Well-wishers bid farewell to lifeboat legend David Cox

Wells RNLI members line the road at Cromer Crematorium as the hearse arrives for David Cox's funeral

Wells RNLI members line the road at Cromer Crematorium as the hearse arrives for David Cox's funeral. - Credit: Danielle Booden

A crematorium full of well-wishers paid their final respects as a lifeboat legend was laid to rest.

Family and friends gathered to honour the life of David Cox, former lifeboat coxswain at Wells who died last month aged 96.

The Lucy Lavers returns to port at Wells Quay after its anniversary of Dunkirk trip - The last coxsw

Former Wells lifeboat coxswain David Cox - Credit: Archant

The RNLI station flag at Wells was flown at half mast following his death on Sunday, April 24. 

Mr Cox’s funeral was held on Wednesday, May 11, at Cromer Crematorium.

More than 50 people from the lifeboat crews at Cromer, Sheringham and Wells were in attendance and created a guard of honour for the man who served the RNLI for 77 years.

David Cox's coffin being lifted into Cromer Crematorium for his funeral service. Picture: Danielle B

David Cox's coffin being lifted into Cromer Crematorium for his funeral service. - Credit: Danielle Booden

His coffin, draped in an RNLI flag and topped with his lifeboat hat, was carried into the crematorium to the Skye Boat Song.

There was not a seat to spare at the private event, with several people standing at the back of the building for a service led by The Revd Brenda Stewart.

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And even Revd Stewart had her own tale of meeting Mr Cox on a lifeboat during an RNLI service.

David Cox's funeral taking place at Cromer Crematorium. Picture: Danielle Booden

David Cox's funeral taking place at Cromer Crematorium. - Credit: Danielle Booden

Among those to pay tribute at the funeral was Peter Rainsford, chairman of Wells RNLI. 

“David was always there for a quiet chat; always able to offer respectful advice; always carrying the flag for the station,” he said.

“He was seldom without his gansey and his cap, and an easy stance on the deck of any ship.

The hearse arriving at Cromer Crematorium for David Cox's funeral. Picture: Danielle Booden

The hearse arriving at Cromer Crematorium for David Cox's funeral. - Credit: Danielle Booden

“David’s 77 years with the Wells lifeboats will never be forgotten and his longstanding contribution to the RNLI will live on - he was a legend.”

Elizabeth, Mr Cox’s daughter, paid tribute to a man was a great-grandfather, and reflected on the happy memories he shared with his entire family.

Her heartfelt words were read aloud by Dr Sebastian Alexander.

Wells RNLI members line the road at Cromer Crematorium for David Cox's funeral. Picture: Danielle Bo

Wells RNLI members line the road at Cromer Crematorium for David Cox's funeral. - Credit: Danielle Booden

“We all feel devastated,” she said. “But we were so lucky to have such an amazing man in our lives and a wealth of good memories.”

Both Neil Woodruff, station chaplain at Wells, and the current coxswain, Nicky King, also gave readings at the service. 

Sarah Clarke also read John Masefield’s poem, Sea Fever.

Nicky King, coxswain RNLI Wells, speaking at David Cox's funeral at Cromer Crematorium. Picture: Dan

Nicky King, coxswain RNLI Wells, speaking at David Cox's funeral at Cromer Crematorium. - Credit: Danielle Booden

Mr Rainsford went on to highlight Mr Cox’s long list of heroics during his time at sea.

He gave particular focus to the actions that were awarded letters of thanks, two vellums, and a bronze and silver medal by the Royal National Lifeboat Institute. 

Also saluted was Mr Cox’s continuing role with the RNLI beyond his retirement in 1986.

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Former Wells lifeboat coxswain David Cox - Credit: Archant

A life at sea

Born into a family of fishermen in 1926, a life at sea for Mr Cox was inevitable.

It took him on transatlantic cargo trips to America, fishing for whelks out of Wells harbour and, in time, becoming coxswain of the Wells lifeboat.

David Cox's medals on display at his funeral at Cromer Crematorium. Picture: Danielle Booden

David Cox's medals on display at his funeral at Cromer Crematorium. - Credit: Danielle Booden

In 1945, aged 19, he volunteered as a member of the lifeboat crew and took over as coxswain from his uncle, William Cox, in 1960.

His most difficult rescue, for which he was awarded a prestigious silver medal, was in February 1979 when he helped save a Romanian cargo ship, Savinesti, with 29 people on board - 11 miles off the coast.

The Wells 37ft open lifeboat, Ernest Tom Neathercoat, was launched and David and his crew reached the vessel - despite the lifeboat’s radar freezing and poor visibility because of the snow.

Wells RNLI members line the road at Cromer Crematorium for David Cox's funeral. Picture: Danielle Bo

Wells RNLI members line the road at Cromer Crematorium for David Cox's funeral. - Credit: Danielle Booden

Mr Cox retired from his service to the lifeboat at the age of 60 in 1986, having handed on his vast knowledge of the sea and seamanship to the volunteer crew members who had joined under him.

Before he died, he recorded his memoirs, which have proved to be a fountain of knowledge for the RNLI.

The hearse arriving at Cromer Crematorium for David Cox's funeral. Picture: Danielle Booden

The hearse arriving at Cromer Crematorium for David Cox's funeral. - Credit: Danielle Booden

David Cox's funeral taking place at Cromer Crematorium. Picture: Danielle Booden

David Cox's funeral taking place at Cromer Crematorium. - Credit: Danielle Booden