Supporting RNLI heroes

Bill Pilbeam

Store Manager
Plymouth, UK

4 Aug 2016

Long-time Tesco colleague, Bill, shares his personal experience about the heroism of the RNLI volunteers and how we’re supporting them.

I've worked and lived in Plymouth for the majority of my adult life, from being a General Assistant at our Lee Mill store, in 1980, to opening our Plymouth Metro in 1996, to running our Plymouth Transit Way Superstore now. Through all that time, I’ve had a strong awareness of the work the RNLI does in Plymouth, across the South West, and up and down the UK generally. However, it's not until you need them that you really discover the true extent of the heroism of their staff, people who are ultimately dedicating their lives as volunteers.

On the 22nd January 2014 my youngest son Joe, then aged 20, and his best friend Mike, aged 23, decided to do a spot of fishing.  The forecast was fair; there were light winds and sea conditions were expected to be better than they had been for weeks.

They had selected the headlands at Polzeath Beach in Cornwall as a new place to fish and set out early. They trekked across a few fields to find a suitable place to set up. Mike went to take a look over the edge of a rocky plateau and almost immediately was hit by what can only be described as a freak wave which swept him off the ledge and into the water.

Most people’s first reaction would be to jump in and try to help but Joe knew that this was not a sensible course of action and instead called the Coastguard, giving the direction that Mike was being dragged in. The RNLI and the Air Sea Rescue were there within minutes.

By the time my wife and I arrived, Mike had been in the water for around two hours.  They kept looking for him, even though the water was freezing cold and the chance of rescue was slim. They were out there looking for him for the rest of the day, and I watched as the lifeboat bounced up and down on the waves relentlessly.

What overwhelmed me, my wife and my son was the sheer determination and fortitude of these people, the way they wouldn’t give up. They searched and searched, covering mile upon mile of the sea in precise patterns, calculating the tide and current flows so they could look for him in the most likely places. 

Although Mike was lost to the sea, we knew and felt in our hearts that nothing more could have been done to find him by these brave people.

"Tesco has teamed up with Cornish supplier Rowe’s in support of the RNLI"

I’m delighted that Tesco has teamed up with our Cornish supplier Rowe’s to launch a charity biscuit across the South West, in support of the RNLI. 10p from every pack purchased will support the heroic work of these volunteers. In the South West particularly, where we have such long coastlines, it's so important that we do our bit to help them.

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