The funeral arrangements have been announced for Captain Graham Sommerfield, the man who was instrumental in restoring an RNLI lifeboat service to Penarth in 1980 – seventy five years after the Penarth’s original lifeboat had been withdrawn.
Penarth’s first lifeboat station had been closed back in 1905 – following a cost-cutting review – leaving the Barry lifeboat as Penarth’s nearest marine rescue vessel.
In 1980 the Divisional Inspector of Lifeboats approached then Mayor of Penarth Cllr Anthony Ernest to create a new Lifeboat Station Committee and find a site for a boathouse. Cllr Ernest recruited Captain Sommerfield – a highly experienced deep-sea sailor, a sand-dredger captain and a ship’s pilot – as the first honorary secretary and who would – in effect – set up and run the new station.
After an inaugural meeting in Penarth Yacht Club, a “relief lifeboat” was established in 1980. It was an inflatable Zodiac boat, crewed by volunteers and wheeled down to the beach in response to “shouts”.
The lifeboat was shortly afterwards moved to what was then the deck-chair store underneath what is now the Fig Tree Restaurant. An RNLI spokesman said “At that time crew kit was basic, with RNLI supporters providing balaclavas, gloves and socks for the crew members, the remaining kit being caps, oilskins and, of course, welly boots.” Captain Sommerfield is said to have often used his own money to buy essential kit for his crew .
Capt Sommerfield lived at Lavernock and stepped down as honorary secretary of the lifeboat in 1993 but continued his work for the RNLI and for other charities.
In 1996 the present – bespoke designed – lifeboat station was established at the end of Penarth Esplanade representing a considerable investment by the RNLI . It now houses 2 lifeboats which are on call 24/7 365 days a year .
The funeral of Captain Sommerfield is to be held at the Cardiff and Glamorgan Memorial Park and Crematorium (near Barry) on Friday, June 16, at 15:00 and followed by a reception at the Wenvoe Country Club.
The funeral arrangements are being carried out by, The Vale Funeral Service, 181 Court Road, Barry, CF63 1EX; Phone 01446 407962.