Much-loved former lifeboat coxswain remembered after sudden death

Tributes have been paid to Shane ‘Bert’ Coleman.

Tributes have been paid to Shane ‘Bert’ Coleman. - Credit: Mick Howes

Glowing tributes have been paid to a much-loved and respected former lifeboat coxswain after his sudden death.

The RNLI flag is flying at half mast at Lowestoft Lifeboat station after Shane ‘Bert’ Coleman died in hospital last week aged 65.

Described as a "wonderful and much-loved husband, dad and granddad", the former lifeboatman has been hailed for having an "extensive knowledge of seamanship".

Shane ‘Bert’ Coleman, pictured in 2006.

Shane ‘Bert’ Coleman, pictured in 2006. - Credit: Mick Howes

He was involved in hundreds of lifesaving missions during an "illustrious" 30-year career that included a bravery award for one of many heroic rescues as three men were saved from a sinking tug.

This week, friend and current Lowestoft Lifeboat coxswain, John Fox, said Mr Coleman was "very well thought of" and his death had "devastated" all who had knew him.

Mr Fox said: “Everyone at the lifeboat station was devastated to hear the sad news and we have since received many messages of sympathy from the many people who knew him.

"He was very well thought of.

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“Bert - as Shane was affectionately known - was a dedicated family man and we send our condolences to his wife Janet and grown up children Becky and Matthew.

"Matthew will be returning from his home in Australia to the UK to be with the family at this sad time.”

AD FEAT: Lowestoft Lifeboat coxswain/mechanic Bert Coleman with his crew. 1/3.

Lowestoft Lifeboat coxswain/mechanic Bert Coleman (centre) with his crew back in 2001 - which included friend and current Lowestoft Lifeboat Coxswain, John Fox (far left). - Credit: Archant Library

Mr Fox recalled how he had been friends with Bert since he was a teenager.

He said: "We would go to sea long line fishing in his open fishing boat off Pakefield.

"Later in 1976 he joined the RNLI as a lifeboatman which started an illustrious 30-year career that saw him serve under three different coxswains whilst progressing first to the role of second coxswain - mechanic and later to the role of coxswain-mechanic.

Lowestoft Lifeboat 2nd Coxwain Bert Coleman

Lowestoft Lifeboat Second Coxswain Bert Coleman in September 1996. - Credit: Archant Library

"During this time, he was involved in many lifesaving missions, the most notable of which earned him the RNLI’s Bronze medal for bravery for the rescue of three from a sinking tug ‘Impulsion’."

This happened just after midnight on January 26, 1990 as Mr Coleman - who was alone aboard the Lowestoft pilot boat - saw the 60ft tug 'Impulsion' collide with a coaster in severe gale force 10 conditions.

He bravely plucked the three crewman aboard the sinking tug to safety, and in awarding the RNLI's Bronze medal for bravery an official account of the rescue was recounted by Tom Nutman, divisional inspector of lifeboats for the east division.

He said: "Mr Coleman showed excellent handling skills and put himself and his boat into danger to effect the rescue.

"His prompt, courageous actions no doubt saved the three survivors who would have been thrown into the winter sea soon afterwards without lifejackets or other lifesaving aids."

Mr Coleman was also awarded the Lifeboat Institution's 'Thanks of the Institution on Vellum' when as Lowestoft's second coxswain on August 29 1996, he was put aboard the yacht 'Red House Lugger' during storm force winds.

The yacht was about 30 miles south-east of Lowestoft, on passage from the Netherlands with a skipper, a schoolmaster, and four teenage schoolchildren as passengers, when it got into difficulties.

Mr Fox said: "Bert was put aboard the yacht Red House Lugger for its evacuation and the long tow to safety.

"Aldeburgh and Lowestoft lifeboats were involved in the long and arduous rescue which saw six people saved from the yacht in storm force conditions and extremely heavy seas.

“Bert was a very good lifeboatman and as well as his station duties at Lowestoft he helped to test the engines on new Tyne class lifeboats involving 40-hour machinery trials and also represented the RNLI at the Southampton Boat Show showing visitors over the first “Tyne’ class lifeboat."

Lowestoft lifeboat coxswain Bert Coleman

Lowestoft lifeboat coxswain Bert Coleman in 2004. - Credit: Archant Library

Legacy

Before joining the RNLI Mr Coleman worked as a welder-plater at Brooke Marine and John Darby Engineering and was involved in fabricating modules for ships, while also helping to convert stern trawlers into standby vessels.

"He also worked for Associated British Ports as a relief on the pilot boats," Mr Fox said.

“Bert was also a very good trainer and was well liked.

"His legacy will be that there are a lot of people in Lowestoft and beyond, not only the lifeboat crew, but others outside the RNLI who have learnt from his extensive knowledge of seamanship.

"He was involved with the first sea survival training courses at Lowestoft College and taught others at North Sea Training Services."

Mr Coleman enjoyed diving, was a keen marksman and was skilled at rifle shooting.

Guard of honour

His daughter Becky Coleman said: “The funeral will take place at Waveney Crematorium at Ellough on Wednesday, June 22 at 10am.

"The family extend an open invitation to everyone who knew Bert to celebrate our dad’s life after the funeral by paying their respects and by sharing stories about our wonderful and much-loved husband, dad and granddad.”

Prior to the funeral service, the hearse will travel to Lowestoft lifeboat station on South Pier arriving at 9am where a guard of honour of RNLI lifeboat crew and colleagues will pay their respects before travelling to the crematorium.