His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales visited the RNLI’s College based in Poole, Dorset to see where the charity’s volunteer crew and lifeguards from around the UK and Ireland are trained.
The visit to the RNLI College formed part of a wider visit to the Duchy of Cornwall’s Poundbury development and Dorset, and although marks a first for His Royal Highness, is not a first for The Royal Family. In July 2004, Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh performed the official opening.
During his visit, The Prince of Wales met with RNLI Chairman Stuart Popham and RNLI Chief Executive Mark Dowie and learnt of the challenges the charity has faced during the pandemic, having maintained an operational presence throughout – saving 349 lives in 2020.
Stuart Popham, RNLI Chairman, said: “The last 14 months have been extremely challenging for all charities and the RNLI is no different. Our committed volunteers have maintained a 24/7 rescue service throughout the pandemic and today was an opportunity for The Prince to personally thank some of them for their dedicated service. We are expecting another busy summer as more and more people flock to the UK and Irish coastlines and His Royal Highness’s visit will help raise the profile of our services and how the public can keep themselves safe.
“Whilst at the College, The Prince of Wales was able to witness, first-hand, the training that RNLI crews undertake, which is fundamental to saving lives. He observed a live demonstration undertaken by the charity’s lifeboat trainers and Poole Lifeboat Station volunteers in the Sea Survival Centre.”
RNLI Chief Executive, Mark Dowie, said: “Today we have 55 crew in residence at the College taking part in a variety of courses from casualty care to coastal hydraulics. For much of 2020, we had to suspend many activities to protect the resilience of the service and keep our people safe.
“Only recently have we returned to a full training programme here at the College and around our lifesaving regions, and to full production in our factories. I am pleased we were able to demonstrate to The Prince the RNLI’s wide range of activities and services we provide here at our Support Centre in Poole.”
The Prince of Wales was later given a tour of the All-weather Lifeboat Centre where staff and apprentices presented the facility where the production and refit of the RNLI’s all-weather lifeboats takes place, including the charity’s latest state-of-the-art lifeboat design, the Shannon.
The RNLI’s Principal Naval Architect, Dr Holly Phillips MBE, said: “It was a pleasure to meet The Prince of Wales today and be able to demonstrate the work the teams do at our All-weather Lifeboat Centre. The facility here creates local employment, including apprenticeships in marine engineering and boatbuilding, which ultimately helps to save lives at sea – we simply couldn’t do it without our dependable lifeboat fleet.”
Before departing, His Royal Highness paid his respects at the RNLI Memorial, a sculpture that honours the courage of all lifeboat crew and search and rescue service people lost at sea while endeavouring to save the lives of others.