It was on this day in 1954 that the funeral of Henry Blogg, the RNLI’s most decorated Henry Blogg, Coxwain of the Cromer Lifeboatlifeboatman, was held. More than 1,400 people attended the service in Cromer and many more stood outside to “pay the last tribute to a very gallant man”.

He was awarded three gold medals, four silver medals, the George Cross and the British Empire Medal. During his time on the Cromer lifeboats 873 lives were saved.

Many of the vessels that Henry Blogg and his crew attended were Thames sailing barges, including, in December 1933, two in one day:-  first the sb Glenway, and then the sb Sepoy, owned and skippered by Lifeboat Lady’s grandfather.  This famous rescue could only be carried out when Henry Blogg took the decision to run the motor lifeboat, HF Bailey, right across the submerged deck of the barge  –  a tremendously brave thing to do.   In fact, he did it twice:  the barge’s crew had been forced to climb into the rigging, and on the first run across the young Mate jumped down into the comparative safety of the lifeboat;  and then on the second run across Lifeboat Lady’s grandfather jumped down.  The crew was safe, although the Sepoy broke up and was lost.

A few years’ ago, LifeboaCromer lifeboat rescues Thames sailing barge Sepoy Dec 1933t Lady was in Cromer and met an elderly gentleman who remembered, as a small boy, standing on Cromer promenade and seeing the famous rescue take place.   The barge was that close to the shore, but the violent storm and huge seas had torn the sails to shreds and swamped the deck.   Cromer’s pulling and sailing lifeboat, the Alexandra, had tried to carry out a rescue, although it had taken three attempts to launch her from the beach, but she could not get alongside the barge and was in danger of being smashed.   Then, by great good fortune, the motor lifeboat, HF Bailey, coxwained by Henry Blogg, completed its rescue of the Glenway and was able to come to the aid of the Sepoy.   The HF Bailey, too, was in danger of being smashed against the side of the barge, but Henry, with superb seamanship, took the action detailed above and was able to bring the two crew of the barge to safety on Cromer beach.

That is why Lifeboat Lady and her family always have and always will support the RNLI, and why the memory of Henry Blogg will always be honoured by them and by so many others.  And in the true lifeboat tradition of seaside communities like Cromer, that elderly gentleman to whom Lifeboat Lady spoke was himself a member of a lifeboat family and had served his time on the Cromer lifeboat.

If you are visiting Cromer, go to the splendid Henry Blogg Museum where you can learn much more about him and about the rescue of the Sepoy, or read about it all here 

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Last Christmas the RNLI arranged a Reindeer Run and Santa Saunter in the River Lea Country Park at Waltham Abbey.  The fundraiser, held on 21st November, was one of a number at various parts of the country either side of Christmas.

Lifeboat Lady and Lifeboat Gent were there to help.  Also there were Naomi Chant, Events Manager for the Lee Valley Regional Park which owns and manages the Country Park, and Colour Sergeant Paul Fury and his army cadets from Waltham Cross Detachment, No 1 Company, Hertfordshire Army Cadet Force who were acting as marshals.   Lifeboat Lady works with all of those in another life.

More than 300 people took part in the Reindeer Run over 10k or 5k, mainly adults, but there was also a Santa Saunter for families over a shorter course.  Everyone taking part, and all the helpers, were issued with a pair of red felt antlers and a flashing red nose, and many wore fancy dress.  Lifeboat Lady was very pleased to see Rachel, (leader of an Orsett Beaver Scouts pack to whom she had spoken), and her family, with the two children dressed as Christmas boxes.

It was a biting cold day, and afterwards Lifeboat Lady and Lifeboat Gent retired to Philpott’s Tearooms in Waltham Abbey to warm up with hot chocolate.   Somewhere there is a photograph of Lifeboat Lady wearing a thick parka and her antlers and flashing red nose, which Philpott’s owner, Isabelle, took when she wasn’t looking.

We were lucky to get this Reindeer Run in before the great snows started.   Most of the others had to be cancelled.

(Two photographs at top, of start of Reindeer Run and Santa Saunter, courtesy of Lee Valley Regional Park Authority)

As if Thurrock Crucial Crew were not enough, Lifeboat Lady agreed to help out for a couple of days at Tendring Crucial Crew  –  well John from Tendring is a good friend, and has visited the Thurrock event.

It was held at the Valley Farm Holiday Park at Clacton-on-Sea in a large, rather dark ballroom, complete with mirrored ball and signs to various holiday camp attractions.  Lifeboat Lady was told that it was about to be re-modelled  –  not before time.    Whereas at Thurrock each service has a separate classroom, here RNLI and three other services were dotted around the ballroom.   This caused some problems with noise particularly when the anti-drug scenario got going  –  lots of shouting.  Each morning and afternoon session started with a stupid film, an animation about keeping safe.   Probably OK if you are 10 and only seeing it once, but deeply irritating for jaded adults of middle years hearing it again and again.

Still, the children were great, as they always are.

The route to Clacton was said to take 1 hour, 20 minutes, and as Lifeboat Lady was travelling at rush hour she was pleased to do it in 1 hour, 40 minutes, and got there in good time.   The return journey on the first day, however, was another story.   All went well until just before Chelmsford where a huge truck had broken down at the roundabout at the bottom of the exit road for the A130, and traffic was backed up on to the A12 for a couple of miles.   Eventually getting off the A12, Lifeboat Lady had a cunning plan, and avoided the A130 by taking the old road.   Great idea except there was another long queue at the other end to get back on to the A130.   Lifeboat Lady who fortunately knows all these roads, then turned off for East Hanningfield and all was well.   Until she approached Grays that is where she found total gridlock.   She was due at Lakeside Shopping Centre but couldn’t get either there or home.   It turned out the Queen Elizabeth Bridge was closed.  Lifeboat Lady left Clacton at 3.00pm and arrived at Lakeside just before 8.00pm, desperate for the loo and very worried about the person she was to have taken over from at 5 o’clock.   More proof if it were needed that the local roads just can’t cope with the combination of the M25, the Dartford Crossing and Lakeside.

The second day was much better.  It turned out to be VIP day when the Council Chairman and the High Sheriff of Essex visited.   I’m afraid when the High Sheriff reached our RNLI scenario Lifeboat Lady played to the gallery dreadfully.  The High Sheriff started answering some of the questions and a lot of fun was had by all.

A good couple of days, and will probably be repeated another year.

We were asked to put on an education initiative at the Girlguiding West Essex Family Fun Day, which was held at Orsett Showground.  The local Thurrock RNLI Branch had their souvenir stall there, and we were alongside them.   So Lifeboat Gent and Lifeboat Lady took along a selection of dressing up clothes, and a number of games based on knowing beach and water safety signs, a couple of which we had borrowed from the Regional Office.

We were among the first to arrive, and chose our spot, but couldn’t do much until a tent was put up for us.   Then the hard work started.   One of the games comes with a base which weighs what seems like a ton.  We had manhandled it into one of our cars, (both our cars were full of equipment), and now had to manhandle it out and get it set up.  The reason for its weight, of course, is to stop it blowing over outside but it’s one of those things where it’s as well to know just where you want it because it’s hell to move a bit to the left or a bit to the right.

Then we moved on to another game, which is based on an aluminium frame of the slot-together variety, with a panoramic depiction of a seaside scene slung on the frame.  Well we tried, for some time, and in several ways, but just couldn’t work out how it fits together.  Lifeboat Lady would not pretend to be scientific, but can usually manage such things, and Lifeboat Gent is an expert, particularly if knots are required, (former Merchant Navy), but even he was beaten.   In disgust we bundled it back into its case and threw it into the back of the car.   We have let it be known “upstairs” that we need tuition in how to put the damned thing together.

The event opened to its public:  guides, their families, and assorted brownies, cubs, beavers and scouts who were presumably brothers and sisters.   We discovered we were right opposite the “food court”, so had a view of long queues for burgers and ice cream  –  not necessarily together  –  and the scent of onions wafting into our nostrils.  It was not as busy as we had expected, but there was a regular stream of families trying out the games, and children, and some adults, dressing up.  Here’s Peter Hacking, webmaster of the Thurrock RNLI website, as Lifeguard Hacking.

All in all, a useful day with some good additions to the number of young people we contact each year with our water safety messages.

Posted by: lifeboatlady | 04/06/2011

Crucial Crew, Thurrock – 2,000 Year 6s

July saw Judith Duncan, Tim Yeowell and Lifeboat Lady undertaking the annual task of Crucial Crew in Thurrock.   2,000 Year 6 children from primary schools across Thurrock visited us during the two weeks spent at the Thurrock Campus of South Essex College.   Our colleagues from Essex Police, Essex Fire Service, Thurrock Council’s Road Safety Team, Passenger Transport, and the Primary Care Trust also take part;  all getting over to the children their particular safety messages.

In our case we put the children into various water safety scenarios, in particular keeping safe at the beach.   We find that all the children are keen to take part, and enthusiastically answer our questions.  Strange thing, though, when we ask them what a Red flag means at the beach, many of them say “sharks”.   Too much “Jaws” watching!

In fact it’s some of the hardest work of the year.   As one group goes out, the next one comes in, and there isn’t even time to have a slurp from a water bottle.   It’s usually hot weather, (I know, I know, but it usually is), and all the glass in the classroom we use makes it like an oven.

We used to be provided with a lovely sandwich lunch, followed by chocolate eclairs and things, but a couple of years ago Council economising set in, and now we have to take our own lunch.   Oh, and lunch is at 11.30.   The trouble with that is that by about 3.00 you feel you want another lunch.

The day is over by 2.30pm, because that’s when the schools need to get back for “going home time”.  I normally go home and have a sleep for an hour or so  –  totally exhausted!

But it’s great to think that so many Thurrock children, 2,ooo every year, learn all about water safety.

Posted by: lifeboatlady | 06/09/2010

Getting up to date

2009 was a special year for Lifeboat Lady, but 2010 is proving to be just as interesting.

In June 2009, Lifeboat Lady was honoured to be awarded the RNLI’s Silver Badge, the first to be given for Education Services.   The award ceremony took place at Robinson College, Cambridge, and included an excellent lunch, although slightly spoilt when a friend who shall be nameless was sick and had to rush from the room.   Fortunately, although sick again on the way home, his doctor has managed to deal with the problem.

Now Lifeboat Lady proudly pins the badge on her shirt whenever she is carrying out a speaking engagement;  well there are really no other opportunities to wear it.  But Lifeboat Lady can confirm that the words “washing machine safe” should be printed on the case.  On more than one occasion the shirt has been thrown into the washing machine, and the badge only discovered when it comes out.  So far, no harm done, but it is probably better for the enamel for it not to be done too much!

Then in September 2009, Lifeboat Lady was asked to join Judith Duncan, the RNLI’s Regional Education Manager for the East of England, and four other friends who are education presenters in Essex and Suffolk, at the RNLI’s Open Days at the Headquarters in Poole, Dorset.   We did our usual thing of various competitions and games about water safety for the children, and dressing up races in lifeboat crew kit of various sorts.   Actually, some of the adult visitors like to do that too.   We stayed for the two nights at the Lifeboat College, and had a great time.   The food is very good, and the bedrooms are excellent, all with harbour views.

All sections of the RNLI were on display, and one could visit workshops giving radio procedure training, for example, see the work of the RNLI Heritage Department, watch exciting displays in the harbour by both all weather and inshore lifeboats, by RNLI hovercraft, and by the Lifeguards.   And, quite amazing, visit the Sea Training Survival Centre, where crews are put through their paces in an indoor pool, but with pitch darkness, roaring winds, and huge noise.   In that environment they are tipped out of their inshore boat, which capsizes, and they are required to get safely back on board the righted boat.   They also practise recoveries by helicopter in that same dark and noisy environment, with a crane, hook and chain playing the part of the helicopter.

So they were the highlights of 2009.

2010 has seen a large number of talks carried out by Lifeboat Lady to groups from five and six years old to pensioners, right across south Essex and into the London Boroughs.   A list of some of the groups is shown on the separate Page called “Lifeboat Lady’s Talks”.

In May, Lifeboat Lady went as usual to the RNLI’s AGM and Awards Presentation at the Barbican in London.   And there she was delighted to see Alan Fish from Suffolk, (one of our gang of education presenters), receive the RNLI’s Gold Badge from HRH Prince Michael of Kent.  It is always good to walk round the exhibition stalls at the event where one can pick up the latest information on what RNLI is doing and how it is developing, and treat oneself to a few gifts from the RNLI shop.

And so, we are more or less up to date, and Lifeboat Lady will try to write about other RNLI matters as they happen.

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