New Hastings lifeboat to honour mum and son’s shared love of the sea

Anne and Richard Francis
Anne and Richard Francis

The Hastings RNLI’s new inshore lifeboat will be named in honour of a man who had ‘a great love for the sea’.

Richard Francis died from cancer 40 years ago, at the age of 21.

The D-835 Richard Francis will be unveiled by the Hastings Lifeboat Station at 12pm on Saturday (September 28).

It was made possible thanks to a legacy left by Richard’s mother Elizabeth Anne Francis, known as Anne, who lived in Battle.
She wanted to split her estate equally between her six children, including Richard – who she shared a passion for the sea with – and felt the RNLI was the best charity to reflect hers and her son’s love for the sea and compassion for those at risk from it.

Born in July 1924, Anne loved the sea as a child and spent all her childhood holidays with her family on the Norfolk Coast.

Richard’s twin sister Cea said: “She and her brother Dick loved to sail and sailed the Norfolk and Suffolk coast throughout her teenage years. This often terrified my grandparents, who kept watch and met them after their expeditions.

“After the war Anne went to Cambridge University to read English and met my father, Peter Francis. They married and had six children.

“Their eldest son, Richard, my twin brother, loved the sea and sailing. He learned to sail as a boy and during his teenage years, like our mother, sailed whenever he could.”

In 1974, Richard, with help from his three brothers, including Charles – the owner of Chef’s Ware, in Queens Road, Hastings – built his own sailing boat, appropriately named The Four Brothers.

Cea said Richard went to Imperial College London where he met Veronica, who shared some of her memories of him.

She said, on first meeting Richard, he told her he had built his own sailing boat. When she asked if it was to go in the bath, he said ‘the English Channel is my bath’.

Fittingly, the D-835 Lifeboat, Richard Francis, will be operating in the English Channel.

Cea added: “Anne and Peter had raised their family in Surrey, but on Peter’s retirement, they moved to East Sussex, settling in Battle. This was close enough for frequent visits to the coast and Hastings.

“Our mother never fully recovered from the loss of her son. While my parents did their best to manage the sorrow of losing a child, they lived full and successful lives, but Anne wanted Richard’s memory to continue after her death.

“Therefore, our mother left a legacy to the RNLI as clearly this charity best reflects hers and Richard’s passion for the sea and compassion for those at risk from it.”

Peter Adams, the RNLI’s Lifeboat Operations Manager at Hastings said: “Anne’s legacy has funded the new Hastings inshore lifeboat which will be formally named on Saturday.

“Her generosity, and her son’s memory, will live on for many years to come as the lifeboat, and its volunteer crew, carries out its work of saving lives at sea.

“Everyone at Hastings, and the wider RNLI family, wishes to extend our sincere thanks to Anne, and the members of her family, for supporting us with this lifesaving work.”

The naming ceremony will take place in the Hastings lifeboat house on Saturday (September 28) at 12pm. The new lifeboat will launch following the ceremony – weather and operational requirements permitting.