27th March 2018. Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal visited the NCI Station in Skegness as her first official visit in her capacity as Patron of The National Coastwatch Institution.
On a very wet Tuesday morning, with visibility down to 1000 yards and a cloud base low enough to question the viability of a helicopter landing, 120 people waited patiently for news of the planned visit. Communications with the aircraft were established and, following a fly by and a visual check of the landing site, the aircraft landed with only a slight delay. On arrival at Skegness aerodrome HRH was met Mr Toby Dennis, the Lord Lieutenant of Lincolnshire, and Mr Bill Skelly, the Chief Constable, before continuing to the station by road.
With no break in the weather at the station, she was met by NCI Chairman, Lesley Suddes, NCI Trustee Ian Whalley, Paul Woolley, Station Manager of NCI Skegness, NCI Patron Air Marshall Sir Christopher Coville KCB and NCI Honorary President Jon Gifford OBE. With the usual comments about the weather, HRH enthusiastically greeted the waiting NCI party.
Her Royal Highness was escorted to the station by Lesley Suddes and Paul Woolley, to meet duty watchkeepers, Frank Pilling, Jerzy Kwinta, David Judge and DSM Clive Pouncey. As she entered the station, a conning exercise conducted with the Skegness RNLI Shannon class “April and Joel Gunnill” lifeboat commenced. HRH took great interest in the exercise and was very knowledgeable about the capabilities of the new Shannon class Lifeboats. At the end of the exercise, the lifeboat gave a stunning demonstration of its capabilities.
Her Royal Highness was then given an explanation and demonstration of the equipment used in the station including the AIS, CCTV system, VHF radio array and weather station, together with details of the training undertaken by volunteers. Following her visit to the station, she spent some time in NCI’s National exhibition trailer with Lesley Suddes and Ian Whalley, discussing detailed and specific elements of fundraising and public awareness.
HRH then went on to meet NCI watchkeepers from Skegness, Mablethorpe, Caister on Sea, Felixstowe, Chapel Point and Hornsea as well as representatives from HM Coastguard, UK Border Force and RNLI plus many local business supporters and civic guests. Following a speech of welcome by Chairman Lesley Suddes, HRH responded with a lengthy and unscripted speech demonstrating her thorough knowledge of the charity and its work. She then presented long service awards to members from the NCI Stations at Skegness, Mablethorpe, Caister and Felixstowe, including a 20 year award to Patrick Melville-Gorton from NCI Felixstowe. After unveiling a commemorative plaque, HRH left the event clearly happy with what she found, despite the continuing heavy rain.
The photograph shows NCI Chairman Lesley Suddes introducing Trustee Ian Whalley to The Princess Royal.