Call for volunteers as South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade reports ‘busiest ever’ year

The volunteer-run search and rescue team is looking for new recruits to help save lives in South Shields after seeing its busiest year yet.

The South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade (SSVLB) has been operating in the town for 154 years, providing valuable back-up to the Coastguard since it was founded in 1866.

But volunteers say last year was ‘busier than ever’ with 110 call outs and 15 already since the beginning of 2020.

Now they are looking for new team members to help provide search and rescue, communications and first aid support on call outs around the coast from Sunderland to Tynemouth.

Members of South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade taking part in a mock rescue, 1968.

A registered charity, the organisation costs around £20,000 a year to run and relies on kind-hearted volunteers giving up their time for free.

They are now looking for new men and women, between the ages of 18-65 who live or work within 30 minutes of the rescue station at the Watch House on the South Pier.

No previous experience is needed, but strong communications skills are essential and volunteers must be able to deal with difficult conditions and situations and cope well under pressure.

Each new recruit will complete around 12 months of training in a number of search and rescue techniques, including First Aid, rope rescue and water rescue to become a fully-fledged member of the team - and they won’t mind being called out of bed on a cold winter’s night.

South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade honourary secretary Tom Fennelly

Honorary secretary, Tom Fennelly, who recently stood down after 50 years of service, said: “Not everybody wants to be called out on a cold winter's day or night to take part in a long search and rescue operation on a cliff.

“We’re very grateful that we have always been able to attract a significant number of volunteers to complete the training and join the team and we always make sure their contributions are recognised.

He added: “Our volunteers get the satisfaction of helping those in need around the coast and serving for a long established, respected organisation.

“We are very grateful for the support we get from the local community.”

South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade, Pier Parade

SSVLB meets every Monday evening at 7.30pm for training.

For more information contact [email protected] or get in touch via Facebook

Herbert Clavery, honorary captain of South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade and auxiliary coastguard in charge, handing over the keys of a Land Rover to brigade captain Ian Robertson, 1980.