The Coventry and Warwickshire, an Atlantic 75 class RNLI lifeboat, bought with money raised in the Midlands, has retired after a hugely successful career saving lives at sea.
In 2001 the Atlantic 21 Weston Centenary was in need of replacement. Fundraising for a new Atlantic 75 B class inshore lifeboat was undertaken in a most unlikely place – Coventry; just about as far from the sea as one might be. The Coventry & Warwickshire Lifeboat Appeal, under the chairmanship of Sir Alan Veale, set a target of £66,000, which went on to top a magnificent £78,000. It was enough to buy both the boat, designated B769, and all internal equipment.
In its first year of service the Coventry and Warwickshire, as the new lifeboat was called, had one of its busiest years; 30 calls with at least 4 lives saved from imminent death. B-769 Coventry and Warwickshire was built at the RNLI’s Inshore Lifeboat Centre at East Cowes on the Isle of Wight and entered service at Weston, though not before she had travelled by road to Kenilworth in Warwickshire for a formal handing-over ceremony.
Throughout its life, B769 launched on service 302 times, saved: 17 lives and rescued 239 people. However the lifeboat has had, as for all its fellows, a rough time. Launched not only in shouts but often twice a week on training, into the heaviest weather conditions, the sea and general wear and tear took its toll. To make matters worse the Weston volunteer crew have had to operate out of a temporary station for the last five years resulting in the lifeboat been kept outside subject to wind and waves on the seafront. The time has thus come when Coventry and Warwickshire can no longer be considered in good enough condition to protect its crew and save lives. The RNLI charity keeps a series of used lifeboats as relief boats. One of these, the Paul Alexander, has been nominated for the Weston station at least until the new boathouse is built.
Last week, on Wednesday the Paul Alexander arrived and Coventry and Warwickshire went off to a well deserved retirement. Mike Buckland, Lifeboat Operations Manager at Weston RNLI station said; ‘ Many times my team and I have trusted our lives to B769. She has been a magnificent boat and served us well. We will miss her but the new boat will be a worthy successor and we will keep doing what we do. Saving lives at sea.’
The pictures attached show B769 being prepared to leave, B769 on the ground with two of her original crew who still serves, B769 on the road back to base.