A five-year-old with a keen interest in lifeboats was given an access all areas tour of the RNLI station in Southend after he raised £228 by carrying out a collection at school.

Grey Clarke placed jars at his school encouraging the staff and pupils to donate spare 5p coins towards the life-saving charity.

On Saturday Grey, accompanied by his family, was welcomed at the Southend RNLI lifeboat station on the city’s pier. 

Echo: Young Grey and Southend RNLI launching tractorYoung Grey and Southend RNLI launching tractor (Image: RNLI/Nigel Gilchrist)


He was invited into the crew room, where, wearing a yellow RNLI jacket and yellow wellies, he gifted the station a hefty jar packed with 5p coins.

The station had planned a memorable day for Grey and his family.

Included in the day’s activities were tours of the hovercraft and lifeboats, and a simulated launching of Rescue Hovercraft H-004 Vera Ravine.

Grey even got to meet ‘Dead Fred’, the RNLI’s man overboard training dummy.

To conclude the special day, he was allowed to launch the offshore D-class lifeboat D-771 William Henderson, under the supervision of RNLI volunteers.


Echo: Grey Clarke with his jar of 5p coinsGrey Clarke with his jar of 5p coins (Image: RNLI/Nigel Gilchrist)


When asked about his experience, Grey said: “I loved watching the hovercraft launch because it can go on the mud and the water – it goes super fast.

“I loved opening the shutters and sitting inside the hovercraft. I loved meeting Dead Fred.

“I want to be a part of the RNLI crew so I can save people in storms and help people who are in trouble in the sea.

“I wanted to raise money for the RNLI because my money will help buy new equipment.

“I sent in a design for a Mud Squelcher so maybe they can make that.

“I practise my water safety when I go swimming and like to patrol the beach to make sure people are safe.

‘Thank you, Nigel for letting me into the lifeboat station.”

Nigel Gilchrist, Southend RNLI volunteer lifeboat press officer, said: “Grey has an enthusiasm and passion I rarely see in such young children, fully supported by his parents, and he is truly inspirational and a commander in the making.

“I have a feeling that lifeboat press officers will be writing about rescues Grey has commanded in years to come, and I would be very honoured to be that author.”