller craft, swimmers, anglers and more have all got into difficulties in local waters. Indeed, not only does 2015 mark a half century of saving lives at sea in the area, figures released for 2014 saw Porthcawl RNLI Lifeboat Station’s

busiest year to date with 73 launches taking place and 60 people rescued who would otherwise have all come to harm or even died. The methods of doing so have changed significantly since the days of Manby mortar rescue lines and lifeboats powered by oar and sail, and it is interesting to note how demand for the rescue service has grown since the RNLI set up its experimental inshore lifeboat in 1965, particularly in the way that lifeboat volunteers now use their expertise to support the emergency services during incidents of heavy flooding. The area surrounding the RNLI station is in a transformational phase, too. A new marina has already been established, and exciting new plans are in place for the nearby Jennings Building, Customs House and a townscape heritage initiative. The Pilot Lookout Tower is being refurbished and brought back into use with the National Coastwatch Institution, and community-driven plans are

being developed for a maritime centre at Cosy Corner, too. Amid all this regeneration and change, one thing has remained a constant - the courage and selflessness of the volunteers who risk their own lives to help and save others, and the commitment and dedication of those who work behind the scenes at the RNLI to help ensure that the charity can continue to perform its vital work. I am sure that you will join me in offering these men and women thanks and appreciation for the important contribution that they make towards our local community and beyond - long may it continue. Councillor Mel Nott OBE Leader of Bridgend County Borough Council

Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), a charity registered in England and Wales (209603) and Scotland (SC037736). Registered charity number 20003326 in the Republic of Ireland | RNLI (Trading) Ltd - 1073377, RNLI (Sales) Ltd - 2202240, RNLI (Enterprises) Ltd - 1784500 and RNLI College Ltd - 7705470 are all companies registered in England and Wales at West Quay Road, Poole, BH15 1HZ.

Porthcawl Comprehensive Students Volunteer for the RNLI


orthcawl best friends Levi Bessell and Keiran Waring spent much of their spare time as children sitting on Porthcawl’s harbour wall watching the lifeboat. Both dreamed of volunteering for the RNLI and at the age of 17, both qualified to serve as volunteer crew members. “We used to say it would be great one day if we could become crew members,” said Levi, who completed a testing training course at the RNLI College in Poole during August 2014 alongside Keiran. “I am hoping to join the police so this will be a fantastic grounding for me,” said Keiran, who also took part in a real rescue during his training week. Among the many tests during their formal training the pair, both A-level students at Porthcawl Comprehensive

Photo by David Williams.

School, took part in training sessions in a giant tank which simulated stormy sea conditions and the capsize of a lifeboat. During one open water exercise an emergency call was received and the lifeboat which Keiran was on was called to help. “We had a report of two people in the water in Swanage Bay just around the corner from where we were and when we got there it turned out to be five people – two adults, two teenagers and one child – in two dinghies floating out to sea. I helped the group board a lifeboat and held onto their dinghies until they got back to the

safety of the shore”. Both Levi and Keiran live five minutes from the lifeboat station and as all other crew now carry special pagers with them 24/7, which will call them to the lifeboat station when an emergency call is received. Lifeboat Operations Manager, Phil Missen MBE said, “It is encouraging to see young volunteers passing their courses to become crew members and of course in Levi and Keiran’s situation they have already proved an asset to the station as generally they are available during the day when many of our other crew are working outside of our town”.

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A Privilege M

y first contact with Porthcawl Lifeboat was through my father, one of the original 12 volunteers, who, as a result of a public meeting, formed the elected Station committee. Retirement brought us back to live in Porthcawl and in due course I was invited to join the fund raising committee, becoming chairman and later Station Chairman. I was struck, immediately, by the total commitment of all personnel in all aspects of the Lifeboat service. I was struck, too, by family connections; fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, aunts, uncles and cousins. It seems to be an organisation which gets into the blood. What is very noticeable is the cheerfulness of the volunteers. Laughter is never very far away. The training and the demands made upon the volunteer crews and shore based helpers is arduous. As a result of this training everyone reacts immediately when there is a call out. Their professionalism kicks in. Even the most simple of rescues can quickly turn into a life-threatening situation. This is when the teamwork and training comes to the fore. Sometimes the conditions are far

from tranquil but there is never a shortage of volunteers to take out the boats. The camaraderie between senior shore based personnel and the young trainee crew is very marked. Each respects and trusts the other. If anyone should fall below the required standard, the dreaded voice of the LOM (Lifeboat Operations Manager) will ring out –

Thanks RnLI

“MY OFFICE NOW” Controlling everything that happens in the station, he is quick to assess any situation, always ready with help and advice. The success of the station is due to him. What a privilege it is to work with such people. John Abraham, Station Chairman

For latest news and information on rescues and training exercises follow us: PorthcawlRNLI @PorthcawlRNLI @PorthcawlRNLI Share your images using the hashtag below:

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The RNLI is the charity that saves lives at sea

‘Prospects for Promotion are Poor’


t was in 1993 that John Blundell wrote to me asking me to become President to succeed the late Sir Leslie Joseph – in his letter he said `I have to tell you that both pay and prospects for promotion are poor, nevertheless, we all hope you will accept this invitation`. Thus began a long and immensely enjoyable relationship with Porthcawl RNLI. Over the 22 years I have seen huge advances in our capability and am very proud that Porthcawl was the busiest Station in Wales in 2014. There have been some very special rescues and as a Station we have been awarded one Silver and four Bronze medals along with many other commendations and letters of thanks from the Institution. The development from a basic inflatable to a sophisticated Atlantic 85 coupled with a new type D class shows the

importance of our Station. However a station is about the people and we have been very fortunate in attracting generations of local people, often within the same families, who have devoted their time and bravery to ensure safety at sea in our area. The essential ethos of the RNLI lives on in good heart in Porthcawl and we enjoy first class relationships with our sister rescue organisations. The Station is a beacon at the end of the Promenade and will be at the centre of future regeneration of the Harbour area. In our 50th year I pay tribute to all those who have served the station in the past and give thanks to all those involved today, including the all-important Fundraising Branch who do so much to support us. Thanks are also due to the many

(l-r) John Abraham, Sir Robert Hastie RNLI Management and Peter Scott.

people from all parts of Porthcawl life who are supporting us in our 50th Anniversary Celebrations. Peter Scott President Porthcawl Lifeboat

The Background


lifeboat station existed in the newly developed town of Porthcawl from the early days of the founding of the RNLI and closed with the demise of the port operations in the town. In 1902 the lifeboat ‘Speedwell’ was transferred to carry out its work in Hartlepool and the lifeboat house sold to become a gentlemen’s club. This was brought about by the expansion of the new ports of Cardiff and Barry and the rapidly expanding rail links at the heart of the industrial revolution. Lifeboat cover for the area was carried out by the Mumbles station to the west and Barry Dock to the east. It was after the Second World War when rationing ceased and people’s lives came back to some form of normality that trips to the seaside became more popular again. Inevitably people started to get into difficulties, but now, not on ships of the merchant navy and those of foreign flags but people taking to the water in small craft and swimmers. The RNLI recognised this and looked at a light, fast and easily launched craft to effect rescues from popular beaches and similar launch sites.

Advances during the war years had seen the development of inflatable boats and a number of companies had developed craft, as orders for their core business of manufacturing air ships and barrage balloons had gone into decline with the cessation of hostilities. The materials and fabrics served both products well. Porthcawl was deemed a suitable town for the siting of one of these craft and in 1965 local townspeople were approached to form a committee and crew. Shortly after a building alongside the now closed RAF marine base was secured and an RNLI ‘D’ Class lifeboat for summer only use was placed on station. The newly formed crew were eager and had been training at Atlantic College in their open air swimming pool all winter. The boat and crew were an immediate success with their provision of aid to those in difficulties. A succession of D class lifeboats served the town, each one more advanced than its predecessor and with the advancements in training the crews became better and more skilled as the years passed.

Early days launching by hand.

It was in 1995 that the construction of a new purpose built lifeboat station took place with the senior crew at the time spending a week at the RNLI Training Centre at Cowes becoming familiarised with the ‘Atlantic 21’ lifeboat that took up station at Porthcawl in the February of 1996. This is the Station that to this day houses the current ‘Atlantic 85’ and ‘D Class’ lifeboats, ‘Rose of the Shires’ and ‘Jean Ryall’, both distant relatives of that basic inshore craft that was stationed here in 1965, but their roles are the same to save lives at sea. Ross Martin, Deputy Launch Authority and Sea Safety Officer

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There from the Start I

n the early days of Porthcawl Lifeboat, we had no communication once we had left the slip way, radios had not yet been introduced. Tom Abraham, father of John our Station Chairman, was a very enthusiastic member of the committee, and in his enthusiasm, invited me to dive off the end of the lighthouse and swim over towards the fairy buoy. His intentions were to inform the crew returning from exercise that we had a casualty the seaward side of the lighthouse. This didn’t turn out quite as planned, because the lifeboat crew decide to practice changing the propeller on the beach. After some twenty minutes and later than anticipated, the lifeboat returned to the slipway and were briefed by Tom of the ‘swimmer casualty’. Being a spring tide, ebbing, I found I had drifted 300 metres off shore opposite the Sea Bank Hotel. By this time the lifeboat had left the slipway and I was picked up within five minutes. By the time I got back to the slipway, Tom had disappeared! Again I am afraid Tom Abraham is involved in my next situation. At this time it was illegal to use CB radios without a GPO licence. Tom however managed to obtain two. One he gave to the Lifeboat crew and the other he hid in his coat. All call outs were a result of the firing of two maroons. This resulted in large numbers of the public attending the scene and invariably, a

Naming ceremony of “Rose of the shires”.

Members of the crew inside our first station.

policeman. Whilst Tom was enjoying a conversation with the crew, he noticed standing beside him was not a police constable but the police station Inspector himself, Inspector Bevan. Tom had difficulty trying to conceal the radio and communication from the radio, when Inspector Bevan said “Come on Tom let us all know what’s happening”. No further action was taken. Sometime later, radios became standard equipment. These days recovering the lifeboat after a call out in difficult conditions there is a special procedure which involves bow first entry into a crash net. On this particular occasion whilst

the lifeboat lay off, lifeboat helpers prepared the net for this procedure. They were about to proceed with recovering the boat when a ladies voice announced “the net is the wrong way round. The splice should be on top”. The slightly embarrassed helpers quickly corrected the situation. I don’t know her name, but I believe she became the first lady Lifeboat woman to receive a medal for the rescue of fishermen and boat from the treacherous Nash Sands. Having served her full time as crew member, this young lady is now one of the current launching authorities. Still can’t remember her name! Victor (Vic) Gwyn Davies




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Porthcawl Lifeboat Station by Stephen Knipe


y late father (Lindsey) was a founding member of the crew since 1965 and ‘Moth’ (Phil Missen), Steve Jones & ‘Big Ross’ (Ross Martin) were the young one’s on the crew! I can remember then that in order to launch our old ‘D’ Class lifeboat the Harbour Master, Harry Grant, would fire the maroons to muster the crew. I would run down to the slipway from the pier and watch the crew and helpers move the lifeboat out of the tin shed and get the block and tackle out, attach the rope to the trailer take a turn or two around the old bollard and then a shout of ‘Off Turns’ and the boat would be lowered into the water, how things have changed! I then became of age when I was able to join the crew in the summer of 1990! I can remember as if it was yesterday the first time I went out on

exercise, I was on the boat with Big Ross and Steve ‘Porky’ Williams, it was a flat calm evening exercise. I was asked if I could swim from the ‘D’ Class to the Black Beach, off the Sea Front, I thought yea, that will be easy and I tied a rope onto my lifejacket and started to swim into the beach. I was making good progress and was about 20 yards from the beach and seemed to be getting no closer, I thought it not going to beat me and started swimming harder. After another, what seemed like 15 minutes (probably only 5 or 10 minutes) and I was still not getting any closer? I then turned around to see Steve & Ross laughing at me as they had tied me to the boat which was at anchor and for the last 10 minutes I had been swimming nowhere! One of my first ‘shouts’ I can recall was 3 persons cut off at Newton Point, it was a lovely summer’s day and on the

boat was myself, Big Ross and Mike ‘Wind Up’ Evans who was on the helm. The week before I had done an exercise with Mike which had been rowing the ‘D’ Class in to shoreline; we arrived on scene and set the anchor ready for veering (reversing), with Mike at the helm, he said “Go on Knipey, get on with it”. I looked at him and he smiled and told me to row the boat in close to the rocks, the people were safely recovered and the job done. Many things have changed within the RNLI with new stations, new boats, new kit & new crew, but one thing will never change, the crew, helpers and station personnel’s commitment that ensures that the boat goes to sea to save lives 24/7, 365 days a year. Steve Knipe Volunteer Helmsman

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C I T Y,






ne spring day in the late 1980s while carrying out repairs on a fishing boat in the harbour one of the Coastguards asked me to see if I could help the lifeboat crew to solve an engine defect that occurred whilst the ‘D’ Class lifeboat was out on a routine exercise. A new engine was being shipped from the RNLI headquarters at Poole, but being as it was late morning there would be no lifeboat cover for the town until its arrival later that day. A few of the crew and myself soon had that engine running, a cup of tea was produced and soon after I returned to the fishing boat repairs. A number of weeks passed and an invitation arrived to meet the crew for a pint, soon after that night out, I had been on an exercise and was soon enrolled as crew. It was an interesting time in the early 90s, the station was soon having a new boat, better, faster, safer. The RNLI, as I have come to find, are constantly striving to supply their crews with the best equipment in the market place and if it’s not available they will design and develop their own, in house at one of their production facilities. My involvement with the RNLI has been a fantastic journey, during this time I have forged some lifelong friendships as a volunteer member of the crew. Although my time as crewman is now over Coastal Safety and my new role as a Deputy Launching Authority will keep me just as interested in lending a hand. Ross Martin [big Ross], Sea Safety Officer and Deputy Launch Authority, RNLI Porthcawl Life jackets are useless unless worn



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Congratulations to all volunteers at Porthcawl Lifeboat on their 50th Anniversary

Medal Services by Porthcawl Volunteers


uring the 50 years since the RNLI re-established a lifeboat service in Porthcawl there have been numerous rescues and many lives saved. These rescues have taken place at various states of the tide and weather conditions, during the day or in the hours of darkness and sometimes within yards of the station or even several miles out to sea. Some of these ‘shouts’ have tested the abilities of both crew and lifeboats. Fortunately with ever improving kit and higher standards of crew training we have been extremely grateful that our crews have always returned to shore safely. Notably there have been some outstanding rescues that have merited medal awards be presented to individual crew members.

Helmsman Stuart Roberts – Silver Medal Stuart received his award for the rescue of a surfer on the 30th December 1994. The Divisional Inspector of Lifeboats said in his report, “The conditions were well outside the operating limits for a ‘D’ class lifeboat. The Station Honorary Secretary, John Williams, made the difficult decision to launch because the situation was so grave. The service was superbly executed in severe surf, wind and tidal conditions which demanded the most excellent

boat handling, seamanship skills as well as a high degree of bravery and confidence”. Helmsman, Stuart Roberts, awarded a Silver Medal of the Institution for Outstanding Bravery during the rescue of the surfer in very rough seas. Crew members, Carl Evans and Wayne Evans, awarded Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum.

Helmsman Nick Beale – Bronze Medal Crewman Nick Beale who had been at the harbourmaster’s office reported to the Station Honorary Secretary, John Williams, that he had seen a fisherman washed off the pier. The date was 2nd February 2002 and a severe gale had been blowing for the past 24 hours. Enormous waves were breaking all along the pier and conditions were well beyond the operating limits for the ‘Atlantic 75’ class of lifeboat. The fisherman could be seen being completely enveloped in waves just off the end of the pier. A decision was made to launch, as long as the lifeboat stayed in the lee of the pier. However during the rescue Nick had to go into open water to be able to pick up the casualty who by now had been swept further out. In near impossible conditions the casualty was recovered into the lifeboat and

brought back to the station where he was resuscitated by other crew members until the ambulance crew arrived. The lifeboat re-launched with a new crew following confused reports of a second fisherman in difficulty, meantime wind and sea conditions had dropped slightly. During the second search Porthcawl lifeboat was escorted by the Mumbles all weather lifeboat and a RAF Search and Rescue helicopter. Further enquiries confirmed there had been no second casualty and the search was stood down. Helmsman, Nick Beale, awarded the Institution’s Bronze Medal for Gallantry. Crew members, Riccardo Rava and Stephen Knipe, awarded Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum. Second launch Helmsman, Stephen Jones, awarded Letter of Thanks from the Chairman of the Institution. Crew members, Carl Evans and Stephen Childs accorded Letter of Appreciation from the RNLI Chief Executive. Shore crew, Stephen Williams and Ian Stroud accorded a Letter signed by the Operations Director. Philip Missen, Station Honorary Secretary, Acknowledged in a Letter signed by the Operations Director.

Helmsman Aileen Jones – Bronze Medal

Helmsman Stuart Roberts.

Helmsman Nick Beale.

Swansea Coastguard received a message from the commercial fishing vessel ‘Gower Pride’ that it needed immediate assistance. The date was 24th August 2004, the conditions were very poor with SW winds force 7 to 8 and frequent heavy rain squalls. The casualty vessel was off the Nash Sand Bank with two crew on board, one of whom was injured. With loss of engine power and with anchors not holding she was being swept down onto the Banks. Once on scene Porthcawl helmsman, Aileen, decided in such conditions it was safer to leave the two crew on

board the ‘Gower Pride’ and set up a tow to bring the casualty off the Sands. Unfortunately the first tow rope parted and Aileen decided to put crewman Simon Emms on board the casualty to secure the tow. The casualty was eventually towed off the Nash Sands and into deeper water where the tow was handed over to the Mumbles all weather lifeboat and all three vessels made for the safety of Porthcawl harbour where waiting paramedics treated the injured seaman. This was the first medal ever awarded to a female crew member in the history of the RNLI. Helmsman, Aileen Jones, awarded the Bronze Medal for Gallantry. Crew member, Simon Emms, awarded the Thanks of the Institution on Vellum. Crewmen, Stephen Knipe and Mark Burtonwood, awarded Medal Service Badges and Certificates. Mumbles coxswain, Martin Double, awarded a Letter of Appreciation.

Paul Eastment – Bronze Medal, Christopher Missen – Bronze Medal Porthcawl volunteers – RNLI Flood Rescue Team

help Mrs Glover the RNLI team made the decision, at 1:51am, to launch their rescue craft into the flooded river. In the darkness the team eventually located the casualty and managed to bundle her into the rescue boat whilst fighting to avoid being swept under a nearby bridge. With the flood water still rising the situation was made worse in that the team did not know the area and the river was carrying lots of debris which, could at any time, have damaged the craft or its engine putting all in extreme danger. Some weeks later and following her successful rescue, Mrs Glover met up with Paul and Chris at the scene of the incident. She said, “I want to thank you for your bravery, courage, determination, professionalism and commendable quality of character. You embody the highest principles of selflessness I know: ‘greater love hath no man that he lay down his life for his friends’. But you were prepared to do this for a stranger – and that stranger was me. In so doing you gave me the gift of life and the joy of knowing that Santa

called on my son at Christmas. I will hold you in my heart forever. Thank you for saving my life”. This rescue was the first time that any RNLI volunteers had been awarded medals for a flood rescue. Besides the RNLI recognition for this rescue the ‘team’ found that they were honoured with the Pride of Britain Emergency Services Award. Paul, Chris and Martin were also honoured by Porthcawl Town Council when Mayor, Cllr Mike Clarke, presented each of them with an Engraved Town Plaque in appreciation for their bravery. Team Leader, Paul Eastment, Porthcawl, awarded the Bronze Medal for Gallantry. Helmsman Christopher Missen, Porthcawl, awarded the Bronze Medal for Gallantry. Also on the rescue boat that night Martin Blaker-Rowe, Chiswick, awarded the Bronze Medal for Gallantry. Jason Dunlop, Penarth, awarded the Thanks of the Institution Inscribed on Vellum for his role as driver and launch support.

During December 2012 many parts of the UK had been badly affected by flooding. Members of the RNLI Flood Rescue Team had been sent to Devon and on the night of 23rd December news came in that a woman had been swept from her car and into the flooded and fast flowing river at Umberleigh. Casualty, Vanessa Glover, was reported to have been heard in the darkness calling for help, she had fortunately managed to cling onto an overhanging branch. With other rescue services unable to

Helmsman Aileen Jones.

Flood Rescue Team Members (l-r) Chris Missen and Paul Eastment with Mrs Glover (centre).

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RNLI News Release 18 July 2014


NLI volunteers and supporters from across Wales were recognised last week for their years of dedication at the charity’s annual Fundraising and Supporter Awards, held at the Swansea Maritime Museum. Fundraising and operational volunteers were presented with various awards by the RNLI’s Fundraising and Communications Director, James Vaughan. An assortment of distinctive awards was presented to Porthcawl RNLI volunteers at the ceremony in Swansea. Both Marjorie Abraham and Captain David Saunders were presented a Silver Badge whilst fundraiser John Westwood took home the charity’s Bronze Badge for his volunteer work. Marjorie has helped raise nearly £60,000 for the RNLI over the past 10 years by organising various fundraising events such as the annual Quilt Raffle. Captain Saunders was presented with his Silver Badge for single-handedly coordinate local collections for the branch.

Just a few days following the Awards Presentation, Porthcawl Lifeboat Station welcomed The Mayor of the County Borough of Bridgend, Councillor Gary Thomas who was visiting the volunteers during their regular Sunday morning practice. During the visit he took the opportunity to personally thank Marjorie Abraham for her voluntary dedication and time given to raising so much money for the RNLI Charity. The Mayor also took time to talk with many of the crew and watched enthusiastically as both lifeboats were launched on exercise. Station Lifeboat Operations Manager, Philip Missen MBE said, ‘We were delighted that the Mayor of the Borough paid us an official visit during the early part of his year in office. The interest in the RNLI in Porthcawl shown by Councillor Thomas was very encouraging and we look forward to seeing him again during the next year. Of course at Porthcawl we are particularly proud that we had three medal awards

at the recent RNLI ceremony. The allround work done by our fundraisers does allow the operational side to carry out rescues with confidence in their lifeboats and equipment. Marjorie is almost classed as a tourist attraction in Porthcawl as she has dedicated virtually every weekend between April and September for the past 10 years sitting on the Promenade outside the RNLI shop selling raffle tickets to supportive members of the public, she must be known by virtually every visitor to Porthcawl seafront’.

Marjorie Abraham with the Mayor of Bridgend, Cllr Gary Thomas.

Raising Funds for the RNLI W

orking in the Lifeboat shop, shortly after the porch had been added on, I was struck by the lack of colour experienced by visitors. I decided to make a small quilted wall-hanging of boats as a cheerful welcome. A friend offered to help & the quilt was hung. It wasn’t long before we were asked if it was being raffled and it raised £294. The next year Pam Wild and I made

a bigger quilt. Having had a bad fall, I was not allowed to stand & John, my husband, decided that the only way for him to get respite was to push me down to the shop and leave me there to sell raffle tickets. How could I argue? This time we raised over £2,000. Now there was no stopping! Bridgend Quilters offered to help and over the years the raffle of quilts and the selling of second-hand books has

raised over £61,000. Most of the time it has been fun, sometimes very cold, rarely boring. Around the raffle table I have heard many heart-warming stories, even witnessing sisters meeting each other after 40 years! It is a very small way in which I can help our crew, whose bravery and commitment is exemplary. Marj Abraham

John Blundell 1923-2015 and Previous Officers of the Station


he late John Blundell was approached by the RNLI in 1965 to re-establish a Lifeboat Station at Porthcawl and thus began a long and varied association with Porthcawl RNLI. John served as the original Honorary Secretary, (Hon. Sec.) having mustered suitable crew and helpers for 10 years and then served as Chairman for 26 years till 2002. After this he retained an active interest in the station up until 2011. He worked in a quiet manner behind the scenes but held the RNLI and particularly Porthcawl very dear in his heart. He had a very detailed knowledge of the Bristol Channel and its history and was always willing to impart this to others who showed interest. The building of the new station gave him much pleasure as he had lobbied hard for this and he was proud of the new facilities afforded to the Crew and Helpers who had for many years oper-

ated out of a lean-to on the side of Jennings Buildings. Sadly John died just before the Station had a Royal Visit to commemorate our 50th Anniversary by the Princess Royal. During our 50 years the Station has only had three Hon Secs before our present incumbent now called The Lifeboat Operations Manager, Phil Missen MBE. Following John Blundell was David Howell-Jones who carried out the office for 10 years from 1976 to 1986. David was a member of the original committee formed in 1965 thus already had an in-depth knowledge of the task in hand. He was a keen mariner himself and during his tenure there were many memorable rescues in what was a really basic craft when compared to the sophisticated boats used today. The crew in those days really had to contend with a very basic station and had little communication with the shore once launched. David was also involved

Station Honorary Secretaries since 1965, (l-r) John Blundell, John Williams, David HowellJones and Philip Missen.

John Blundell

with the Sea Cadets with whom the RNLI has enjoyed a close relationship and he was the first Town Mayor, David died in 1998. John Williams succeeded David in 1986 and served as Hon Sec till 1998. John was also one of the original crew members and a veteran mariner with a long and distinguished career connected to the sea cadets and the Royal Naval Reserve. This twelve year period saw great changes in the Station both in terms of the building and completion of the new Station in 1996, also the installation of a new boat in the form of an Atlantic 75 which represented a step change in the rescue capability of our station. John ably managed these changes and the necessary training needed to cope with the new boat and the need for a higher degree of professionalism. There were a number of high profile rescues during John`s time resulting in a Silver medal and many other commendations. John and his wife Irene continue to be stalwart contributors to our station and John was awarded an MBE in 1997. Peter Scott President Porthcawl Lifeboat Station


Congratulations to Porthcawl RNLI on your 50th Anniversary from Steve & Staff CHECK OUT YOUR BIGGER, BETTER BARGAIN BOOZE SELECT CONVENIENCE!


Porthcawl’s Current RNLI Lifeboats

B Class - Atlantic 85

D Class - IB1

Year introduced into RNLI fleet:


1963—but design has evolved

Year on station in Porthcawl:



Name of Porthcawl station lifeboat:

‘Rose Of The Shires’ B832

‘Jean Ryall’ D714

Donor/funding for lifeboat:

Northamptonshire Appeal

Legacy of Mr Sydney David Charles Ryall











1.8 tonnes


Max speed:

35 knots

25 knots

Fuel capacity:

210 litres

68 litres


2.5 hours

3 hours


2 x Yamaha 4 stroke, 115hp each

1 x Mariner 2 stroke 50Hp

Survivor capacity:



Our Atlantic 85 Rose Of The Shires is a B Class Inshore Lifeboat, first developed from a design originated at Atlantic College, near Porthcawl in South Wales. The ‘85’ refers to the boat being almost 8.5m in length. Fitted with two inversion proof engines and a manually operated righting system which allows her to remain operational even after a capsize. Equipped with the latest in electronic equipment including radar, chart plotter and VHF direction finding equipment. Our Atlantic 85 is launched using a special tractor unit and carriage. Our IB1 Jean Ryall is a D Class Inshore Lifeboat which has been the workhorse of the RNLI fleet for over 50 years. Able to operate closer to shore than our Atlantic 85 the IB1 is ideal for rescues close to shore in fair to moderate conditions. The IB1 can be manually righted by the crew after a capsize. Fitted with the latest chart plotter equipment which was developed in house by the RNLI and a VHF radio. Our IB1 also has AIS fitted meaning its location can be tracked in real time. Launched at Porthcawl using a Tooltrak tractor and trailer unit.




Porthcawl Christmas Morning Swim links to Porthcawl RNLI W

as it just a coincidence or not, Porthcawl Christmas Swim started 25 Dec 1965 and celebrated its 50th event in 2014. The RNLIs presence at Porthcawl was reintroduced to our town on 26th June 1965 and of course celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. From very early days both organisations have been very supportive of each other. The first Swim was at the slipway on the Breakwater. The lifeboat has always launched from the same slipway. Some years later the swim moved to the beach at Sandy Bay, yet the link remained. There are many photographs held by both organisations that show pre – Christmas publicity poses for the ‘Swim’ with Father Christmas in the lifeboat. For many years the lifeboat would launch on Christmas morning and be on standby close to the hardy swimmers. More recently the large Talus launch tractor would go onto the beach with volunteer crew sup-

Volunteer crew on duty Christmas morning.

porting the event. The ‘Swim’ organisers are very proud of the links with the RNLI who provide such valuable

Swim members and crew gather for publicity photograph during the 1980’s.

safety cover each Christmas morning. In thanks for their support many donations have been made to Porthcawl lifeboat station over the years to help purchase equipment that they can use operationally. Such is the Lifeboat crew support that talks have already taken place between our two organisations to discuss the 2015 ‘Swim’ from a RNLI operational point. Having celebrated our fiftieth event successfully, we wish all volunteers at Porthcawl Lifeboat Station congratulations on their fiftieth anniversary. I may be biased in saying that you provide such a valued service to our town, to its residents and to its many visitors whether they travel by road or sea to visit us. We wish all the volunteers, both operational and fund raising, at the RNLI lifeboat in Porthcawl continued success for the future and ‘a safe return to shore to all crew’. Ian Stroud Porthcawl Christmas Morning Swim

Porthcawl Lions


s residents of Porthcawl and nearby areas members of Porthcawl Lions Club know how vital Porthcawl RNLI is for the community. It has, therefore, always been important for Porthcawl Lions to support the lifeboat and crew whenever possible. Two big projects for the station are the drying machine and the refurbishment of the first aid room. The dryer, donated by the Lions and quickly christened Clarence in honour of them was much needed to dry out everything after rough, wet rescues and the club also greatly helped in financing the refurbishment of the first aid room. Of course both events warranted cel-

ebrations which were held in the lifeboat station and thoroughly enjoyed by both Porthcawl Lions club and RNLI members. Both organisations get on well and work happily together which has meant co-operating on more than fund raising. The 60th anniversary of the sinking of The Samtampa was marked by Porthcawl Lions organising a beach clean, an activity which has gone from strength to strength and now involves Tidy Wales but is also supported by Porthcawl RNLI. Both organisations have also co-operated on such ventures as the Sea Festival and the May Fayre. When Gabrielle, an American

research student on a multi country research scholarship studying conservation was hosted by a member of Porthcawl Lions a visit to the lifeboat station for her and Lion members during one of the practice evenings was arranged and enjoyed by all, especially Gabrielle, who being young and very pretty was treated to a trip in the lifeboat, an honour bestowed on very few! The lifeboat station was also the venue for a reception for Lions International President, Joe Preston, from Arizona where he met Lions and RNLI members and learned about the work of both organisations. The visit was a great and rare honour for Porthcawl Lions and the club was happy to share part of the day with the RNLI. Porthcawl Lions are proud of their long and successful association with Porthcawl RNLI and would like to wish them every success in the future.

Wanted I

t was January 1965 when the call came – Wanted anyone with an interest in the sea to attend a public meeting, the purpose of which was to establish an RNLI station in Porthcawl. After much discussion by the late John Blundell the RNLI agreed to station an Inshore Rescue Boat in a boathouse alongside the Jennings Building. The crew were issued with ‘Ganzies’ to wear as we embarked on our very rigorous training. Once we had completed our training the boat arrived. It was an innovative rubber boat – seaworthy – but very bendy! The boat was delivered with three waterproof suits, lifejackets and a pair of signalling flags! ‘Hi Tech’ was unheard of, not even in our dictionaries. Several years later Mr G Jackson presented the crew with dry suits - money raised as a result of his famous ‘Porthcawl Limpets’ trips – Luxury! The boat was hauled manually up and down the slip and then at low tide through the mud before the 40hp engine got to work. When the maroons were fired the whole town buzzed with anticipation, except my Dad! The

reason was that all the boys in the shop were also on the lifeboat crew. He was resigned, but very proud to put up the ‘Closed’ sign and wait. A number of calls will always stay in my memory. Being called to Ogmore by Sea only to find the body of a 10 year old child. Working with Dai Viking (David Thomas) to recover a casualty; Dai just happened to be surfing at Rest Bay. The ground seas on both occasions were huge and made manoeuvring in that little boat very difficult. Another time rescuing ten men looking for ‘loot’ on the wreck of the ‘Steepholm’. Again a ground sea was rushing over the wreck. We just happened to be out training when we came upon them. Lucky for them as time was not on their side. Finally picking up medical supplies from Swansea when our town was cut off by snow, the little ‘rubber boat,’ full to capacity, was transformed into a ‘container vessel’. Alun Edwards Founder Crew

Porthcawl Art Society and the RNLI


NLI Porthcawl invited the Art Society to be involved in our commemoration by running a competition within the Society to produce paintings under the theme of “Porthcawl and the RNLI”. Imagination was given free rein and the entries were judged by Mr Ron Brown formerly Head of Art, Cowbridge School. The winner was presented with a specially commissioned bowl created and most kindly donated by Mr Alan Jenkins of Ewenny Pottery. David Shillaw, Treasurer Porthcawl RNLI Porthcawl Art Society are pleased to assist in the celebration of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s 50th Anniversary being based in Porthcawl. The RNLI do a brilliant job of assisting visitors and locals when they get into difficulties on lovely sunny summer days, but they do an outstanding job when they put their lives at risk to rescue someone in absolutely horrendous weather conditions even knowing they are risking their own lives because someone is in danger. They are a voluntary organisation and need as much financial help as possible to maintain their equipment and skills in perfect condition. The Art Society are putting on an art exhibition to be displayed at the Grand Pavilion, Porthcawl from the 23 June until 9 August 2015. All the paintings are available for sale and all the proceeds will go to the RNLI. Porthcawl Art Society wish all the best to the RNLI for the future. Robert Taylor, Porthcawl Art Society.

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Working with the community for the community

Volunteering with the RNLI


t was 1985 that I attended an interview with the Porthcawl RNLI Station committee and was confirmed as a new crew member. As a volunteer lifeguard for several years I had never thought of joining the lifeboat service, thankfully the late Eddie John convinced me to apply and that was an opportunity that I have never regretted. I found being a crew member was very rewarding in many ways, the training provided, teamwork, satisfaction of successful rescues all helped to overcome the feelings of a few ‘shouts’ when the result was not a ‘life saved’. I recall my first rescue, 15th March 1986, that of an experienced canoeist who had capsized and the cold winter water had an immediate impact and prevented him from getting back on to his canoe. We picked him up just outside the breakwater, hyperthermia had set in and he was unable to move his limbs. Following a few hours in hospital he revisited the station later in the afternoon to thank the station crew for his rescue. RNLI records show this

Growing up in the RNLI


f I was to sum up what Porthcawl Lifeboat Station means to me in one sentence, I would say that it was one of the biggest building blocks of the life I lead today and for that I thank the extended family that contributed massively to my upbringing. Of course a fair few of my extended family at the station were in fact my actual family. My earliest memories are of hearing the maroons going bang and my father running in his flip flops down to the boathouse. This very boathouse that my grandfather, along with his brothers, campaigned for the RNLI to open back in 1965. The Evans family have a long history with the Porthcawl station and that itself was one of the main reasons I spent most of my weekends down the boathouse, not only having fun but also helping launch the boat (before the days of health and safety) and attending shore based training sessions. The station was much more than lifeboats though – we did all sorts from swimming every Thursday in the fun

rescue as ‘A life and craft saved’. There were many happy days to follow, working with fellow crew members whether on shore or at sea. Some very serious times and also some humorous ones too, like the time I managed to eject myself from the helm and into the sea off the Esplanade, fortunately rescued by the remaining two crew on board. Seven years as a crew member then my compulsory retirement (inshore lifeboats) at age 45, how I missed the rush to the station when the maroons were fired. However, some six years later I re-joined the station operational side as Lifeboat Press Officer, Deputy Launch Authority and a member of the Station Committee. In those few years of absence the RNLI had moved from the lean-to shed against Jennings Buildings and had a new purpose built station and larger lifeboat, a few new crew members but there was the same ethos of saving lives at sea. In the past seventeen years that I have been press officer technology has transpool in Trecco Bay, to coastal walking to Atlantic College lifeboat station. We assisted re-building the memorial up at Sker that commemorates the loss of the entire crews of both the Santampa and the Mumbles lifeboat during a storm in April 1947. When I was a child, the station was also linked to the old coastguard lookout tower, and this became the home for the station children. In our eyes it was our own lifeboat station where we stored our wetsuits, surfboards and even had our own radio scanner. It seemed like an eternity until I reached the minimum age of 17 that is required to join the crew, but once I was allowed to go on the boat; my eyes were opened to what I’d been missing out on! Very early on, my Great uncle Mike, allowed me to go on my very first shout – one I remember being a capsized speedboat. We had all been eating our chips sitting on the green plastic chairs on the slipway, when the pagers were sounded. It turned out that the casualty was actually sitting on top of his upside down boat! A year later I departed Porthcawl to go to University. All of my university choices were based on lifeboat station

My last day on the crew (l-r) Ian Stroud, Rob Conley and Mike Evans.

formed so many of our everyday things. I no longer take ‘snaps’ of rescues and rush to get them developed and then take the best copies together with a typed press release to our local newspapers. Now there are cameras on our lifeboats and crew helmets, Steve Jones is a great cameraman too for the station. Press releases and photographs can be sent worldwide within minutes, only slowed by my typing speed! Social media is also supported and maintained by my more technically able crew colleagues. Many changes during Porthcawl RNLI’s first fifty years, one thing for sure the dedication of all station voluntary personnel remains key and has been evident since 26th June 1965 to date. Ian Stroud, Lifeboat Press Officer.

locations and I chose to go to Aberystwyth, where I quickly transferred onto the crew. My bond with Porthcawl remained very close and after the Aberystwyth lifeboat capsized on service in 2002, Porthcawl station sent me a ‘well done’ card and explained that was why the senior crew were so brutal during exercise training! Fast forward to today and I now work for the RNLI at their headquarters in Poole training volunteers from all over the country in everything required to be lifeboat crew. Stories from my time in Porthcawl and Aberystwyth feature in my training sessions as real life examples and if it wasn’t for my lifeboat family back in Porthcawl, I probably wouldn’t be where I am today. For that I am extremely grateful – Thank You. Alex Evans, RNLI staff, Poole

Following family footsteps


always wanted to join the crew of Porthcawl Lifeboat, following on from my father who served on the crew for 9 years during the seventies. My memories of visiting the old station with the D Class and its special smell still live with me today. It was a chance meeting with John ‘Telecom’ Williams during an IT course that re-ignited that desire, and in late 1997 I joined the crew. Eighteen years later I am a Helmsman of both Porthcawl Lifeboats, and have carried out services credited with saving over 20 lives, also I have a career with the RNLI. In 2002 I started working for the RNLI as an Assessor Trainer, a role that would see me visiting stations across Wales and the Isle of Man and teaching at the RNLI College in Poole. My job is to assess or train a crew member to ensure

they can operate safely whatever their role, be it crew member, navigator or coxswain of an ALB (all weather lifeboat). This covers all ten classes of lifeboat and the extremely varied launch & recovery methods used at different stations. I have taken part in service calls at all bar five of the twenty-one stations I have responsibility for, with shouts as varied as helping a beached Dolphin, towing a dismasted yacht, or searching for 2 children drifting out to sea in an inflatable. Thirteen years later, I still don’t go to work every day it’s a pleasure to pass on experiences and knowledge that make our crews better at what they do. The highlight of my time as a crew member is undoubtedly being awarded the RNLI Bronze Medal for Gallantry. This was awarded for a rescue as

part of the RNLI Flood Rescue team in Umberleigh in Devon in 2012. I have many fond memories and hope to keep volunteering for the RNLI for many years to come. Paul Eastment RNLI Staff and Porthcawl Volunteer Note from the Editor Since submitting this article Paul’s role within the RNLI staff has changed. Congratulations to Paul from all at Porthcawl on his being appointed RNLI Divisional Operations Manager. In view of his new role Paul has resigned as a volunteer helmsman as he will now be undertaking and responsible for inspections of our lifeboat, station and crew.

Family Involvement M

y involvement with Porthcawl lifeboat started in the winter of 1981 when I met my wife to be Aileen. I had little or no interest in lifeboats and never contemplated being part of the crew or shore launching team, but all this was about to change. Not long after meeting Aileen I soon discovered her passion for the sea, sailing and lifeboats. Phil her brother-in-law was a member of the crew at Porthcawl and Aileen would have loved to join too but women were not encouraged to be part of the lifeboat service back then. We always attended call outs whenever the maroons went off, (these were flares fired to summon the crew of a problem at sea which consisted of two loud bangs and could be heard all over Porthcawl). Aileen loved to see the ‘D’class lifeboat launch to a rescue and bring back the casualties safe, so this usually involved me going with her to watch the rescues too. A year later I had joined as a shore helper but still had no interest in going to sea. It was four years later I finally took the plunge and joined the sea going crew and Aileen joined 8 years later. We served

on the lifeboat together until I retired in 2005 after 18 years as crew. Lifeboating plays a big part in your family life, not always for the better. This is particularly true when you encourage your children to follow in your footsteps and they become enrolled as crew too. You spend hours worrying about them when they are out at sea in rough weather or in the dark out on a service. Most of the time things go pretty smoothly as the crew are trained to a high standard by the RNLI and we have the best equipment available. There are occasions when some rescues can be a bit tricky and your crew tested to their limits. These are the times we worry most back at the station, knowing the hidden dangers that can arise. Both our children Frances and Daniel joined the crew at the age of 17. Frances spent two years as a crew member before she went to university and Dan is still on the crew, so too are both our nephews Joe and Chris. They all have a love for the sea and spend a lot of time afloat on their own boats. After thirty two years with Porthcawl lifeboat I still enjoy going down to

watch them exercise on a Sunday and Wednesday. Although not going to sea anymore Aileen and I are still involved with the management side as Deputy Launching Authorities and committee members. We also drive the launch tractors and assist with many other shore duties. My main interest these days is taking photos of the lifeboats and crew which we use for press releases, on Facebook and our website, this helps to show our followers what we are getting up to on a weekly basis. There are no plans to retire in the near future but the days of going to sea on wild wet and windy nights are well gone. I am quite happy to wave the lifeboat off and retire to the warm boathouse for a cup of tea, where we all wait and listen to a rescue on the station’s VHF radio. We are all listening out for the message from the lifeboat, informing the coastguard that they have found the casualty safe and well and will be returning safely back to the station. Stephen Jones, Deputy Launch Authority, Porthcawl

R.A. (Tony) Comley, Crew 1968 - 1988 B

ack in 1968 I was a member of the local boat club when the Club President, John K. Blundell, who at the time was the local RNLI Hon. Sec., approached me with a view to becoming a member of the Porthcawl Lifeboat Crew. I accepted his offer and after a period of training at the local station and Atlantic College I was appointed as a crew member. During my twenty years as a crew member my most memorable service took place on the 3rd October 1968. The IRB (inshore rescue boat) was launched at 01:30 hours when it was learnt that the 600 ton dredger, Steepholm, had gone aground on the Tusker Rock, off Ogmore by Sea. The wind was WSW force 5 gusting 7, weather squally with visibility of approximately one mile. The IRB had no navigation lights or radio as it was on station for operational duties during daylight hours only. The rescue became a joint operation which involved the 45ft. Watson Mumbles Lifeboat, the Coastal Tanker Grovedale H and the Porthcawl IRB. The operation eventually culminated at 02:38 hours when the six crew and the Master of the Steepholm were hauled aboard the Mumbles Lifeboat which then returned to Swansea. The Porthcawl IRB safely returned to Station at 02:59 hrs. The IRB, with its 40 hp Evinrude outboard, proved to have exceptional qualities and performed well in extremely adverse conditions. However, protective clothing for the crew was in its infancy. The only clothing issued was a lightweight pink nylon suit which must have been the prototype for the packamac! Those were the days! It was to be some time before we could benefit from the Typhoon dry suits and ‘woolly bear’ thermal undergarments kindly supplied by the Porthcawl Limpets and Porthcawl Round Table. We didn’t know we were born! During my twenty years on the crew I

embarked on two fund raising activities the proceeds of which were donated to the RNLI.

1. 31st JULY 1982 S ingle handed row from Glenthorne Cove, Lynmouth to Porthcawl Harbour. The first single handed row of the Bristol Channel.

Time: 9 hours 14 minutes Sum raised: £650.00

2. 21st JULY 1984 S ingle handed row from Porlock Weir, Somerset to Porthcawl Harbour Time: 11 hours 12 minutes Sum raised: £1400.00

Growing up in the RNLI as a child, crew and Staff Instructor


y personal experiences with the station have certainly been somewhat loose. Joining as a crew member initially in 2006, I re-joined in 2011 after an interim at university; adding my name to a list of nine family members that have enrolled since 1965. Brothers Ken (my grandfather), Mike, Ray and David all joined in the early days. Ken and Mike have been the family’s longest serving members on the original D Class lifeboat and the later versions of the D Class boat where Mike’s son, Lance and Ken’s son, Wayne, served on board the silver medal rescue in 1994. Cousins Alex, Callan, Shawn along with myself have all served on the later Atlantic class lifeboats based at the current station. Alex has gone on to serve at both Aberystwyth and Poole lifeboat stations, where he has endured an ‘Atlantic’ Class lifeboat capsize whilst on operational service to a girl washed off a stone jetty. The family’s’ ties with the station extends beyond the enrolled names stated above, with Sisters Jodine and

Chaplain to the RNLI


here is only one memorial plaque on the walls of All Saints in Porthcawl and it is one I see every day. It is there to remember those who died on 23rd April 1947, the Crew of SS Samtampa and the Crew of the Mumbles Lifeboat. It reminds me of the unconditional commitment given by those who serve the RNLI and the dangers they can enter into on behalf of others. My job is to hold them before God and to give time to those who have asked me to serve them as Chaplain.

(l-r) Ken and Mike Evans.

Louise Evans (Mike’s daughters) helping with shore based activities after the pagers have fired, and Patricia (my grandmother) providing the crew with the weekly fruit cake every Sunday morning. Both Alex’s and my attendance to the station stems from a young age and the circle of friends that we mixed with then. Hanging out in the ‘Round Tower’ and embracing the waves that splashed over boat rock was the thing to do back then. One thing I will never forget was the informal pass out that you took as a crew member, known as ‘the beasting’. This was an assessment of your seamanship and survival against the Hon Sec’s antics in which you endured an hour of anchoring, swimming and general hard work. I recall on my ‘testing’, Phil Missen

running up the beach away from the lifeboat, simulating a distressed casualty, whilst I was trying to haul the sixty meters of line and anchor into the boat through the breaking surf; it was an experience to say the least - I was ready to be a crew member. All of my experiences at Porthcawl have helped me into a very enjoyable career with the institution down at the RNLI College in Poole. My role is to train the volunteer crews from all over the UK and Republic of Ireland, instructing on the various classes of RNLI lifeboats. That said I do enjoy revisiting my roots, popping down the boathouse in Porthcawl to see the current crew and have a brew with the LOM (Lifeboat Operations Manager). Nathan Evans

Being Chaplain to RNLI Porthcawl is a mixture of things – it greatly enriches my social life! But more importantly it gives me an opportunity to share in a small way in the life of the Station and all those associated with it. Sometimes it means organising great events, like the blessing of the Rose of the Shires (it was interesting how a Crew that is regularly soaked by the waves can shy away from a little holy water). Sometimes it is doing the ordinary or regular things like the annual Carol Service or serving on the management committee and supporting the fundraising. Other times are harder, being part of the team which cares for the crew, the helpers and their families when darker things happen – prolonged searches, bereavement, sorrow and loss.

It is then that you realise that RNLI Porthcawl is a community and that community is built on trust, friendship, enthusiasm and mutual commitment. Like all communities there are sometimes tensions and frustrations and to some extent a changing population but they are a solid core of people in whose history and experience stretches back and provides considerable collective wisdom so that this freely-offered and unpaid service here in Porthcawl can continue so successfully. To be part of this is a privilege – the sure welcome, the unending hospitality and the invitation to share in one of the better sides of our society. Father Philip Masson Rector of Porthcawl

Conditions and Decisions


arely do you ever know what you are going to when the pagers go off, it could be anything from a missing child on the waterline on a bright sunny and calm day to a sinking craft several miles offshore in really rough conditions in the middle of the night. Immediately I or one of our Deputy Launch Authority (DLAs) colleagues make quick and brief call to our Coastguard station to get details of the incident before giving the authority to assemble the crew. As I am driving down to the lifeboat station, my mind will start to consider such things as, are our crew going to have to be medics today, perhaps a fireman or even a policeman. You have to be a jack of all trades on the lifeboat, as once out to sea, apart from other lifeboats and the search and rescue helicopter, you are on your own. I mentally note different things, is the tide in or out, what are the sea conditions, is it dark, how cold is it, what’s the wind doing. Then by the time I get out of the car, I may have a knot in my stomach and the adrenalin running but decisions have to be made. The lights are

on in the station, you meet the crew already in to the changing room, faces look to you, a full crew are ready. That important first question/decision - are the sea and weather conditions at the incident area within the safe operating capabilities of our lifeboat so as not to put the lives of our crew in danger? With the training and experience of our crews and the capabilities of our lifeboats it is fortunately rare that I or my DLAs do not give immediate authority to launch. In poor conditions, operating close to our limitations, back up will be requested either from our all-weather lifeboats at Barry or the Mumbles or a RAF search and rescue helicopter. At the RNLI we should never put our crews lives at risk; we are there to save lives, however, on occasions there is a very narrow margin and decisions have to be made taking into account all the reasons why or why we shouldn’t launch when a life is in danger. I had been listening to BBC radio in the car, the Severn Bridge was closed, leaves and small twigs land on the windscreen, the car rocks. Wind, lots

of it, and boy do we get strong winds at Porthcawl. I had gone to Rest Bay, it was February 2002, to try out my new digital camera, the wind was howling, I stood on Rest Bay point looking at the huge seas, watching the boiling waves smash onto the cliffs. I gave up trying to take my pictures, there was just too much spume and spray. I decided to call down the lifeboat station and take some pictures of the waves crashing into the breakwater and over the pier. Then suddenly, that moment of surprise when the pager goes off, it still makes me jump. There was a report of a man washed off the end of the pier, I just stood there in wonder, how had anyone even made it onto the pier in such conditions? Next thing, taking everything into account and that the incident was just outside the breakwater I found myself watching our Atlantic Lifeboat battle with huge waves, higher than our boat is long, and seeing our crew, three of my friends, Nick Beale, Carl Evans and Rick Rava, desperately trying to save someone they had never met. It could all have gone so terribly wrong, but it didn’t. All those hours upon hours of training in all weathers pays off. Porthcawl is in the news again, another life saved. Philip Missen MBE Lifeboat Operations Manager Porthcawl

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HRH The Duke of Kent has visited on at least two occasions.

Rt Hon Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister, accompanied by husband Dennis visited in 1984.

HRH The Princess Royal visited the station in February 2015 to mark the 50th Anniversary of the refounding of Porthcawl RNLI station.

Visitors to Porthcawl Lifeboat During the fifty years since the re-establishment of the RNLI lifeboat at Porthcawl we have had several distinguished visitors including members of the Royal Family.

1965 – 2015

Officials and guests at the opening ceremony 1965.

First crew 1965. Tom Modecai, Phil Roberts, Fred Williams, Alun Edwards, Talwyn Jones, David Evans, Peter Wear, Ray Evans, Billy Parks, Brian Phelps, Fred Woods, Eddie John, Vic Davies, Harry Walker, Lindsey Knipe, Frank Davies, Tony Owen, Jerry Llewellyn, Ken Evans, Brian Phelps and David Wenn.

Sailing Yacht ‘Scruff’ 18 May 1986


oth Kevin Jones and I stared at each other and looked at the lifeboat VHF speaker which had just said the words, ‘Mayday, red flairs reported on the Nash sands’. The maroons had summoned us on a sunny but very windy day in May, there was a large low pressure system over the country and a heavy swell was running. The launch had been textbook, large dumping swell on the slip, but many hands had made quick work of our launch and we were on our way. The sea around Porthcawl is besieged by rocks and sandbanks, and with the ground swell we had underneath us this ‘shout’ was going to be interesting. Kevin handled the boat professionally. We ran for what seemed like minutes in almost valleys at the base of these huge waves, turning to brake over them if they started the curl. We arrived at Nash sands and you know when you have arrived, it was a mass of boiling water, falling in on itself, knowing that if anything goes wrong once on the sandbank it’s like a mincer and almost impossible to get off. Kevin again handled our small ‘D’ class lifeboat balancing between getting close to the sandbank and far enough off it and still being able to

look for the casualty. We couldn’t see much it was hard work just holding on. Then through the breakers a yacht could be seen, her mast snapped half way down and her sails in tatters. Kevin as Helmsman informed us as to his intentions, taking us into the surf dodging around a couple of waves and dropping me off on to the casualty vessel. This was tried twice but abandoned as the surf was too big. On the third attempt I was dumped unceremoniously on to the deck on the 27ft yacht ‘Scruff’. The yacht was a shambles, one crewman in the cockpit the other was still strapped on but hanging over the stern; I managed to smartly bring him back on board. Both the yacht’s crew were in a state of shock as the yacht had gone onto the Nash Bank and “Pitch Poled” - meaning to capsize bow over stern. Rigging wires and sails were everywhere, there was 2 feet of water in the cabin. What I could not understand was why the boat was still on the sandbank and why it had not being washed off. I soon found the reason, when the yacht had capsized the anchor had run out, holding the yacht on the bank. I managed to recover the anchor with great difficulty due to the movement of

the yacht in the surf. A RAF search and rescue helicopter arrived on scene, we could hear it but due to the height of the waves couldn’t see him and then he appeared right over our heads. The crew would not abandon the boat as they had only just bought it. So with the anchor recovered we ‘surfed’ off the bank. The ‘D’ Class which had been standing by for some time took us in tow but due to the yacht’s size and the sea conditions we struggled. Atlantic College lifeboat were then called and assisted, and the casualty was towed back to Porthcawl. We were all shattered and ached for days after, but we had the satisfaction of knowing that two lives and their yacht had been saved from one of the Bristol Channel’s most notorious sandbanks Looking back it was a fantastic callout, the only shame was Kevin never received the recognition he should have. I believe he deserved a medal for the way he handled our lifeboat safely throughout the rescue and in such conditions. Philip Missen MBE Retired Crew, currently Lifeboat Operations Manager, Porthcawl


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