English-Speaking Union 1066 (Hastings) Branch

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At our September meeting the speaker was Gary Tidman, deputy station officer, Bexhill Coastguard.

Coastguards are the fourth emergency service (along with fire, ambulance and police) and cover the coastline up to the high water mark and adjacent cliffs and paths.

In Hastings the coastguards look after the East Cliffs but the West Cliffs, being a bit further inland, come under the responsibility of the fire brigade. The coastguards are part of, and funded by, the Department of Transport but all the

coastguards are volunteers. When on standby duty, usually once a week, they must stay within the area covered by their local HQ so that they are immediately available.

A public 999 call for any kind of rescue is routed to the coastguard in Dover which acts as a ‘clearing house’ and co-ordinating point, bringing in all or any of the services as needed. The Dover station is also responsible for monitoring all shipping over a specified size in the Channel, in co-operation with their French counterparts.

In action the coastguards have a particular duty to monitor ‘Royal Fish’ (porpoises, whales, dolphins and sturgeon) which when they pass through British waters are the ‘property of the Queen’.

Sometimes if they are called to rescue a dog from the cliffs, it is more to make sure the owners do not themselves attempt the rescue than concern for the dog. Once when people were cut off by tide under the East Cliffs, the RNLI could not get to them. So the coastguards had to fight through dense bushes, then effect the rescue by lowering a man and a hoist down.

When Eastbourne Pier burnt down, the firefighters struggled to maintain a regular water supply, so the coastguard took the hoses to the sea - reminding the firefighters to keep moving down the beach because the tide kept going out. The Eastbourne coastguards are responsible for Beachy Head: over the last year they made 26 ‘recoveries’.

Gladys Stewart thanked Gary for a revealing talk. Peter at Beauport Park Golf Club provided a delicious lunch.

Our October meeting was at Hamilton’s Bistro, Bexhill High, where we presented achievement prizes to six of the pupils from three departments, after an excellent afternoon tea.

On November 28 we shall hold our Christmas Lunch at Cooden Beach Golf Club, with Amber Rudd MP as our guest. Details from M.Plumbe@BTInternet.com.