Sunderland Volunteer Life Brigade pledges a bright future after fake letter claims it was closing after 140 years of service

A rescue team has rubbished fraudulent claims the charity was closing down after 140 years of serving Sunderland.

Wednesday, 2nd January 2019, 8:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 9th January 2019, 1:54 am
Some of the 11 members of Sunderland Volunteer Life Brigade, which is in training to become operational in the spring time.

The Echo sought more details from Sunderland Volunteer Life Brigade (SVLB) after receiving a letter purporting to be from its company and charity secretary which stated it was with “sadness and regret” it was shutting.

But its leaders say the claims are untrue and are now carrying out inquiries in the hope of tracing the hoaxer, who used the SVLB’s crest and the address of its Watch House at Pier View, Roker, on the letter.

Sunderland Volunteer Life Brigade is based in Pier View in Roker.

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The brigade, at this time, is in training and not operational, with 11 members due to undergo an assessment by HM Coastguard in March.

Once the volunteers pass, the charity and company will be put on a pager system and assist the emergency services and other charities in helping people who use the city’s beaches, port and harbour.

Rose Roberts, the secretary’s whose name was at the foot of the letter along with a fake signature, said after seeing the note: “We would never put a letterhead like that and that is certainly not my signature on the letter.

“I can’t think why somebody would have done this.

Sunderland Volunteer Life Brigade Watch House as seen from the seafront.

“Last year we had a lot of the life brigade who took jobs outside of the area, so unfortunately we had to suspend rescues, but full training is underway and shortly we will be assessed and after that we will be operational.

“Until then we can only offer a limited service, but we will still very much be a search and rescue team and will continue on.”

Dave Nicholson, captain of the Charity Commission-registered SVLB and the company which underpins its set up, said a great deal of hard work was going into the training sessions.

He added: “We have been completing skill sets and will be assessed by the Coastguard, and if we pass that, we will be a search and rescue team, but we must stress we are still in training at this moment.

Sunderland Volunteer Life Brigade is based at Watch House in Pier View, Roker.

“A lot of members give up their free time regularly to make Sunderland Volunteer Life Brigade continue each year.”

The letter sent to the Echo wrongly claimed SVLB was closing because many of its members were “getting very old for active duties” and added the coastal watch team were “unable to offer a regular and competent service.”

It went on to add its memorabilia and artefacts in its museum would be auctioned off and there were hopes for a farewell part for its members and supporters in the New Year.

However, the reality is the Watch House’s museum is closed for the winter and is set to reopen in March as scheduled.

The charity has its own website and a Facebook page.