VOLUNTEERS from Looe RNLI lifeboat station have said they felt ‘honoured’ to be a part of the historic celebrations held in London earlier this month which commemorated the RNLI’s 200th anniversary of saving lives at sea.

Looe RNLI volunteers, David Haines, Patricia Calloway, Sue Bungey, Carol Foster, Ian Foster and David Jackman were blessed with warm sunshine and blue skies as they arrived at Westminster Abbey.

On arrival, they were greeted by a sea of blue RNLI guernseys who were preparing for a Service of Thanksgiving which was due to be held inside of the iconic abbey.

As the service began, the group began chatting with colleagues from the 238 lifeboat stations around the United Kingdom and Ireland who were in attendance and soon realised how large the RNLI family is – it was reported that over 1800 crew, volunteers and supporters came together to commemorate, celebrate and inspire. 

As the group took their seats in the Abbey’s south transept, all of the members commented: “It was an honour for us to be invited to represent the community of Looe and RNLI Looe Lifeboat Station at this service, celebrating 200 years of lifesaving. Looking around this magnificent building, rich in history, we thought about historic events the Abbey had witnessed over the centuries, and now RNLI volunteers were walking in these same footprints, as our crews, back on station, are at readiness to respond to shouts for a third century of saving lives at sea.”

HRH the Duke of Kent, who also stands at the RNLI president, was a guest of honour at the service. On arrival the Duke made his way up the aisle greeting crew representatives, accompanied by Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence – an RNLI trustee.

A Service of Thanksgiving on the 200th Anniversary of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution at Westminster Abbey, London.
The Service was led by The Dean of Westminster, The Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle. with the President of the RNLI HRH The Duke of Kent attending the Service.
Lifeboat men and women gather with a selection of boats from over the years were on display outside the Great West Door.
HRH Duke of Kent meeting volunteer crews at the Westminster Abbey service for the RNLI's 200th Birthday commemorations. Photograph: Dean and Chapter of Westminster / Picture Partnership (Dean and Chapter of Westminster / Picture Partnership)

It was reported that the service began with the words of the charity’s founder, Sir William Hillary.

RNLI crew members then carried the 200th pledge scroll to the high alter.

A congregation, full of lifeboat crew, then sang ‘Eternal Father, Strong to Save’ with an extra verse added to commemorate the special day.

In his sermon, The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, shared his thoughts, ending his sermon with ‘200 years is something extraordinary to celebrate. A common purpose for 200 years is almost unknown. Saving life is the most precious gift of all, and the basis of these gifts in the life and self-giving of God is a model for everyone. So, as it shows that model, may God continue to bless and protect those who serve in the RNLI’.

Eleanor Hooker a poet and Helm from RNLI Lough Derg recited her 200th anniversary poem – ‘Float to Live’. 

Eleanor was followed by a rapturous round of applause for chief executive, Mark Dowie, after his vote of thanks.

Group shot of current lifeboat crew, lifeguards, heritage crew and future crew with RNLI CE Mark Dowie and chair Janet Legrand outside of Westminster Abbey to celebrate the 200th birthday of the RNLI. Barry Brown (Whitby LOM), Derek Lea (Larne), Max Underhill (Poole), Edd Christian (Douglas), Nick Parsons (Scottish lifeguards), Al Kassim (Tower), Jen Payne (Penarth), Alan Brown (William Riley Trust), Lucy Maynard (11), Aine Flynn (Ballycotton), Mark Dowie, Janet Legrand OBE KC, Nelly Gallichan (Jersey lifeguards), Jack Maynard (5), Danny Blake (St Peter Port), Holly Maynard (12). Photograph: RNLI / Nathan Williams (RNLI / Nathan Williams)

As the service ended, the Abbey bells rang out and the RNLI family spilled out onto the Abbey steps to disperse back to the 238 lifeboat stations dotted around the length and breadth of our coastline and inland waterways.