Tribute by Ramsgate RNLI
Ramsgate RNLI station is flying its flag at half mast in mourning the loss of retired crew member Derek Pegden, who passed away this week.
Derek joined Ramsgate RNLI at the age of 18 as crew on the All weather Watson class boat ‘Michael and Lily Davis’ in April 1964, and retired in 2016 having given nearly 53 years of voluntary service.
In January 1974 he also took on the role of helmsman for the inshore lifeboat as well as being promoted to 2nd Coxswain and Assistant Mechanic for the Station in July 1976 when the new Waveney class of lifeboat was brought in.
This boat ‘Ralph and Joy Swann’ with Derek as a crew member was involved in one of Ramsgate Station’s most meritorious rescues when the Silver Medal for bravery was awarded to Coxswain Ron Cannon, with Medal Service certificates being given to the crew.
On Boxing Day 1985, a north easterly gale was blowing when the French trawler ‘Glore a Marie II’ ran aground south of Ramsgate. A Mayday radio call went out and with the weather now gusting up to hurricane force the lifeboat crew assembled. The first problem was getting onboard the boat in the harbour as the conditions even in the harbour were bad, and the sea was breaking over the East Pier and the windows at Port Control lookout building some 10 metres above sea level had been smashed.
Eventually at 8.15pm the lifeboat launched and with visibility worsening had to resort to using parachute flares before they glimpsed the trawler’s searchlights. The boat had run aground off the entrance of the River Stour and with language problems adding to the difficulties two crew members were put onboard, and then the boat was eventually towed into deeper water and the engines restarted meaning the boat could follow the lifeboat back to the safety of Ramsgate Harbour.
Another rescue that Derek was involved in was the probably the stations most famous rescue of recent times. On 20th November 1991 the Tyne class ‘Kenneth Thelwell’ was launched to the ‘Ross Revenge’ from which the pirate station Radio Caroline broadcast.
On the night of the 19th November in terrible sea conditions, unbeknown to the six people onboard, the ‘Ross Revenge’ had dragged its anchor and drifted 18 miles from its original position. Initially a RAF Helicopter was sent to airlift the people onboard, but they were so concerned about what would happen to them ashore, and the boat being impounded that they declined. Eventually they accepted offers of help from a tug from Dover, and Ramsgate lifeboat launched at 4.45am in severe gale force winds, reaching the casualty at 5.35m.
With the weather worsening and the tug being unable to launch, the casualties now decided to abandon their boat, so the lifeboat approached when at the last moment a large swell lifted the lifeboat picking it up and throwing her 200m away on her starboard side. The lifeboat was now in trouble itself as it was beached, but with Ron and Derek calmly worked together with Ron on the controls and Derek using every ounce of his sea knowledge advising on the sea state they managed to float her once more.
The helicopter was called for once again and this time the six people onboard were taken to safety. As the lifeboat returned to Ramsgate they tuned into a local radio station as ex-Radio Caroline DJ Johnny Lewis was playing a record entitled Run for Home, this was a memory that always stayed with Derek.
In June of 1992 a letter of thanks was sent from, the then Director of the RNLI, Brian Miles to Ramsgate Station addressed to the crew of the ‘Kenneth Thelwell II’ of whom Derek was one, who had gone to the assistance of two yachts ‘Simona’ and ‘Storm Song’ on 22nd February 1992.
It was noted that the lifeboat had launched just before 7pm at night, in February, in very rough seas and gale force winds, and with the assistance of a helicopter from RAF Manston found the casualty at 8.30pm approx 15 miles south east of Ramsgate. The yacht ‘Simona’ had a rope around her propeller and was being towed by the ‘Storm Song’.
The lifeboat took over the tow and took off the crew of two onboard. Fifteen minutes later the ‘Storm Song’ reported that she was unable to make headway in the 40 knot winds and a crew member was unwell. So the ‘Storm Song’ was also taken in tow and two crew members from that boat were taken onboard.
The lifeboat headed for Ramsgate and was joined by the trawler ‘Angelena’ who escorted them. On approaching Ramsgate the ‘Simona’ began to sink, so the tow rope was slipped and she sank. The remaining boat, ‘Storm Song’ was safely berthed in the marina with the four survivors shortly after midnight.
When his close friend Ron Cannon retired from active crew in 2001, Derek decided it was time to retire as well. With Ian taking over from his father and Paul Cannon eventually taking the role as 2nd Coxswain he felt it was time for the station to have a fresh start with a younger crew. However his expertise was too precious to lose so he was offered the role of DLA, Deputy Launch Authority, one of the first people to be contacted when the Coastguard contacts the Station, and who then collates all the information available before a lifeboat is launched.
This was a role he held until 2016.
Derek will be sadly missed as he retained his links with the crew throughout his retirement and our heartfelt condolences go to his wife Tamara, and his sons Austin and Adam and his grandchildren.