Ron Rose, 66, is publicity officer and secretary of Highworth and District RNLI. The charity has announced the end of door-to-door collections in the wake of controversy involving other charities, but the branch has pledged to continue with other fundraising efforts. Ron, who has two children and four grandchildren, lives in Greenbridge

A BRANCH of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution several dozen miles inland? Ron Rose laughs. It’s not the first time he’s been asked the question.

His answer is that no matter how far inland we live, we’ll almost certainly have at least some dealings with the sea – or know people who do.

“We travel a lot. I travel a lot and I tend to go to the coast, and when I go to the coast I tend to see lots of people using the water," he says.

“I like to swim in the sea and it’s nice to know that there’s somebody there to fish you out if you have a stomach cramp or get caught in a riptide or whatever.

“Also, a lot of our imports and exports come in by water.”

The RNLI is also sometimes called in when there is flooding, whether to provide equipment, expertise or both.

“As we build in certain places, flooding is becoming more and more of a problem. It seems to be getting worse year on year. That’s partly because of a lack of dredging and things like that – climate change and all the rest of it.”

The RNLI has fundraising branches all over the country, including in Swindon, Lechlade and Faringdon.

The Swindon area’s nearest lifeboat station is at Richmond-on-Thames, with Weston-Super-Mare in second place by a couple of miles.

Founded in 1824, the charity is one of the country’s oldest, and in 2012 reported saving its 140,000th life. There have been many more since; 442 lives were saved last year and more than 7,000 people rescued from dangerous situations. The charity has more than 340 boats and about 4,600 volunteer crew members, who are among more than 31,500 RNLI volunteers.

Ron is originally from Wantage, and was one of three boys and three girls born to an engineer and a housewife.

He joined the RAF at 16 and stayed for 10 years. His early ambition had been to become a photographer, but the discovery that he had colour blindness put paid to that.

After joining the armed forces, though, another vocation emerged.

“I was a medic. Earlier on I’d been in the Red Cross and that sort of thing. So when you then go to your aptitude tests and answer all the questions on medical stuff, they say: ‘I know just the job for you. You’d make a very, very good medic.’

"That’s very reassuring when there’s some big burly sergeant talking to you, that they have a job for you and that you’d make a very good whatever it is.”

Ron saw service at Lyneham, Wroughton, Coningsby in Lincolnshire and a rather more exotic location, Changi in Singapore.

His duties mostly consisted of treating sick and injured personnel, but it was in Singapore that he personally learned what the sea was capable of. One of the RAF medics’ tasks there was to help retrieve the corpses of local people who had drowned.

“I was there from ’69 to ’71. We’d often get reports of a body washed up on the beach. We’d be called in because we had the quickest response. It wasn’t pleasant.”

He left the RAF in 1976 and went to work for Austin-Morris at Cowley in Oxford. By the time he retired 33 years later he was the plant’s transport manager.

“When I got divorced and retired, which coincidentally both happened at the same time, I then moved to Swindon.

“I felt a little bit lonely, to be honest. I knew Swindon people were friendly but it was still a lonely place to come, so I joined a social group called Square One.”

The treasurer of that group was Jo Noblin, who was also heavily involved with the Highworth and District RNLI branch and still is. Ron’s association with the charity began.

Volunteering for the organisation gives him immense satisfaction, not least because most people are sympathetic toward the cause. Ron suspects this is because just about everybody can imagine the horror of being in desperate need of rescue from water.

“It’s funny, the responses you get when you go and knock on a person’s door. Sometimes they’ll say: ‘I don’t normally give to charity but I always give to the lifeboat.’ I think it’s this inherent fear we have of big water or whatever.

“I remember once in South Marston, I’d already been to a person’s house – they weren’t in - and I was at the neighbour’s house when the couple came back from shopping. The wife said to the husband: ’Go and get some money – we must put some money in the lifeboat box. The man came across and put a pound in.

"When he went back and said he’d put a pound in, his wife chastised him and told him to go and get a tenner. That was because they’d lived somewhere by the sea and her mum used to watch the lifeboat go out.”

The branch raises about £6,000 a year, and £2,500 of that comes from doorstep collections. The team has vowed to continue raising as much money as possible after door-to-door collecting ends. They will continue to collect in public places and at community events.

“We’re hoping that perhaps we might get some more people to help us – some ideas people on our committee. We’re also hoping some of the big firms might make donations or give prizes for our grand Christmas draw. Some companies are already very good.

“If you help, you’re making sure the RNLI is the best equipped that they can possibly be. You are saving lives.”

Ron can be contacted on 07759 439480, and the charity’s national website is