The End of an Era - Willy Pledger Retires After 44 Years

July 2018

Willy Pledger, most recently 2nd Coxswain of Selsey's All-weather Lifeboat, 'Denise and Eric', retired from the Lifeboat crew on July 5th this year after 44 years' service.

At a gathering in the crew room at Selsey Lifeboat Station to honour his service John Light, former Branch Chairman, gave the following speech, mentioning some of the many incidents Willy has been involved with over the years:

"I’m delighted to have been asked to say a few words about Willy Pledger, a man I’ve known and worked with in the RNLI for over 25 years.

"Willy joined the crew of the 'Charles Henry' under the command of Coxswain Bill Jones in June 1974 at the age of 21. When Willy joined the crew of the 'Charles Henry' he served with many crew members including Ron Wells, Glen Amiss, Paul Davis, Denny Warwick, and he would like to thank those of you who are here tonight: Mike Grant, Terry Wood, George Woodland and Clive.

"In 1983 he joined the crew of the "City of London" and, in February 1998, he became Second Coxswain, a position he held until quite recently.

"In 2006 he joined the crew of the "Voluntary Worker" and, until 5th July, he served as a crew member on the 'Denise and Eric'.

"Throughout these 44 years it is impossible to recall how many times he has been transferred to the casualty and brought them safely home. Names like yacht "Rauschen", the "Antelope", "Overture Two" and many others with steering or propulsion problems.

"In 1998 he was on board the "City of London" during the 28-hour, longest recorded service, searching for missing divers. Many Lifeboats, the helicopter and a navy vessel all took part in the search. Fortunately, the navy vessel came alongside and offered the crew breakfast and, later, a roast lunch which were winched down to the Lifeboat. Lunch included peas and carrots, to which Willy was heard to say "That’s the first time I’ve seen peas and carrots on this boat that hasn't been eaten before."

"He even became an assistant medic when he carried the cases for Dr. Murphy on a medivac. On landing the casualty he was one of the first in the 'Merry Mouse Two' nightclub when they tied up in Gosport.

"In 1999, Willy received the Freedom of the City of London. something I know he holds most dear.

"Training has always been important to Willy and many of you here tonight will have benefited from his help, especially with navigation and the tying of knots. He could get very cross if you didn't tie them correctly; he even told me off on my nursery when I was tying up some plants - he couldn't believe the knot I'd tied.

"Willy has never been one to spend excessively on his fishing vehicle. One day, when he was driving across the ferry with a trailer full of pots, one fell off in front of a police car coming the other way. When he arrived on our nursery, where he kept his pots, he found the police car behind him. The officer looked around the trailer and suggested some improvements to make it roadworthy, to which Willy was heard to murmur "Best you don’t look round the pick-up then."

"Like most crew members, Willy has always been in the frontline when the fundraising team needed help. During Lifeboat Week he would attend every event and on the walking and car treasure hunts, he often won. On the occasion of Lifeboat Day when he was Coxswain, we would get the display we wanted. He didn’t complain when we set fire to the 'Steel Princess' and he worked with me on the breeches buoy to the beach.

"He jumped on HMS warship 'Puncher' to assist the captain with water levels during his display. He helped with ferrying the crew of the 'Charles Henry' when she returned for a visit and Mike Grant took over the controls.

"He helped with the 150 year re-enactment when we took Lifeboat 'Queen Victoria' through the town and he was Coxswain of the day when we took the terminally ill children from the Snowdrop Trust out on a training exercise on the 'City of London'.

"A long and distinguished career and, whilst it has come to an end as a crew member, we are delighted that he will continue as a DLA at Selsey lifeboat station.

"Well done, Willy. We all wish you a long and happy semi-retirement."

Afterwards, Sue Lintott, Chairman of Selsey Lifeboat Fundraising Committee, thanked Willy for his help with fundraising for at least twenty years and presented him with a gift of a sextant which had been saved for this moment for at least twelve years and looked after by Richard Milverton, past Chairman of Selsey Lifeboat Fundraising Committee, using the lovely wooden case it was contained in as a door stop! It was rather amusing that, when Willy took the sextant out of the wooden case, he held it upside down – and this is after it had been considered that Willy was the ideal person to present this gift to as he was probably the only person anyone knew who would actually know how to use it…

As mentioned in John’s speech, Willy continues to serve Selsey Lifeboat Station as one of the Deputy Launch Authorities.

Thank you, Willy!!

Willy Pledger Willy Pledger
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