Two veterans of our town’s lifeboat station have been awarded for more than four decades combined of saving people’s lives as part of the RNLI.
During their 21 years of service, Ritchie Southerton, 46, from Bognor Regis and Ross Bowman, 44, from Durrington have helped children being swept out to sea and helped police in the search for Sarah Payne.
The pair were given Long Service Awards at what Ross said was a ‘mind-blowing’ ceremony at the Guildhall in London on October 14. He said: “It was one of the best nights and one I will remember for a long time. Twenty years is a massive achievement and it was nice to be recognised for it.”
They join a small group of current and previous lifeboat crew who have served as crew for more than 20 years. The others are David Woollven, Geoff Warminger, Nick White, Jerry Norris, Ivan Greer and Andy Harris.
Ritchie added: “We help others as much as we can, but we don’t expect anything in return. You don’t do it because you want to be a hero, you do it because you are part of the RNLI family.”
Ross and Ritchie both joined the Littlehampton volunteer crew in 1996, and are now helmsmen.
A former powerboat instructor, Ross is now a mobile crane operator who works all over the country.
He recalled saving a seven-year-old girl who had been swept out to sea on a lilo, and helping the police retrieve a bag of clothes dumped into the River Arun in Houghton, near Amberley, which were thought to be evidence during the search for murdered schoolgirl Sarah Payne.
Ritchie will be using his experience of working for Sussex Police and the RNLI when he sets off to Antarctica in a few weeks as boating officer for the British Antarctic Survey.
For six months, he will run a small fleet of lifeboat-sized vessels which will ferry scientists and scuba divers around, as well as acting as a search and rescue team.
He said he looked forward to seeing killer whales and seals while he is out there: “It is going to be a once in a lifetime experience. I’m going to learn a lot of boat skills because I haven’t driven through icebergs; it isn’t like the waters of Littlehampton.”