A flag has been flying at half-mast at a Norfolk lifeboat station after the death of a former crew member.

Richard 'Strawberry' Hawkins, who served as coxswain and mechanic at Great Yarmouth and Gorleston RNLI during the 1970s, 80s and 80s, has died at the age of 80-years-old.

He came to the station in 1976 from Dover where he had originally been a member of their crew alongside his brother.

He took over as coxswain at the Gorleston station in that year and carried on in this role until his retirement in 1996.  For much of this time he was also the station mechanic.

Mr Hawkins has been remembered as a "hell of a seaman" who had a massive sense of duty.

Eastern Daily Press: Richard Hawkins came to the Great Yarmouth and Gorleston Lifeboat station from Dover in 1972.Richard Hawkins came to the Great Yarmouth and Gorleston Lifeboat station from Dover in 1972. (Image: Supplied)

He was born in February 1944 in Kent. His parents were hoteliers and publicans who ran the famous Green Man pub in St Margaret's Bay in Dover.

His father was in the RNLI - and both of his sons would follow him into the charity. 

When Richard left school at 16-years-old, he went straight into the RNLI, and was stationed at Dover lifeboat from 1959.

He also worked as a driving instructor. One of his students, Jane Hammond, became his wife.

In 1976, he was offered the job of coxswain mechanic at Great Yarmouth and Gorleston lifeboat, and he moved to Norfolk with his wife.

Eastern Daily Press: Richard 'Strawberry' Hawkins has been remembered as 'a hell of a seaman'.Richard 'Strawberry' Hawkins has been remembered as 'a hell of a seaman'. (Image: Supplied)

Their first child Chris was born in 1977. Two years later, Karl was born, and they were joined by Naomi in 1982.

Lindsey Wigmore, lifeboat operations manager at Gorleston station, said that Mr Hawkins was well known for his courage and seamanship.

During his time with the RNLI, he made a high number of rescues and saved many lives for which he received the Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum for rescues involving The Seaforth Conqueror (1986), The Yacht Southern Cross (1990) and the Yacht Poule D’Eau in 1995.

In 1980, he was awarded the institution’s bronze medal for bravery in recognition of his rescue of two crew from the fishing vessel St Margarite which was stranded on Scroby Sands. 

High winds and rough seas in December 1979 made the rescue hazardous but Mr Hawkins' skill as a coxswain saved the two lives. 

The rescue was made using the Waveney class lifeboat “Khami” which was his first vessel as coxswain.

In his last two years of service, Mr Hawkins made 38 service launches and saved six lives.

He always had a supportive crew and was well known throughout the Great Yarmouth and Gorleston area, as well as in the RNLI family.

The station’s flag is flying at half mast in a tribute to his dedication and service.

Mr Hawkins retired from the RNLI due to ill health in 1996 almost 40 years.

His son Karl said: "He was a total one-off, a real larger than life character.

"Even up to the day he died, if you gave him a pager and it went off, he'd still try get to the lifeboat. He had a massive sense of duty.

"He was a hell of a seaman. There was not much he couldn't do in a boat."  

His twin brother Tony still works as the station manager at Dover lifeboat, a gold medal winner and an MBE.

Mr Hawkins died peacefully on June 8 in a nursing-home in Lowestoft.