The first lifeboat woman ever to be awarded a RNLI medal, Helmsman Aileen Jones of Porthcawl lifeboat, will receive the Institution’s Bronze Medal for Gallantry at the Annual Presentation of Awards at the Barbican Centre, London this afternoon (19 May). Helmsman Gary Barlow of Cleethorpes lifeboat station, will receive the Silver Medal – the second highest award made by the RNLI.
The three volunteer crew members with Helmsman Barlow during the notable rescue of two fishermen on 26 February 2004, will also be honoured – Crew Members Ian Sanderson and Tony Salters and Helmsman Shaun Sonley will each receive the Bronze Medal.
Helmsman, Aileen Jones is to be awarded the Bronze Medal for her part in the rescue of two fishermen on 24 August 2004. Aileen is the first woman in 116 years to be given such an accolade – the last medal awarded by the RNLI to a woman was in 1888.
Helmsman Aileen Jones braved gale force winds, rough seas and a 3m swell to rescue the crew of the fishing vessel Gower Pride, which had suffered engine failure. The skipper and an injured fisherman were on board. Porthcawl lifeboat crew faced atrocious sea conditions and twice managed to connect a tow line – the second time by putting Crew Member Emms on board the vessel after the first line broke. At that moment the Gower Pride was hit by a large breaking wave and was thrown against the lifeboat. Helmsman Jones quickly manoeuvred the vessels apart, and continued – with great skill – to use the inshore lifeboat to keep the rolling fishing vessel away from danger. They then began a slow tow into safer waters against high seas, which at times lifted the bow of the lifeboat precariously out of the sea.
On the afternoon of 26 February 2004, Helmsman Gary Barlow worked his lifeboat tirelessly to ensure the safety of the two on board the fishing vessel Dollard and that of his crew. The two fishermen feared for their lives as their fouled propeller rendered them helpless and in danger of running aground in breaking seas and heavy snow showers as winds gusted to force 8. However, this did not stop the RNLI crew going to their aid, even though they were seriously hampered by much reduced visibility. The Dollard was hit by a series of waves that moved her closer to the shore, and so the inshore lifeboat had to pass a tow line from the RNLI all weather lifeboat on scene to the casualty. In freezing conditions and with waves exceeding 4m, Helmsman Barlow skilfully executed a hazardous manoeuvre to collect the tow line and pass it to the Dollard. Very slowly the all weather lifeboat started to pull the trawler clear until the vessel was out of the dangerous surf line.