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In September 1973 Ray Kipling joined one of the most exclusive clubs in the world - the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

He was one of three new trainees brought in to "strengthen the management" of the organisation.

The other two were Ginger Bateman, straight from the Merchant Navy, and Louise Williams, a university graduate and a rare thing in the RNLI of the time -- a woman.

They were set to be the RNLI's salvation.

But they were viewed with suspicion by the older hands.

Qualifications cut no ice with the lifeboat crews. They would weigh new members up, put them through their paces, test them and stretch them to their limits.

Kipling soon realised that he could not demand respect; he had to earn it.

But once he gained their trust he entered a fascinating world, where split-second decisions could mean the difference between life and death.

He witnessed incredible rescues by the lifeboat crew, but also, sadly, the times when victims of the stormy seas were not so lucky.

This is his remarkable story of what he witnessed during his time with the RNLI.

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