Littlehampton has one of the busiest lifeboat stations in the country, with over 100 launches on service in 2009. Sometimes calls are almost routine, although in many cases the crew doesn’t know the extent of the emergency until they reach a casualty. Every now and again, though, it is a genuine life and death situation, or the conditions are such that the crew and the lifeboat are severely tested. Most of these calls result in a job well done, and a sense of satisfaction for the crew. In these situations, the crew deals with a particularly hazardous situation, demonstrating skill and determination to complete a rescue without worrying about their own comfort and safety.

Eastern Promise

In November 1970, a cyclone struck East Pakistan, and the Red Cross requested the assistance of the RNLI to provide boats to aid flood relief. Twenty D-Class inshore boats were provided, and amongst the first to fly to the area were Littlehampton’s Roy Cole and Johnny Pelham . They spent two very busy weeks taking food and supplies to isolated communities, and on their return were awarded the Thanks of the RNLI inscribed on Vellum, presented at the Institution’s annual awards ceremony in London.

Storming Dinghies

A request to launch was received in September 1981, when a sudden weather deterioration during dinghy club racing off Felpham caused difficulties for the participants. The lifeboat was manned by Dave Woollven at the helm, Geoff Warminger and Mike McCartain. The sailing club’s safety boat cover was fully stretched, and the lifeboat proceeded to the scene, at reduced speed due to the heavy seas, driving rain, and winds reaching force 8. All the dinghies and safety boat were accounted for, and then lifeboat went to assist the committee boat, taking on board the crew of a dinghy that the committee boat was towing. The dinghy crew were taken to a waiting ambulance at Littlehampton, an uncomfortable return passage into the prevailing weather.

Immediately after handing over the casualties, the lifeboat received a call for assistance from the committee boat, a 40ft trimaran, Lady of Bosham. She was being beaten onto a lee shore by the force of the storm, which had now reached force 10. The lifeboat very quickly reached the casualty and took aboard two of the crew who were suffering from seasickness. They were taken to Littlehampton, and the lifeboat returned to the casualty to escort her into harbour.

David Woollven was awarded the Institution’s Thanks on Vellum, recognising his courage, expert boat handling and fine leadership, and Geoff Warminger and Michael McCartain each received a framed Letter of Thanks from the chairman of the RNLI.

Just Like the Buses

Sometimes, a lifeboat station doesn’t have a call for what feels like forever, and then they all come at once. 31 July 1983 was one of those days. Blue Peter 1 was called out at 14:10, crewed by Geoff Warminger at the helm, Jack Pidcock and Jerry Norris . The first call was to a canoe 3 miles west of the harbour entrance, with two children aboard who were experiencing discomfort in the uncomfortable seas and force 4 blow. The children and their canoe were taken back to Littlehampton.

Shortly afterwards, the lifeboat participated in a pre-arranged helicopter exercise off Bognor, and was returning to Littlehampton in steadily worsening weather. A squall had hit a number of boats within a couple of miles of the harbour. First of all, the lifeboat assisted a yacht that had had her sails blown out, and then attended a number of sailing dinghies that had been hit by the squall, many of them capsized. The coastguard then requested that the lifeboat returned to Bognor where the by now near gale force winds had caused the capsize of around 50 dinghies.
For this sequence of services, a letter of appreciation was sent to the honorary secretary and crew by the RNLI’s chief of operations.

Battered Swimmers

A group of swimmers found themselves in difficulty on 16 July 1993. They had been swimming in the sea, when the strong tides swept them towards the west pier near the harbour entrance. Most of the swimmers managed to get ashore, but a man and a 13 year old girl were washed against the pier and suffered lacerations from the rough, barnacle encrusted pier structure.

Blue Peter 1 was launched, and on reaching the scene, crewman Steve Tester jumped into the water, and assisted the girl to get away from the pier, towards the lifeboat. Steve then swam back to the pier to encourage the second casualty to let go of the pier and allow himself to be rescued. Both casualties were treated for hypothermia, and were given first aid before being transferred to an ambulance for hospital treatment. Steve Tester received a letter of congratulations from the RNLI’s chief of operations for his part in this service.

Imported Honours

Crew member Nick White transferred to Littlehampton from Weston-super-Mare where he had been honoured for a service in 1978. Together with his crew Tony Blizzard and Richard Spindler, he rescued three boys, and two coastguards who had gone to the assistance of the boys, from a flooded cave on south facing cliff, in a southerly gale. Nick, Tony and Richard all received the Institution’s Thanks on Vellum, and later were also recipients of the Ralph Glister Award for the most meritorious inshore lifeboat service during that year. Nick also has a vellum service certificate for a later service when a vellum award was made to Richard Spindler.