‘A perfect gentleman’ - Last surviving member of legendary lifeboat crew dies aged 98
PUBLISHED: 12:06 27 July 2020 | UPDATED: 17:14 29 July 2020
The ashes of the last surviving crew member of the legendary Gorleston lifeboat the Louise Stephens will be scattered at sea in fitting tribute to his service and love of the waves.
Ron Mallion was involved in a clutch of historic rescues and was the last of those who served aboard the lifesaving craft, which was well-known as one of the ‘small ships’ taking part in the wartime Dunkirk evacuation.
He died just a month before his 99th birthday.
Mr Mallion joined the crew in 1954, serving mainly as a mechanic for more than 12 years.
One of his earliest launches involved dramatic events at Great Yarmouth’s Britannia Pier, when the theatre and dance hall burned down in that same year.
In March 1961 the lifeboat went to the aid of a Norwegian freighter, the Gudveig, 16 miles north-east of Yarmouth.
The rescue made history as the first time land-based fire-fighters were taken out to sea to tackle what was described as “a floating inferno”.
Both the ship and crew were saved but the lifeboat, having returned after a gruelling 12 hours at sea, was immediately re-launched to help a freelance television cameraman whose boat had run into difficulties.
The Louise Stephens was stationed from 1939 until 1967, launching a record 303 times.
Mr Mallion’s late nephew, Peter Johnson, himself a former member of the crew, saved the disused lifeboat in 2013 and began a restoration project which, despite Mr Johnson’s death, is continuing at a specialist boat yard in north Norfolk.
Before the war his older brother Frank served briefly on the Elizabeth Simpson lifeboat and the family tradition continues, with his youngest son Des a third generation member of the current crew.
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Born in Godmanchester in Cambridgeshire, Mr Mallion moved to Gorleston in 1933 when his father Ernest became signalman at Gorleston on Sea Station.
He began work as a butcher’s boy at Bellamy’s and met his wife Vera when they were both in their early teens.
The couple married in 1947 and celebrated their 72nd anniversary last year.
Mr Mallion joined the RAF and served with air-sea rescue in the Indian Ocean while his wife worked on barrage balloons and Spitfires.
He returned to civilian work as a trained mechanic, spending most of his working life at Precasters builders merchants where he was head of maintenance and a lorry driver.
After he retired he was groundsman at Gorleston tennis club until 1997.
His interests included roller skating and he was an instructor at the indoor rink at Gorleston Holiday Camp after the war.
For his 80th birthday he fulfilled an ambition to take a hot air balloon flight over Norwich, and he maintained his love of the sea - attracting coverage in this newspaper - as one Britain’s oldest jet ski enthusiasts when he was still riding his son Des’ machine in his 80s.
He and his wife were also supporters and fund raisers for the Parent Teacher Association at the then Cliff Park Secondary School.
Mr Mallion, a lifelong fan of the Hippodrome Circus, was dubbed by ring master Jack Jay as probably the country’s oldest circus fan when he last visited for his 97th birthday.
For the last two years the couple have lived at the Lydia Eva Court Care Home where Mr Mallion was popular with staff, who described him as “a perfect gentleman”.
Mr Mallion, who had three grandchildren and two great grandsons, died peacefully at the home surrounded by his sons Tony and Des and his wife Vera, aged 96.
The RNLI flag is flying at half mast outside the Gorleston lifeboat shed.
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