The Tide Turns By Misti

The Eyes and Ears of Britain

I don’t do ‘normal’ from a small child who taught herself to read from the bible and spent subsequent years devoted to the dream of becoming a Nun.  My best friend being a ginger tabby cat who lapped up all my secrets, the one being in the world I knew I could trust never to kiss and tell!!!  I’d lay upon the grass outside our cottage as darkness would fall, watching the bats flitting about and gazing at those beautiful sparkling stars so precious in the sky.  I imagined shooting stars were UFO’s and would often jump on my bike and go racing off through the lane’s desperate to meet those Aliens us kids talked so much about.  I wanted to go to Space, to touch the stars and escape this odd world that I didn’t quite fit into…

My one wish came true… I got to escape and lots!!!

I gave up digging to Australia when I hit rock and speedily changed my focus to the ocean.  In my immature mind there would be nothing to stop me crossing it and I already had in mind an island, with palm trees bearing coconuts, long lazy days with me as pioneer exploring untouched land that would inevitably be named after, dun dun dun…Me!  I bribed my small bunch of friends into assisting me with my new challenge, building a raft! (Incidentally my comrades were all boys, sooh much easier to tempt with bribery)  I spent long hours studying maps that made no sense to me whatsoever, well I was about 7 at the time…  Several hot sunny days were spent toiling over the construction of that raft before it dawned on me that I lived too far from the sea to transport it, on foot that is.  Without a doubt I knew my parents wouldn’t help me…  Hence plan B, stored deep in our garage was a dinghy, once used on a holiday to Scotland and small enough to smuggle into the car when my naive parents weren’t looking…

My two brothers were in on my great plan and I think secretly happy at the prospect of watching me sail away across the ocean never to annoy them again.  Well, they were so obliging when it came to nearly killing themselves inflating my means of escape into a fair looking vessel!  I was sooh prepared with my bag of fruit, sandwiches that were already starting to crisp with the summers heat, bottled water, oh and Dad’s treasured binoculars…

I shall always remember my brothers wide grins as they launched me, waving incessantly whilst keeping an eager eye that our parents were still out of eyeshot.  My great adventure began…well almost!  Having no oar and knowing zilch about tides or the dangers of rocks was my first major mistake and not being a strong swimmer was my second!  Luckily for me, though I didn’t quite see it that way at the time, a Coastguard just happened to be nearby and had spotted my brothers gleefully waving out to the sea.  I don’t remember much of what happened next except for my heroic Coastguard reaching me at a crucial moment as both my head and feet cruelly met contact with a vast sharp-edged rock.  Oh and being carried off in my Champions arms to a nearby lighthouse.  And just for you all to know I  didn’t cry…

So my dreams of becoming a nun were rapidly morphing into Misti the Coastguard!!!  Except of course with an eye for mischief, I guess I was occasionally tempted towards Piracy with notions of fine treasures and enigmatic escapades…

And here began a deep-seated admiration for our Coastguards which has been rekindled with the recent knowledge that they are once again under threat by our Government…

HM Coastguard has throughout history maintained a rather dignified and almost silent presence, its apparent 200 year history has been blighted by sporadic threats to its structure, the worse it would seem the 50% station closures now planned by our Government at a time when incidents at sea,mountains and shore are at an all time high!

HM Coastguard is a world leader in maritime search and rescue which we can only be grateful for with our tendency to live our lives with a penchant for extreme activities.  I for one feel the desire to break free of modern-day constraints and embark upon pleasures such as hang gliding, mountain climbing and scrambling along deserted mountain tracks on my Yamaha DT125.  Silly girl that I am – I detest mobile phones and when I break free I do so without any viable means of contact.  So our Search and Rescue guys would have their work cut out if I needed rescuing!!

Anyway, flitting back 200 years all our goods were transported by small ships.  Each year dozens of ships and hundreds of lives  would be lost and so close to shore. It was this that brought about the formation of our Coast Guards.  Though to be precise they were originally initiated to combat the ever-increasing threat of smuggling.  Britain’s economy and security was suffering.  Though I have previously mentioned my romantic notions of Piracy and smuggling the truth is anything but…  From around 1822 it fell upon our Coastguards to protect the country’s revenue and this was without doubt a dangerous occupation.  Smugglers were keen to keep hold of their contraband and thought little of throwing our unsung hero’s off a cliff top!  Amusingly, it seems no-one was beyond temptation and ‘noble persons’ such as vicars,Lords of the Manor and others enjoyed the splendors on offer.

In the words of Rudyard Kipling:

If you wake at midnight, and hear a horses feet,

Don’t go drawing back the blind, or looking in the street,

Them that asks no questions isnt told a lie,

Watch the wall my darling, while the Gentlemen go by,

Five and twenty ponies,

Trotting through the dark,

Brandy for the Parson,

Baccy for the Clerk;

Laces for a Lady, Letters for a spy,

And watch the wall my darling, while the Gentlemen go by.

In the 1900’s with the Coastguards now responsible for life saving, salvage from wreck and administration of the foreshore they found themselves at the service of many differing government departments.  In 1918 a debate was held as to the needs of a coastal force during peacetime.  This again spun on its heel during the 1930’s when it was decided they would act as a war watching organisation.  Technology however was improved for both safety and rescues and an enquiry in 1931 led to a decreased force, as radio eliminated the need for visual watches…

All in all it seems upon researching their history our Coastguards have been the Governments scapegoats, providing an invaluable service and sometimes laying down their lives as part of that.  In the 1800’s they were called upon to act as naval reserves and deployed to combat Russia in the Crimea.  Again within weeks of Britain declaring war on Germany in 1914, our Coastguards were sent to crew naval ships, immediately putting to sea.   These ships were obsolete and on 20 September 1914 a German submarine sank the cruisers ‘Cressy’ ‘Aboukir’ and ‘Hogue’ off the Thames, resulting in the deaths of 1400 personnel, many of whom were Coastguards.  This tragedy was again added to when torpedoes sunk ‘Hawke’ in October and ‘Formidable’ in January increasing Coastguard deaths…

From the 1960’s our Coastguards have provided an exemplary role warning vessels approaching danger allowing them to take evasive action, or alert lifeboats by now powered by engines, which would quickly assist vessels offshore. Using computer enhanced radar they monitor Channel traffic and also acted as an early warning system for pollution control.  The initial loss of Coastguard stations, lookouts and personnel continues in this century.  However due to the popularity of pleasure boating and coastal pursuits such as my much cherished Hang Gliding and then wreck diving our coastguards extended their facilities to match these modern-day demands.  Rough terrain vehicles, patrol boats and the inclusion of Military helicopters increased their mobility and manpower to provide mobile communication bases.  To imagine such tragedies that will inevitably take place with the demise of our Coastguard Stations  beggars comprehension.  Anyone taking into account the facts provided by our Coastguards and the ever increasing incidents that they are dealing with, will be unable to come up with any other conclusion than that of the absolute necessity to increase Coastguard Stations not close them down!

Being a writer who loves to romanticise her work I would love nothing better than to include tales of hunky multi millionaire media mogule’s aboard their precious super yacht, namely Slipstream, being rescued or maybe bawled out by the feisty Coastguard Misti but reality strikes, as I wish it would for all those reading this article and for our Government who is seriously in danger of ridding the country of a precious force, namely our Coastguards who have met every challenge put their way and who are at this present time fighting for their very survival.  Change is welcome but not at the cost of the nations lives nor at the cost of HM Coastguard one of most heroic discreet forces and a world leader in maritime search and rescue!!

I would ask you all to not only add your name at but to also campaign that others do…


One thought on “The Tide Turns By Misti

  1. Very eloquent, interwoven with good facts & historical gems. how could you not resist the siren call of Misti? A mermaid for sure, with a penchant for Coastguards.

    literary skills aside, the very real message is: HMCG is in danger of being made ineffective by cuts which are purely cost driven with no operational basis whatsoever.
    Ignore the threat at your peril.

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