Walton and Frinton Lifeboats – the pirates' lifeline
Walton and Frinton has celebrated over 120 years as a lifeboat station and its crews have been presented with 75 awards for gallantry. The lifeboat E.M.E.D. was one of 19 that helped to evacuate the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk.
Of course, the most famous and unforgettable offshore broadcasting - related rescue was when the Mi Amigo ran aground in January 1966 and there were fears during the rescue operation that the lifeboat might capsize. The lifeboat crewmen who saved the DJs and crew, Frank Bloom (coxswain), Dennis Finch (2nd coxswain), Roger Kemp (bowman), Ron Wyatt (assistant mechanic), Ken Haggis (signalman), Tony Warnock (travelling mechanic), Arthur Cole, Jack Barratt, Brian Oxley and Keith Richardson, all received RNLI bravery commendations.
(Left) Caroline Director Barry Ainley presented a replica of the Mi Amigo bell to Eric Brett, auxiliary coastguard and numer 1 of the Walton-on-the Naze LSA Company in recognition of the part they played in the rescue.
The weathered plaque on the left was formerly sited outside the Walton and Frinton Lifeboat station. It reveals some of the other rescue missions that three lifeboats and their crews made to assist the offshore broadcasters between 1964 and 66.
Mostly, the SOS calls concerned personnel aboard the stations requiring medical attention. However, an article from the Sunday Express of May 1st 1966 featured on the Pirate Radio Hall of Fame (third item down) indicates that the stations' relationship with the emergency service could be fraught. Mr Robert Oxley, the Lifeboats' Secretary at the time, was of the opinion that a number of the emergencies that had resulted in SOS call-outs could have been prevented.
Mr Oxley is quoted in Keith Skues's 'Pop Went the Pirates' as saying, "This is not an easy matter. Should we fail to answer a call from one of the pirate ships, we might find ourselves attending an inquest. If we do answer one, we might be responding to a frivilous call. It is a Catch-22 situation."
in March 1967, Radio London showed its thanks to the lifeboat service for answering its distress calls by promoting the RNLI Flag Day, donating over £500's worth of free advertising of the event.