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RNLI honours volunteer crewman who has served fifty years of saving lives at sea

Sixty-eight-year-old, Phil Eaglen, has been a volunteer on the Wells Lifeboat crew for more than fifty years.

RNLI Left to right: Angel, Darren and Phil Eaglen who all volunteer on the lifeboat crew at Wells.

Phil joined the lifeboat station in July 1967 after being persuaded by his then-boss, Sam Abel, who owned a shop and chandlers.
Phil said:

“When the maroons went off, which was the signal for launch back then, I ran all the way down to the boathouse from the town and volunteered there and then.”

Phil didn’t get on the shout as he hadn’t been trained but it was the start of a volunteering career spanning more than fifty years.

Being on the crew now runs in the family; both his son Darren and granddaughter Angel are on the crew.

Phil Eaglen (far right) with his son Darren (centre) and his granddaughter Angel (far-left). All three volunteer at the Wells Lifeboat Station.

Phil, the emergency mechanic on the crew, said:

“It probably wouldn’t be possible to be a volunteer for this length of time these days, as you’re supposed to retire now at sixty-five and you can’t join until you’re seventeen at the earliest.”

In fact, Phil should have retired already but he keeps having his retirement delayed because of crew circumstances on the station. The most recent was the retirement of coxswain/mechanic, Allen Frary. Before that, it was when Allen broke his leg, then again while Nicky King was being trained up as the new coxswain/mechanic.

This July, Phil will be presented with a 50-year service badge by RNLI’s chief executive, Mark Dowie at the 150th Anniversary of the RNLI in Wells.

Phil was also invited to the Queen’s Garden Party at Buckingham Palace where he met the Duke of Kent and his granddaughter, Angel accompanied him.

He said:

“It was a great occasion, even though it rained, it didn’t spoil things and it was so well organised, there were seven thousand people there. It was amazing.”

Lifeboat Operations Manager, Chris Hardy, said:

“It’s right Phil should be honoured. He is the backbone of the crew and can always be called on when there’s an emergency. It’s amazing to think he’s been on the crew for a third of the time there’s been an RNLI Station in Wells.”

Also honoured at the 150th Anniversary Celebrations will be Fred Whittaker who will be presented with his 40 Year Service badge and Martin Emerson who will be presented with a 20 Year Service badge.