End in sight for lifeboat launch rockets

A rocket hisses into the air and explodes with a thud over a lifeboat as it crashes into the surf on a life-saving mission.It is spectacle seen and heard by generations and a timeless tradition in the lifeboat world.

RNLI maroons are scrapped for good, ending an era stretching back to the 1920s

Two years ago, major restrictions were put on maroon firing for safety reasons, after a series of accidents and misfires.

But now crews have been told that when the current supplies run out, that is the last of the maroons.

Mourning their loss, Cromer station operations manager Richard Leeds said the rockets were an important public relations tool.

"People like to know when the lifeboat launches. They run to the cliffs to see what is happening, and it might encourage them to give donations to the RNLI when they see it at work."

News of the maroons' demise has been sent out in a circular to stations updating them on pyrotechnics - such as flares and rescue line throwers - made by well-known fireworks makers Pains Wessex. The company has rationalised its products and no longer makes the maroons.

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RNLI inspector for coast operations Adrian Carey accepted the PR value of maroons, and said attempts were ongoing to find a suitable replacement.

Mr Carey said maroons were now only allowed when the pager system failed, or a casualty was in earshot of the station, and would be encouraged to "hang on a bit longer" knowing a crew was on its way.

But they were no longer needed as a back-up

because of the availability of mobile phones and text messages.