Lifeboat stalwart dies three months short of his 100th Birthday

Fifi and Charles with Jack Payne

The Fifi and Charles with Jack ringed in Red. His brother Alf is in Blue.

Hinckley Point rescue

Survivors of the Hinckley Point Rescue being brought ashore.

Jack Payne, Master Mariner, served his country during the war on merchant ships and then as mechanic of Weston-super-Mare RNLI Lifeboats.

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When they saw the old man riding around Knightstone on his mobility scooter or sitting in the sun outside the RNLI shop at Anchor Head few realised they were looking at a very brave, skilful and dedicated hero of World War II and the RNLI.

Captain Jack Payne was born in 1915 and went sea at an early age. He sailed the world in cargo and passenger ships up to and during World War II. During the war he was one of the unsung heroes of the merchant fleet, sailing cargo ships full of ammunition through water infested by German U boats. On one risky voyage his ship was taking a cargo of ammunition from Glasgow. In the hold there were massive shells for the big guns of Singapore. They sailed together with a second ship also containing ammunitions. Their route was to take them around Cape Horn and north into Aden. This long route was necessary because the shorter route via the Mediterranean and through the Suez Canal was too dangerous due to the bombardment of Malta. They were given a central position within the convoy to give them maximum protection. One night off the North African coast the second ship was hit, and went up in a massive explosion. Jack said to the ‘old man’ beside him on the bridge “that will be us if we get hit”. When they finally got to Aden, sailing without lights into port, they were nearly run down by an aircraft carrier!

In 1946 he bought a trip boat Catherine Jane and started running boat trips from Anchor Head in Weston. He joined the lifeboat crew at Birnbeck Island and become the mechanic for the Liverpool class lifeboat Fifi and Charles. During this time he was involved in many rescues. One of the most hazardous was the rescue of seven men off a drilling tower off Hinckley Point in 1957. While they were holding the lifeboat against the tower the scaffolding poles on the tower were breaking against the boat as it moved up and down with the waves. All seven were brought back safely.

He continued serving the RNLI when the new Oakley class lifeboat the Calouste Gulbenkian replaced the Fifi and Charles. When the Calouste was retired in 1970 when the need for a diesel mechanic was no longer needed. From 1972-77 Jack was Master of the Polar Bear, the service vessel for Lundy Island. He gained a reputation for ensuring he delivered supplies no matter what the weather, Because of this he was given the nickname “Hurricane Jack” He left one son, two grandchildren and two great grandchildren. His funeral is at Weston Crematorium on Friday at 2:30

Richard Spindler, Deputy Launching Authority of Weston RNLI said; ‘I learnt much of what I know about the sea from Captain Jack. He was a lovely man and yet a consummate professional. We do not often see his ilk.’

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