A DORSET lifeboat station has marked the end of an era as one of its volunteers retired following 50 years of service.

Dave Corben's steadfast commitment at Swanage RNLI came to a close this week as he called time on his career with the team at the age of 70.

He joined the station as a shore helper and all-weather lifeboat crew in 1970, first going out to see aboard the 41ft Watson class vessel.

At the time only the mechanic and radio-operator stood under shelter, with the rest of the crew out on the deck. He continued his training throughout his RNLI voluntary career, becoming an emergency mechanic in 1985 and navigator in 2003.

Mr Corben, who lived in the town, served as lifeboat crew for 35 years before retiring from going afloat in 2005 at the age of 55. However, despite having launched hundreds of times and having helped to save many lives at sea during his time as a crew member, he missed the sound of the pager and decided to take on the role as a deputy launch authority (DLA) – the person who receives the initial call from HM Coastguard and makes the launch request for the crew.

For the last 15 years, as part of a team of DLAs, Mr Corben has overseen the launches of the Swanage lifeboats.

Lifeboat coxswain Dave Turnbull said: "Dave is one of very few RNLI volunteers to serve for 50 years.

"These days life often gets in the way and people’s situations change, in particular with where they work, meaning that it is not always possible to commit as a volunteer for a lifetime as Dave has done.

"Dave went to sea with my father, Malcolm Turnbull, and I am fortunate to have been to sea with Dave many times as fellow crew and to have worked with Dave since I have been coxswain of the Swanage lifeboat and he has been DLA.

"Having a former, long standing, sea going crew member as a DLA has great benefits for the crew, as they have first-hand experience of all aspects of what a rescue may entail.

"I am very grateful for Dave’s dedication and the wealth of knowledge Dave has accumulated and passed on over the years."

Although Mr Corben was not from a maritime background, he is from a lifeboat family, with his brother John having served 23 years on the crew, and Dave and John’s father Eddie being a former chairman of the branch and a DLA.

Mr Corben, who has worked as an estate agent for 51 years for family business Corbens, served as lifeboat crew in a number of high profile rescues.

He was honoured with a vellum service certificate for the rescue to the Ro-Ro ferry Al Kwather in severe weather on October 29, 1989, and was awarded a medal service certificate for the rescue of the crew of the yacht Be Happy in hurricane force winds on the night of October 28, 1996.

Recalling some of the Be Happy rescue, he said: "They were 20 miles out into the English Channel in 130-mile per hour winds. The yacht’s engine had failed, its sails had been blown out. The yacht had been knocked down a number of times and was in real danger of capsizing in the 30 ft high waves.

The helicopter could not lift them because their mast was swinging so violently."

Despite the horrendous conditions that night, the Swanage lifeboat crew successfully rescued the crew aboard the Be Happy.

In 2016 Dave was presented with the RNLI gold badge for long service.

When he was present with this accolade, lifeboat operations manager at the time, Captain Neil Hardy, said: "Our thanks go to Dave for his many years of service.

"Volunteering for the RNLI is an extraordinary commitment, being very demanding at times.

"The time and dedication given by our volunteers is out of choice and only made possible thanks to the support of their families.

"I’m am proud we have so many volunteers who have continued to serve the Swanage RNLI for such long periods of time."

Summing up his time as a volunteer, Mr Corben said: ‘It has been an honour and privilege to serve over the last 50 years and I haven't a clue what I am going to do when my pager is taken away!’.