Lyme lifeboat chief hangs up his “yellow wellies”

Rob Fossett retires after 43 years with the emergency services

HE worked on trawlers at the age of 15, went to sea as lifeboat crew on his 16th birthday and rose to become one of the most senior officers in the nation’s fire and rescue service.

And today (December 1st), again on his birthday, Rob Fossett, 59, retires as the man at the helm of the RNLI lifeboat operation in Lyme Regis.

Mr Fossett has completed a total of 43 years with the emergency services, including 30 as a volunteer with the RNLI.

He lived in Lyme as a boy and went to Woodroffe School before returning to his home county of Essex where he began working on trawlers as deck hand, mate and skipper.

He joined the RNLI lifeboat crew at Southend-on-Sea in 1967 serving for 25 years, 13 of them as senior helmsman.

During his time with the Essex crew the Southend lifeboats saved 589 lives.

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He received 16 awards and commendations for his lifeboat and fire service work and was involved in no less than 3,000 emergency calls with the RNLI in Essex and 30,000 incidents annually with the fire and rescue service, where his last role was as Operations Commander.

Mr Fossett returned to Lyme Regis on retirement with partner Sue and joined the town’s RNLI team five years ago, becoming Lifeboat Operations Manager.

He now hands over to the town’s harbourmaster Grahame Forshaw who recently joined the Lyme Regis crew as a Deputy Launching Authority.

Mr Fossett said: “I have had a fantastic time with the RNLI and the fire and rescue service.

“There have been some very proud moments, but there is nothing quite like the feeling of satisfaction when you are involved in the saving of a life.

“In the end, though, it is all down to teamwork, and that means everyone at the lifeboat station, the people who run the RNLI shop, members of the Guild, in fact everyone who contributes in any way to this great charity.

“As for my successor, who better than our hugely experienced harbourmaster ? He is embarking on an exciting experience and I know he will enjoy the camaraderie of a very close-knit team dedicated to saving lives at sea.”

Mr Forshaw said: “I am delighted to be taking over from Rob, but he will be a hard act to follow.

“He is rightly held in very hard regard by the lifeboat crew. I am astonished at the commitment of the volunteer men and women involved with the lifeboat. I admire their commitment, and I look forward to working with them all.”

Senior crew member Garry Gibbs added his tribute to Rob Fossett:”He brought a calming personality to the station and nothing is too much trouble with words of advice readily available. He brings out the best in most people and brought humour and organisational skills to the role.

“He will be missed, and he leaves a big pair of yellow wellies to be filled!”