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Thursday 21 October 2021

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Sunderland RNLI Volunteers remember local heroes

Volunteers based at Sunderland?s Royal National Lifeboat Institution [RNLI] station have marked today?s 45th anniversary of the Seaham Lifeboat Disaster by making a ?500 donation to the institution?s appeal to construct its first official national lifeboat memorial.

The national tribute, a memorial sculpture within a garden, will be located at the RNLI?s Poole headquarters, opposite The Lifeboat College, where all modern-day crewmembers will train, and be further inspired by the memorial.

The upturned hull of the RNLB George Elmy on the night of the disaster - (c) The Sunday Sun

The memorial and garden will be open to the public and is intended to be accessible at all times. The area will provide a peaceful, contemplative space for reflection. RNLI volunteers and staff, plus members of the public will be able to visit and be inspired by the extraordinary self-sacrifice of the 438 crewmembers who have died while saving lives at sea over the last 180 years.

Paul Nicholson, Senior Helmsman at Sunderland RNLI said: ?The twenty operational volunteers at the station decided to make a personal donation to the appeal in memory of our colleagues who were lost at sea forty-five years ago at Seaham Harbour.?

The memorial stone laid at Seaham Harbour

On the 17th November 1962 all five crewmembers onboard the Seaham Lifeboat lost their lives when the lifeboat ?George Elmy? was capsized by two huge waves just 30 yards from Seaham Harbour?s South Pier after rescuing the five crewmembers of the fishing boat ?Economy? which had foundered in stormy seas off Dawdon Colliery. The only survivor of the tragic accident was one of the fishing boats crew who was washed ashore clinging to the propeller shafts of the upturned lifeboat.

The memorial project is being managed and part funded through the RNLI Heritage Trust, which was set up to preserve the historic objects and archives of the Institution for future generations. Donations and legacies given to the RNLI for lifesaving can only be used for that purpose, but the Heritage Trust is eligible to apply for heritage and cultural grants.

Members of the current Sunderland RNLI Lifeboat Crew - (c) Adrian Don

Andrew Freemantle CBE, RNLI Chief Executive, who launched the memorial appeal by cycling 1,100 miles from Poole (Dorset) to the Italian capital of Rome during his annual leave in September, explains:?Currently the RNLI has no single, public memorial at which to honour its volunteers, past present and future ? not even the 438 brave crew members who have lost their lives while saving others.

Ultimately the memorial will remind the nation that there are still people who volunteer to carry out selfless acts of heroism to help others, and that we need to honour and remember them to inspire future generations. However, the money given so generously to the RNLI for the provision of our lifesaving services cannot be used for this memorial. So, we will have to raise the money ourselves, through the RNLI?s ?friends and family?.

RNLB George Elmy at Seaham Harbour

The RNLI is advertising nationally to invite submissions for an inspirational design. Once the winning one has been chosen and funding secured, it is intended that the sculpture and garden will be created in 2009.

Paul Nicholson added: ?Anyone wishing to support the memorial directly can make a donation by visiting
www.rnli.org.uk/memorial or by sending a donation to the RNLI Poole Headquarters marked Memorial Garden.?

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