• Thu. Apr 18th, 2024

North East Connected

Hopping Across The North East From Hub To Hub


More than 60 front-line attack frogmen travelled from all over the world to support a former colleague’s fundraising benefit at Coast Kitchen, Tynemouth.

Nick Pietrafesa, a former Royal Navy clearance diver, and member of the Royal Navy Clearance Diver Association (RNCDA) was diagnosed with terminal Pancreatic Cancer in January 2019.

Following the fantastic support he and his partner, Rachel Errington, owner of Coast Kitchen in Tynemouth, received from doctors and staff at Ward 5 at the Freeman Hospital, Nick and Rachel decided to raise as much money as they could for Pancreatic Cancer UK.

The charity funds research into earlier diagnosis, better treatment of the disease and provides vital support for patients and their families and Nick wanted to help to try to avoid his own heart breaking situation happening to anyone else.

The couple initially hosted a charity night at Coast Kitchen on Sunday 30th June, with live music all afternoon and a raffle and were thrilled to raise £3,500 for the charity. But Nick didn’t know that Rachel was planning an even bigger event and had enlisted the support of the RNCDA to get as many of his old colleagues there as possible.

Serving in the Royal Navy as a mine clearance diver (frogman) Nick saw active service  from 1980– 1985 and he and many of his colleagues, who attended the fundraiser, served during the Falklands War, in Kuwait and were the first divers on the scene as the stricken Zebrugge ferry sank.

“Clearance divers work under immense pressure and in really dangerous situations throughout their careers so they form a life-long bond – like brothers,” explained Rachel

“The idea of a surprise party for Nick, was a bit like having a living funeral,” she continued. “It was an opportunity to get all Nick’s old friends and colleagues together to share special memories and remember happy times, whilst also raising money for the charity.

“I was absolutely staggered with the response we got from RNCDA members. On the day people flew in from Greece, Spain, Italy and The Canary Islands as well at travelling from all over the UK.

“To see 65 of Nick’s former colleagues turning out to support him was amazing.”

The charity auction, raffle and games held on the night raised a staggering further £7000 for the charity bringing the total donated to Pancreatic Cancer UK to over £10,000.

“It was a truly overwhelming night,” said Nick. “When you get a diagnosis like this every minute is extra special, and making new memories and sharing old memories is very important to everyone.

“I can’t thank Rachel, the RNCDA and everyone that has supported our fundraising efforts to date enough. It’s a huge amount of money to raise for a great charity.”