Throughout the UK and Republic of Ireland, RNLI lifeboat crews and supporters observed a one minute silence at 12.20pm today (Thursday 3 September 2009) as a mark of respect and gratitude to the many people connected with the charity who have lost their lives helping to save others at sea.
The silence took place during the Ceremony of Dedication for the first official RNLI Memorial, which was unveiled by HRH The Duke of Kent at RNLI HQ in Poole, Dorset.
The 778 people commemorated on the RNLI Memorial come from all corners of the UK and Republic of Ireland. Many of their relatives, friends and closely connected crew members travelled from far and wide to attend the ceremony.
The memorial ensures that those whose names it bears will always be remembered. As an additional mark of respect, RNLI lifeboat stations, lifeguard units and offices throughout the UK and Ireland lowered their RNLI flags to half-mast during the ceremony.
Members of the public can pay their respects too, by adding a tribute to the RNLI Online Book of Commemoration at www.rnli.org.uk/commemorate.
RNLI Chief Executive Andrew Freemantle CBE explains: ‘The RNLI Memorial is a tribute to the many hundreds of people who have given their lives selflessly to save others over the last two hundred years. Its location, in front of The Lifeboat College here in Poole, is truly fitting and will inspire generations of lifesavers from all over the British Isles who will train here in the years to come.’
RNLI Chairman Admiral The Lord Boyce comments after the ceremony: ‘Today has been a very special day for our charity. The new memorial, inscribed with the family motto of the RNLI’s founder, Sir William Hillary: ‘with courage, nothing is impossible’, provides an enduring focus which will ensure that the sacrifices of our life savers will not be forgotten. It also reminds us of the seas that surround our islands and our volunteer lifeboat crews who will always be there when they are called upon. I hope that many people will come to Poole to see it.’
The RNLI Memorial, designed by Sam Holland ARBS, stands more than 4.5m in height and depicts a person in a boat saving another from the water, symbolising the history, and future, of the RNLI in its most basic and humanitarian form.
The sculpture is positioned on a dark plinth on which flat bands of stainless steel weave. The bands provide both the effect of waves and a material onto which the names of the people who have lost their lives can be engraved – thus becoming an intrinsic part of the memorial.
The RNLI Memorial is now open to the public and is intended to be accessible at all times to remind all visitors of the extraordinary self-sacrifice of many of the people involved with the charity.
The RNLI is holding its biennial Headquarters Open Days on Saturday 5 and Sunday 6 September 2009, offering the public an early opportunity to see the memorial in addition to insights ‘behind the scenes’ of the RNLI.
RNLI Memorial Ceremony of Dedication Programme commenced at 12noon:
- RNLI President, Admiral The Lord Boyce gave the Speech of Reflection
- Guest of Honour, HRH The Duke of Kent responded
- HRH The Duke of Kent unveiled the RNLI Memorial
- Six RNLI volunteers representing the six RNLI operational divisions recited the names of lifeboat stations where there has been loss of life (Scotland, Dunbar Mechanic Kenneth Peters; Ireland, Dun Laoghaire ex-crew member William Scully; West, The Mumbles Deputy Launching Authority Roy Griffiths; North, Humber Superintendent Coxswain David Steenvoorden; South, Lyme Regis Deputy Launching Authority/ex-crew member Garry Gibbs; East, Shoreham Coxswain Peter Huxtable MBE)
- The RNLI flag was lowered and a one minute silence was observed at 12.20pm
- Bishop of Sherborne, Dr Graham Kings, conducted the Service of Dedication St Ives Coxswain/Mechanic, Tommy Cocking, the descendant of three men named on the memorial (great-grandfather and two great-uncles), gave a speech on behalf of all lifeboat crews
- Speech of Celebration by Admiral The Lord Boyce
The RNLI Heritage Trust was set up in 2004 to preserve the historic objects and archives of the Institution for future generations. Charitable donations to the RNLI must be used for saving lives at sea, so funds for the RNLI Memorial have been raised through the RNLI Heritage Trust. Donations towards the Memorial are welcome and anyone wanting to make a donation should visit www.rnli.org.uk/memorial.
Notes to editors
- Full sized jpeg photographs and footage of the RNLI Memorial Ceremony of Dedication, unveiling, etc, will be available on the RNLI Press Centre www.rnli.org.uk/press from 3pm on the day. Please contact the RNLI Public Relations Office on 01202 336789 for further information.
- Speeches from the Memorial Ceremony are also available on the RNLI Press Centre. RNLI representatives will be available for interview or comment.
- Some archive photos connected to particular names on the memorial may also be available – please contact RNLI Public Relations on the numbers below with requests.
- For a full list of names on the memorial please go to www.rnli.org.uk/how_to_support_us/appeals/memorial/memorial
RNLI media contacts
For more information please telephone RNLI Public Relations on 01202 336789 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.