A branch of the RNLI in Bishop’s Waltham is on the brink of closure, despite having helped saved lives at sea for almost 200 years.

Chairman Margot Berry, of Shirrell Heath, has been involved with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution for almost 20 years.

But she warned that a lack of volunteers – particularly youngsters – means the branch is close to extinction.

“If we do not get some people by the next AGM we will close,” Mrs Berry said.

“We need volunteers and we need them desperately. The whole committee are getting on now. We have not got any youngsters at all.

“It’s a real worry. I have a committee meeting coming up when we will have to make some tough decisions.”

Last year the Bishop’s Waltham branch raised £13,000 and that is expected to drop to £10,000 this year.

Mrs Berry, herself a yachtmaster, said: “I know the recession has affected people and the cost of postage going up has hit our souvenirs sales.”

Funded through donations, the lifeboat crews of the RNLI have risked their lives for those in trouble at sea since its foundation in 1824. In that time it is estimated that at least 140,000 lives have been saved.

Mary Peacock, of Park Road, Bishop’s Waltham, has been a volunteer for the past four years.

She said: “The work we do is not just about the sea. Recently when there was flooding in North Wales the RNLI went out rescued people trapped in their homes.

“For us the difficulty is that we do not have the young people to come and help to take over from Margot.

“I just feel very, very sad. There has been a branch here for a very long time and it would be so sad if it closed.”

The RNLI’s AGM is on Tuesday, March 25, at The Stables Centre, Bishop’s Waltham.

To find out more about volunteering, call Bishop’s Waltham RNLI on 01329 833114.