RNLI lifeboat crew and fundraisers are preparing to welcome HRH the Princess Royal, Princess Anne, to officially open the new Bembridge RNLI lifeboat station.
The Princess will visit the station on Wednesday 10 August to officially name the new Tamar class lifeboat, Alfred Albert Williams, and meet relatives of the man in whose honour the lifeboat was funded. The ceremony will also honour the anonymous couple who kindly funded the majority of the cost of new lifeboat.
Although the station and lifeboat have both been operational for some months now, this event marks the official naming ceremony and service of dedication for both.
The Alfred Albert Williams takes its name from the Hampshire man who was a close friend of the husband and wife couple who made a significant donation to the RNLI. The couple, who hailed from Oxfordshire, were keen sailors and owned a boat which was moored at Camper and Nicolson boatyard in Gosport, Hampshire. They were good friends with Alfred Williams and, when they decided to fund a new lifeboat, chose to name it after their friend.
Martin Wilson, RNLI Personal Donations Manager, explained more: ‘The couple donated £1.8M towards the then-cost of a Tamar lifeboat for the RNLI, but wished to remain anonymous. They were keen sailors and had naval history in their family – the husband’s father was an ex-commander in the Royal Navy.
‘The couple approached the RNLI in 1999, wishing to donate a lifeboat and have it named it after their friend, Alfred Williams. Sadly, both the husband and wife have passed away but we have remained in contact with their executors and with Alfred himself.’
Alfred, who lived in Gosport, Hampshire, joined the Royal Navy in 1928 aged 15 years, and left in 1956. After leaving he worked on various boats and yachts until he was 87 years old. He died in 2006, never finding out where the lifeboat bearing his name would be stationed.
Alfred’s daughter, Sue Slater, will attend the naming ceremony on her father’s behalf. She said: ‘My dad was Chief Petty Officer in the Navy and worked as yacht skipper for the donor’s father. He always called my father ‘The Chief’ because of his rank, and that nickname just stuck. In later life, dad worked for the donor himself, and was always called “The Chief” by him and his wife, right up until the day they passed away.’
Sue continued: ‘It is just fantastic to think a lifeboat is going to bear my father’s name. It was very thoughtful of donors to use my dad’s name but from what my father has told me about them, it is just the type of thing they would do.’
The new Bembridge RNLI lifeboat station replaced the previous building which had been built in 1867. Although it had served its crew well on hundreds of lifesaving missions, a new station was needed to cater for the needs of a modern-day lifeboat service.
A £1M public appeal was launched in 2008 to help towards the cost of the station and the lifeboat, and the new building was completed in 2010.
Graham Hall, Lifeboat Operations Manager at Bembridge RNLI lifeboat station, said: ‘We are all excited and busily preparing for this very special day. HRH The Princess Royal will meet our volunteer lifeboat crew, shore helpers, and Alfred’s daughter, Sue.’
The Royal visit and naming ceremony will take place at Bembridge RNLI lifeboat station, Lane End Road, Bembridge, on Wednesday 10 August, at 12.30pm.