‘We’re always there to help’: Meet the Langstone lifeboat volunteer recognised in the New Years Honours list for decades of dedication to maritime safety
A LIFEBOAT volunteer from Langstone who has spent nearly three decades saving lives across the Solent coast has been awarded a British Empire Medal – and says volunteering is ‘a way of life’.
Hamble Lifeboat manager Stephen Emery, 69, has been named in the 2022 New Years Honours List, receiving a medal for his services to maritime safety.
Steve, who worked as an electronics engineer before retiring five years ago, said: ‘I started with Hamble Lifeboat as a crewman in 1996 - I had done some sailing and knew a bit about boats, but found out very quickly how little I did know.
‘I did some training with the lifeboat service and became a coxswain after a few years.
‘I remained as a coxswain for 19 years until I thought it was a younger man’s game and took on the role of operations manager and as a trustee as a charity.
‘I oversee the fundraising - we have a team of capable people, and I’m responsible for the operational side.
‘I’m still fairly hands-on.’
From 1993, Steve spent three years at the HM Coastguard radio desk, helping to co-ordinate rescues, before moving to Hayling Coastguard.
‘I did that in parallel with Hamble Lifeboat’, he explained.
Thousands of people have been assisted by the Hamble Lifeboat team during Steve’s time as a volunteer.
He said: ‘2021 was the busiest year for some time - we did 122 incidents. That involved approximately 200 people in terms of the assistance provided.
‘Over the last 25 years, the lifeboat’s been tasked to 110-120 incidents a year involving a few hundred people.
‘We have a very good crew.’
The lifeboat team helps people across central Solent and Southampton waters, and the Rivers Hamble, Itchen, and Test.
‘Hamble Lifeboat is an independent lifeboat, it’s not part of the RNLI, so we get involved in fundraising and aspects of running a charity as well as doing rescue work which is primarily what we’re there for,’ Steve said.
A resident of Langstone for 30 years, Steve, who lives with his wife Sue, added: ‘It’s become a way of life, having been involved in search and rescue for so many years - it causes you to look at things in a slightly different way.
‘Most people don’t think twice about it until something untoward happens. We’re always there to help.’
The lifeboat team face a number of challenges, and have had to adapt over the last two years to continue safely running the service.
Steve said: ‘Over the last 18 months, it’s been keeping service running within the Covid restrictions - and we have kept it running, although we’ve curtailed our training and operate with the minimum number of crew.’
Despite the difficulties, Steve said that his favourite thing about volunteering is ‘helping people’.
‘When we come back and we’ve got somebody onboard that we’ve saved, that’s really what it’s all about,’ he said.
It was a surprise for Steve when a letter from the cabinet office arrived just before Christmas, asking if he would accept the BEM.
Steve said: ‘I’m really proud to have been chosen for that honour. Really, it’s representing Hamble Lifeboat - that’s the driving force behind it. I was really pleased to be nominated and chosen.’
Steve also wanted to pay his respects to the person who encouraged him to join the Hamble Lifeboat team.
He said: ‘The reason I joined Hamble Lifeboat was that in 1996 when I was working in the rescue centre at Lee-on-the-Solent, the then-chief coxswain invited me to join Hamble Lifeboat.
‘His name was Colin Olden and he was awarded the MBE many years ago. He passed away in November.’