The History of the Bridlington Coastguard Rescue Team

A report of our meeting held 31st October 2016

The Prior Rick Hudson welcomed members and guests.  He introduced the speaker Mrs Irene Cook. Irene spent 30 years as part a Coastguard Service team in Bridlington and was sad when mandatory retirement closed that chapter in her life.  She then researched the history of the Coastguard Rescue volunteers and we were treated to an enthralling illustrated talk on this topic.

Irene explained that during the Great Gale in 1871 many lives were lost when ships were blown ashore. So near, and yet so far. Rocket teams which fired ropes onto foundering ships did exist but it was only in the aftermath of the Great Gale that a call was made for volunteers to form a Bridlington rescue team.  This became the Volunteer Lifesaving Company.  Later the name was changed to the Bridlington Lifesaving Apparatus Company.  The volunteers exercised quarterly, and later monthly, under the supervision of a local coastguard officer.  Now this volunteer service is called the Auxiliary Coastguard.

The rocket apparatus was originally housed in a building on West Street which still exists. When the coastguard station was first built on the present site off Limekiln Lane the rocket apparatus was moved there as well. Irene explained how the rocket equipment worked and how difficult it was to direct it in the teeth of an onshore gale, the usual weather when it was called upon in earnest. Sometimes it blew back onto the land. She recalled being given the honour of firing it on one occasion only to turn and find her team mates had retreated to safer positions. Later hand held rocket firing guns were used which gave a terrific recoil you needed to be aware of.

With the aid of a series of photographs Irene showed how the equipment was used and also some of the actual rescues were lives were undoubtedly saved.  Of the more mundane cases, rescuing dogs which ran over the cliff edge were a regular occurrence.  So much so that three standard questions developed.  Does your dog bite?  Have you got a dog biscuit? Have you got a lead?

Irene clearly enjoyed the training she was given including rappelling and rock climbing.  She described the terror of going over the edge when rappelling and the exhilaration that follows on the decent. She admits she was not so happy sitting in a life raft about a mile out in a choppy sea waiting rescue.  Irene was keen to point out that the success of the service is down to team work, not just within the coastguard service but also in concert with other services.  She gave an example of such a rescue off the south beach were this teamwork saved lives.

The vote of thanks was given by Kay Kenny.  She recalled a family party when Irene had to leave the cream half whipped when her pager went off.  Kay thanked Irene for a fantastic talk and thanked the Coastguard staff and volunteers for the fantastic work they do.