New Year’s Honours: Mundesley coastguard rescue service volunteer given a British Empire Medal

Left: Station Officer, Bob Francis of Mundesley and Keith Griffin from Happisburgh discuss the new criteria with North Norfolk Sector Manager Tony Garbutt (centre). Picture: Maurice Gray. Left: Station Officer, Bob Francis of Mundesley and Keith Griffin from Happisburgh discuss the new criteria with North Norfolk Sector Manager Tony Garbutt (centre). Picture: Maurice Gray.

Monday, December 30, 2013
10:30 PM

A dedicated coastguard rescue volunteer who was given a British Empire Medal in the New Year’s Day Honours has spoken about his rewarding role.

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Bob Francis, 60, from Vicarage Road, Paston, was surprised to receive the accolade for his services to HM Coastguard.

The volunteer station officer for the Mundesley coastguard rescue service has been involved in the government-funded organisation for more than 30 years.

Mr Francis, co-ordinator of five volunteers from a base on Pollard Street, Bacton, said: “I am very honoured. We get involved in a wide range of things from rope rescues to assisting people on the beach. It is very rewarding when you work as a team and everything clicks.”

The Mundesley group shares the Bacton base with Happisburgh coastguard rescue service and both teams are called out to land-based emergencies from Trimingham to Waxham.

Volunteers rescue people and animals who get stuck on cliffs, help search for missing people and recently helped flood victims in Walcott.

Mr Francis, a retired Bacton Gas terminal operator manager, said he has seen a lot of changes within the organisation which supports other groups including the police, lifeboat crews and the ambulance service.

“As far as equipment is concerned, we have got the best. It is a pretty cost effective organisation,” he said. “The coastguard rescue service is very important - it is the main co-ordinating service. The police do an awful lot but they are strapped for resources. When you have an organisation that understands the sea with people who have very local knowledge, you cannot put a price on that.”

The Mundesley and Happisburgh teams get sent out to about 40 incidents a year and the volunteers have to live or work in that area because they are on call 24/7.

They also teach school children about beach and cliff safety.

Summer is the busiest period and the crews have recently been called to help rescue people who have been blown out to sea on dinghies by wind and tides.

The constant erosion of the cliffs is also an increasing danger.

Mr Francis, a father and grandfather, was born in West Runton and lived in Bacton before moving to Paston.

He joined the service because he wanted to help people and knew the north Norfolk coast.

As well as being part of the coastguard rescue service he is treasurer and trustee of the Mundesley independent lifeboat and has been involved with the charity for more than 30 years.

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