SWANAGE Lifeboat Station has welcomed a new lifeboat operations manager, following the retirement of an RNLI stalwart.

Rob Pullman has taken up the new role, after long-standing operations manager Neil Hardy stepped down last month after 30 years.

Rob, who served in the British Army – retiring as a colonel – for 33 years, has been working side-by-side with Neil over the past few months to find out what the position entails.

"I have always wanted to give something back to the community," said Rob. "Taking on the role seemed like an ideal fit, giving me the opportunity to apply some of my skills to a new area.

"I’ve really enjoyed my involvement so far and look forward to working with all the other volunteers at Swanage."

Rob has spent time on the water in and around Swanage, kayaking, yacht sailing and he used to have a RIB that he launched from the town.

An RNLI spokesman stressed that through his time at sea he has built a good knowledge of the local coastline that will be useful, as part of his role will be as a launch authority – which involves taking the initial call from HM Coastguard and requesting the launch of one, or both, of the Swanage lifeboats.

Rob's time in the forces included nine years as an army diver and supervisor, and extensive experience managing a team of 200 volunteer soldiers through training and operational deployment.

Meanwhile, Neil steps down after being involved with the RNLI since 1987.

In 1990 he took on a temporary position as the lifeboat operations manager, a role which later became permanent.

The RNLI spokesman said: "Not only has Neil seen crew come and go over the years, he has also overseen the arrival of new lifeboats, a brand new lifeboat station and the saving of over 200 lives at sea."

The voluntary role of lifeboat operations manager carries a large amount of responsibility, overseeing all the operational aspects of the station. Over the years Neil has watched the volunteers launch to many challenging rescues including the rescue to the yacht ‘Be Happy’, which saw coxswain at the time, Chris Haw, honoured with a bronze medal for bravery and the crew on that night received commendations.

Neil said: "One of my proudest moments with the RNLI was receiving the MBE from the Queen at Windsor Castle, but it’s really for all the volunteer members of the crew.

"It’s a very large commitment from a small number of people in Swanage, who have their own businesses and livings to make.

"I’m extremely grateful that lots of people in the community give a lot to the RNLI so that we can go out and save life at sea."

The Swanage lifeboats have already launched to 51 shouts this year, with July and August being particularly busy.

The station still remains closed to the public due to Covid-19 and the volunteer lifeboat crew continue to only have access to the station for callouts or scheduled training exercises.