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Town to add tribute to brave man of the sea

PUBLISHED: 17:42 11 May 2010 | UPDATED: 10:33 13 July 2010

Brave and popular - Richard Davies who died last week. Cromer church is expected to be packed for his funeral on May 19.

Brave and popular - Richard Davies who died last week. Cromer church is expected to be packed for his funeral on May 19.

Mourners will pack Cromer church next week to pay tribute to former lifeboat coxswain Richard Davies who has died, aged 65, after losing his battle against a brain tumour.

Mourners will pack Cromer church next week to pay tribute to former lifeboat coxswain Richard Davies who has died, aged 65, after losing his battle against a brain tumour.

The larger-than-life fisherman was an inspirational lifeboatman, from a family dynasty whose connection with lifesaving at sea stretches back 200 years, and won awards for his bravery during almost 40 years service to the RNLI.

But he was also well-known and popular figure in the local community, where he was involved in the masons, country pursuits and folk dancing.

On Wednesday (May 19) he will be given a lifeboat funeral, which he helped plan during his illness. Mr Davies will be carried to the church in a horse-drawn hearse, in a cortege of marching lifeboat crew and fellow freemasons.

He was diagnosed with a brain tumour several months ago, and underwent treatment, remaining active until recently, showing the kind of bravery which he displayed as a lifeboatman.

Flags were flown at half mast on Cromer's lifeboat station and museum as a mark of respect after his death on Wednesday last week.

Mr Davies, like many other members of his fishing family, joined the lifeboat crew as a matter of tradition. He was just 16 when he signed up in 1960, became coxswain in 1976 and retired, still as coxswain, on his 55th birthday in December 1999 after 23 years at the helm - with his son John taking over, the seventh member of the family to do so.

Richard was praised by RNLI head of operations Michael Vlasto for his distinguished service, seamanship and leadership which had seen 139 lives saved at the station during his time on the crew.

The lifeboatman said at the time he would miss the camaraderie of being on the crew, but added: “I can go to bed without the worry of getting cold and wet, but I shall still be thinking of the crew, including my son, when the boat is launched, especially in bad weather.”

During his service Mr Davies won a bronze medal and three vellum certificates of thanks for his rescues.

The bronze medal was for rescuing the yacht Happy Bear on October 13 1993 when its five-man crew hit trouble in gale-lashed 35ft seas off Trimingham.

He won vellums for helping get a doctor on board the Boston Jaguar trawler in a storm on November 15 1975, and for going to the aid of 27ft yacht Phaedra 27 miles off the North Norfolk coast on September 28 1988.

The third was for a rescue done without his boat on October 2 1999 - just weeks before his retirement - when he dashed down to the beach when his pager went off and, knowing there was not time to wait for the boat, stripped off, ran into the cold sea and kept a struggling swimmer afloat 150m off shore until the inshore crew plucked them to safety.

It was a rescue which also brought tributes from Mr Davies' long-time comedy hero Ken Dodd who invited him to his show at Hunstanton as a reward.

Like many other lifeboatmen Mr Davies was never comfortable with being tagged a hero. Reflecting on the bronze medal he once said: “I am not a hero. If people want to view me as a hero then they should view all the crew like that as well,” adding “I do not like a lot of fuss.”

He was also honoured shortly before his retirement by being chosen to carry the RNLI standard at the annual national Festival of Remembrance in London.

His great uncles were the legendary Henry Blogg, who has an unbeaten tally of medals for his lifeboat bravery, and Henry “Shrimp” Davies - whose fishing careers Richard followed from an early age, later running the wet fish shop in Garden Street with his wife Julie.

Mr Davies first ever boat Little Swallow is on display in the town museum courtyard, and his voice will live on in a new audio facility at the attraction.

He was also passionate about country life, including carriage driving his mule and trap, and hare coursing, as well as being a Freemason.

Cromer lifeboat chairman Tony Webster paid tribute to Mr Davies as a man who was “a huge extrovert and wonderful coxswain” who was “kind, considerate” and “very highly regarded throughout the RNLI and among his crew.”

He added: “It's a very sad day for Cromer to lose such a character at a relatively young age.

“He took his illness on in the way I suppose you would expect him to, very positive and cheerful. It just showed what a brave man he was in all possible respects.”

Mr Davies leaves a wife, Julie, son John, daughter Fiona and four grandchildren.

The funeral is at 2pm in Cromer Parish Church on Wednesday, May 19. Donations to Sheringham Masonic Centre or the RNLI Cromer branch through Fox's Funeral Services at 10 Canada Road, Cromer.


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