Feature

Berwick lifeboats are not just for summer fetes but Christmas, New Year and every day of the year.

Monday, 2nd January 2017, 07:00 am
Berwick lifeboat

Their volunteer crews, aged 17 to 71, are proud and passionate about saving lives on the inshore lifeboat (ILB) and the larger all-weather boat (ALB).

Whether it is senior members managing the station and organising launches or shop managers, security experts, solicitors, tyre station managers, gas engineers and other ordinary individuals who make up the team, all are prepared to perform extraordinary feats of bravery and courage at a moment’s notice, night and day.

Since opening in 1835, Berwick Station crew has been handed nine awards for gallantry. The first station was at Spittal, where now stands a block of flats called The Waterfront, the second below Wellington Terrace and the present station by Carr Rock.

The RNLI maintains 237 local stations, their arcs of responsibility covering the entire UK coastline. It is an autonomous or self-governing charity, not a government agency, relying entirely on charitable donations from individuals and organisations.

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The RNLI train its volunteers to the highest standards of seamanship, search and rescue, many are paramedics. It works in partnership with the coastguard, police, ambulance and fire services - recently Berwick lifeboat even delivered a team of bomb disposal experts to Holy Island.

Whenever emergency calls are made near shore and river, the coastguard notify the nearest RNLI duty launch manager by pager. He pages the entire crew, who immediately stop normal work tasks, commandeer a vehicle and head to the lifeboat station.

In addition to the coxswain, or captain of the boats and the mechanic, the ALB needs four crew, the ILB a helmsman and two crew.

Berwick aims to launch into the water in under ten minutes from individuals being paged, receiving directions to their task as they head out to sea or up river.

During 2015, there were 8,228 launches nationally, 7,973 people rescued, 348 lives saved, making an average of 22 people rescued each day.

Since its formation in 1824, RNLI volunteers crews have saved almost 150,000 lives.

Berwick was one of the earliest stations, founded in 1835.

The idea of lifeboats can be traced to a Bamburgh vicar. Dr John Sharp (1722-1792), Archdeacon of Northumberland and a trustee of Lord Crew’s charity, hired men to ride along the Bamburgh coast at night during storms. They assisted anyone shipwrecked, providing food and shelter in the castle. In 1786, Dr Sharp commissioned Lionel Lukin to convert an ordinary fishing coble into an ‘unimmergible’ lifeboat. This served a number of years as a lifeboat, making it the first known lifeboat and Bamburgh Castle the first lifeboat station of the time.

The RNLI current campaign theme is to raise awareness of the dangers of the sea. Berwick has a team willing to come and visit schools and other groups. If interested, please contact Kevin Knox on 07702925284 or email knox.Lsso@googlemail.com.