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First Christmas on call for new St Davids RNLI Coxswain following in proud family tradition

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THE RNLI in Wales will see hundreds of its volunteer lifeboat crews sacrifice time with their loved ones to save others this Christmas, as 2021 figures show an increase in the number lifeboat launches during the festive season. It will be a proud occasion for Will Chant, who will be on call over Christmas as the station’s newest full-time Coxswain, following in the footsteps of his dad.

Saving a space for the pager on the Christmas dinner table is nothing new for the Chant family from Pembrokeshire, who have spent decades bracing themselves to swap Turkey for turbulent seas.

This Christmas Eve, Will celebrates 26 years of being a volunteer crew member at St Davids. He is following in the footsteps of proud dad Dai, a former station Coxswain who joined the St Davids crew in the early 60s. He’ll also be in good company should the call come over Christmas as brother Mike is also the station’s full-time mechanic.

Like crew members across Wales they will prepared to leave their loved ones to save others at Christmas. Over the past five years, RNLI lifeboats in Wales and the North West have launched nearly 100 times, with 49 people aided over the Christmas period. In Wales alone, there were 56 lifeboat launches in that five year period with 30 people aided.

Last year, RNLI lifeboats in Wales launched 12 times over the Christmas period, saving two lives and rescuing three people. This was compared with seven launches, and three people aided in 2020.

Will has vivid memories of holiday celebrations being cut short over the years, including a shout on 27 December 1997. A French fishing trawler Toul an Trez which had sunk suddenly some 35 miles out to sea in violent storms on Christmas Eve, with all five of the French fishermen lost during the tragedy. The St Davids crew launched their inshore and all-weather lifeboats a few days later to search for the casualties and the wreckage. It had began to wash up around the south west coastline of Wales.

A fire on board the Eves Marie trawler on 21 December 2004 also saw the St Davids RNLI crew abandon their pre-Christmas celebration. The RNLI crew had assisted in the rescuer of the crew from the burning trawler in rough seas and volunteers, including Will were called upon for a second time to stand by the vessel for much of the following day until she eventually sank.

This year, Will is hopeful for a quiet Christmas with wife Lottie and their son Harri, 12. They are looking forward to paying a visit to his dad and much-needed relaxation time.

He says: ‘Being brought up as a lifeboat family, we didn’t really flinch if the pager sounded and dad headed out of the door – it’s just what happened. There was no doubt I’d follow in his footsteps and answering the call over Christmas is not really any different to any time of the year. If someone needs your help, your training springs into action and you don’t really give it a second thought.

‘It’s an absolute privilege to be spending my very first Christmas on call as Coxswain of the St Davids lifeboat. Whilst I keep my fingers crossed the pager remains silent, but if it doesn’t, whatever the situation, myself, Mike and the crew will be there and I know dad will be so proud waiting at home for news.’

If the pager does remain silent, Will plans to open presents with his family, check on his horses and chickens before walking the dog. He will be following a tradition in visiting dad Dai and catching up with Mike, before settling down to Christmas dinner later in the early evening.

Winter can be one of the most challenging times to be a lifeboat volunteer with shorter days and the worst weather conditions of the year. But the dedication and courage shown by RNLI lifesavers means that, when the call to rescue comes in, they are ready and willing to head out. No matter if it’s the middle of a dark winter’s night, or in freezing sub-zero temperatures.

Mike adds: ‘We wouldn’t do what we are able to do without the support of the public, who work tirelessly throughout the year to raise the donation we so vitally need to enable us to continue saving lives. This is our opportunity to say thank you to all those who have supported us throughout the year. As Christmas approaches and the RNLI launches it’s Christmas appeal, your support is more important than ever and so appreciated.’

The RNLI provides a lifesaving service using volunteers wherever possible, with voluntary donations supplying the funds needed to do so. To make a donation to the RNLI’s Christmas Appeal, visit: RNLI.org/Xmas

Charity

Royal celebration at Buckingham Palace marks RNLI’s 200th anniversary

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HIS MAJESTY The King has graciously hosted a garden party at Buckingham Palace today to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI). This prestigious event brought together approximately 2,500 of the RNLI’s dedicated volunteers, staff, and their families.

The garden party, held in the palace’s magnificent grounds, was marked by the presence of an Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat, showcasing the RNLI’s modern lifesaving capabilities. The event celebrated the remarkable history and ongoing contributions of the RNLI, which has been saving lives at sea since its founding in 1824.

Among those honoured at the event were representatives from Tenby Lifeboat Station and St Davids Lifeboat Station. From Tenby, the delegation included recently retired Coxswain Philip John, along with Michael Lewis, Daniel Young, Graham Waring, and Peter O’Hagan, all accompanied by their partners. Representing St Davids Lifeboat Station were Will Chant, Jestyn Martin, Ffion Rees, Judd Kohler, Ellen Evans, and their respective partners. These individuals were recognised for their exceptional service and dedication to the institution, trading their RNLI yellows for smart attire on this special occasion.

The RNLI, established in 1824 by Sir William Hillary, has grown into a vital organisation dedicated to saving lives at sea. Over its two centuries of operation, the RNLI has saved more than 142,700 lives, thanks to the bravery and commitment of its volunteers and staff. Today, the RNLI operates over 238 lifeboat stations and provides a 24-hour search and rescue service around the coasts of the UK and Ireland.

His Majesty’s patronage and the garden party at Buckingham Palace underscore the nation’s deep appreciation for the RNLI’s invaluable service. The celebration not only honoured past achievements but also highlighted the continued importance of the RNLI’s mission as it looks forward to the future.

For more information on the RNLI’s history and its bicentenary celebrations, please visit the official RNLI website.

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Charity

Cycling enthusiasts complete mammoth challenge on tandem bike

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AGAINST all odds two cycling enthusiasts from Pembrokeshire have completed a mammoth challenge on a tandem called ‘Jean’ in aid of the Wales Air Ambulance Charity.

Lee Berridge and John Mumberson, even slept in ditches as they took part in the nearly 300-mile, two-and-a-half-day event which starts and ends in Plymouth.

The pair wanted to “put money into a charity that has helped several people” they know who have been “airlifted out”.

The bike ride was no easy feat both were recovering from accidents themselves when they signed up.

49-year-old Lee had to have back surgery after a horrendous fall whilst on a work training programme. Whilst John injured his wrist and broke facial bones after falling in his garden.

Lee said: “I was learning new rigging techniques to do my summer job because I try and do festivals and different circus events that are on then.

“A piece of equipment came undone or failed. Nobody is sure what happened, but I fell six and a half metres, straight to the floor and shattered three vertebrae.

“I wasn’t airlifted out, but I was blue lighted to the nearest hospital that could do the best operation that I needed.”

He added: “I have also had several motorbike friends that have all been airlifted off site. Some recovered, some did not.

“A friend’s brother had a car accident a few weeks ago. He was airlifted out but sadly died the next day.

“His sister did a sponsored run, and it was that, that inspired and prompted me to want to fundraise for the charity.”

Wales Air Ambulance is consultant-led, taking hospital-standard treatments to the patient and if required, transferring them directly to the most appropriate hospital for their illness or injury.

It is delivered via a unique Third sector and Public Sector partnership. The Emergency Medical Retrieval and Transfer Service (EMRTS) supplies highly skilled NHS consultants and critical care practitioners who work on board the charity’s vehicles.

Lee says the air ambulance does “incredible work” and he wanted to say thank you by fundraising.

He said: “I have done lots of long-distance events, but only for myself. I have never done it to raise money for anything else.”

A biking enthusiast, whilst Lee was recovering from his injuries a friend of his asked him if he wanted to buy a tandem. That is when he was introduced to ‘Jean.’

He said: “I have two tandems already. I do not actually ride any of them, but this one came up I just thought I’ll buy it, do it up and sell it to make money, while I’m not actually working,

“But it transpired that I’d actually cycled with the original owners that got the bicycle made – so I bought it.”

Back in 2023, Lee and John had planned to do the Trans Dorset race but because of their accidents they had to put their fundraising on hold. When entry for the Trans Devon opened, they signed up.

Lee said: “We decided that we would do it on a tandem and we were the only tandem in the race. Everybody else who was on solo bikes was carrying as little amount of stuff as possible.

“But me and John, we just took all our own camping equipment and we literally slept on car parks in the front porch of a church and went over some of the most scrawling hills.”

So, far the pair have raised just over £1,000 and they are already planning more fundraising events.

Lee said: “The air ambulance is amazing it has helped so many people. It really should not take a charity to do what it does.

“It should not have to be raising its own money to run a lifesaving service.

“That is why I want to do as much as I can to help, and we are already planning two more rides this year.”

Wales Air Ambulance’s Head of Fundraising Mark Stevens said: “We are hugely grateful that Lee and John took on the Trans Devon in aid of our charity. They navigated some challenges, sleeping under the stars, covering unfamiliar terrain and on a tandem too!

“We need to raise £11.2 million each year to keep our helicopters in the sky and rapid response vehicles on the road.

“By helping us hit that target we are able to help thousands of people each year who are critically ill or injured thanks to the kindness of our supporters.”

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Charity

Charity funds artwork and chair for Colposcopy Unit at Withybush

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THANKS to generous donations, Hywel Dda Health Charities, the official charity of Hywel Dda University Health Board, has been able to fund artwork and a recliner couch for the Colposcopy Unit at Withybush Hospital.

A colposcopy is a procedure used to look at the cervix, the lower part of the womb at the top of the vagina. It’s often done if cervical screening finds abnormal cells in the cervix.

The waiting area, corridor and recovery rooms in the Colposcopy Unit now boast vibrant images of Pembrokeshire. Patients can view the scenes from the comfort of a brand-new recliner couch.

Elaina Hoss, Colposcopist, said: “The Colposcopy team are very grateful that charitable funds has enabled the unit to have a mini makeover. 

“We are over the moon with what has been received and are so thankful.  Our patients have remarked how wonderful it looks and we are really happy with our newly improved environment.”

Sharon Evans, Colposcopy Co-ordinator, said: “It is lovely to be welcoming patients to our now colourful department.  The beautiful images brighten up our day.”

Nicola Llewelyn, Head of Hywel Dda Health Charities, the official charity of Hywel Dda University Health Board, said: “The support of our local communities enables us to provide services over and above what the NHS can provide in the three counties of Hywel Dda and we are extremely grateful for every donation we receive.”

For more details about the charity and how you can help support local NHS patients and staff, go to www.hywelddahealthcharities.org.uk

Pictured above (L-R): Sharon Evans, Colposcopy Co-ordinator and Elaina Hoss, Colposcopist.

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