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image above: vintage Lifebuoy advert

imageSir William Hillary came to live on the Isle of Man in 1808. Being aware of the treacherous nature of the Irish Sea, with many ships being wrecked around the Manx coast, he drew up plans for a national lifeboat service manned by trained crews.

Initially he received little response from the Admiralty. However, on appealing to the more philanthropic members of London society, the plans were adopted and, with the help of two Members of Parliament (Thomas Wilson and George Hibbert), the National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck was founded in 1824.  +

rt: Royal National Lifeboat Institution, Lincoln Branch, Flag day poster for sale

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Dunkirk Little Ship the Louise Stephens

BRAVE little lifeboat the Louise Stephens has been saved for generations to come after a maritime museum co-ordinated a rescue mission to prevent her from being sunk….

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Gorleston and Great Yarmouth lifeboat the Louise Stephens
Dunkirk veteran supports Gorleston lifeboat campaign

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Crew of RNLI lifeboat ‘Guide of Dunkirk’in Cadgwith, Cornwall
Daily Mirror

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Lucy Lavers is a single-screw Liverpool type Life-boat, built by Groves and Gutteridge
on the Isle of Wight in 1939, completed 1940 for Aldeburgh Lifeboat Station where her
very first service was the Dunkirk Rescue operation.
35ft 6ins long with a beam of 10ft 3ins and draft of 2ft 3.5ins
more on Rescue Wooden Boats

Nineteen lifeboats of the RNLI sailed to Dunkirk between 27 May and the early hours of 4 June 1940 to assist with the Dunkirk evacuation.

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image: Poole Quay’s Dunkirk little ship the Thomas Kirk Wright
see also: The Thomas Kirk Wright – today

Those from the lifeboat stations at Ramsgate and Margate were taken directly to France with their usual volunteer crews, but the others sailed to Dover where they were requisitioned and crewed by the Royal Navy.

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The  60 passenger Felicity in 1966
”Built in 1928, returned from Dunkirk in one piece. In 1991 she mysteriously caught fire.  The insurance company wrote her off, but a friend Julian Aldridge from Key Haven decided to rebuild her. She was relaunched in June 1988.”

The Viscountess Wakefield was lost after it was run onto the beach at Dunkirk. The Jane Holland was holed when a Motor Torpedo Boat rammed her and her engine failed after being machine gunned by an aircraft. She was abandoned but later found adrift, towed back to Dover and repaired. She returned to service on 5 April 1941.  more

Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboats and lifeguards have saved over 139,000 lives. It maintains 330 lifeboats based at 236 lifeboat stations; crewed almost entirely by volunteers.  The 4,600 boat crew members, including over 300 women, are alerted by pagers to attend the lifeboat station. +

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Scenes of lifeboat operations; Mount’s Bay
(1280×853)

imageLifeboat Heroes; : Outstanding RNLI Rescues From Three Centuries  by Edward Wake-Walker is a new book that tells the stories of 16 of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s most dramatic rescues from its distinguished 185-year history.

Newspaper articles from the time also report the devastating scenes. This is a quotation from the Daily Telegraph, 6th January 1881:

‘As the last man came I held my breath; he was alive when taken from the wreck, but had died in the boat. Four men bore him on their shoulders, and a flag flung over the face mercifully concealed what was most shocking of the dreadful sight; but they had removed his boots and socks to chafe his feet before he died, and had slipped a pair of mittens over the toes which left the ankles naked. This was the body of Howard Primrose Fraser, the second mate of the lost ship and her drowned captain’s brother.’

more on IntheBoatShed

Over the years, many members of boat and launching crews have been killed during, or died as a result of, lifeboat operations.

see list

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“Wreck Off The Yorkshire Coast” – (1904-1905)
(2048 x 1493)

The Titanic of the Channel Islands

The SS Stella Disaster – On Maundy Thursday, 30th. March 1899, the ill-fated SS Sella left Southampton for a Channel crossing to Guernsey (Channel Islands). Fifteen miles from St. Peter Port in deep fog, travelling at nearly top speed, she struck the Casquets reef, and sank within 10 minutes.

imagert: SS Stella entering St Peter Port

The first inkling that something was wrong to the people of Jersey was by way of a telegram put up in the window of the General Post Office. The day after was Good Friday, (so) no newspaper had been published.

The Evening Post staff went in to the office to print off a special edition with the words “The Stella Gone Down…” +

Of the 190 on board, at least 77 passengers and crew were drowned.

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SS Stella at Full Speed; painting by Robert John Wolfenden
(1625×1213) on MyChannelIslandAncestry

By 1860 the Channel Islands were served by ferries operated by two railway companies – the London and South Western Railway from Southampton; and the Great Western Railway from Weymouth. Rivalry between the companies and the towns was intense.

In 1877 the London & South Western Railway introduced a daily service to the Channel Islands with a dredged harbour, an extended pier, and three new swift twin-screw steamers.

Boats were timed to arrive together at Guernsey, and they would sometimes race in parallel, urged on by passengers. Racing did not occur on every crossing and officially never took place; yet, the competition caught the public imagination, particularly in the Channel Islands, and was eagerly reported by the newspapers.

keep reading

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The Stella entered service in November 1890
She was one of three sister ships ordered by the London & South Western Railway

Stella, built by  built by J & G Thompson Ltd, Clydebank; was 253 feet (77.11 m) long, with a beam of 35 feet (10.67 m). She was 1,059 GRT and was powered by two triple expansion steam engines which could propel her at 19½ knots (36 km/h). She could carry 712 passengers, 754 lifejackets, 12 lifebuoys and had lifeboat capacity for 148 souls. +

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Guernsey Folk Museum: captain’s skiff from the Stella
carried 14 people to safety

The loss of the Stella generated more press coverage and greater public interest than any other shipwreck of the period. The Press was unanimous in reporting that the conduct of the passengers and crew, on the sinking ship, had been exemplary. ‘Not one man had left the line’ until every women and child was safely in the lifeboats.

Yet, the Inquiry later confirmed that at least 18 women and children went down with the ship, and one lifeboat was rescued containing 24 men and one women.  Furthermore, rumours persisted that the Stella had been racing a Great Western RR steamer out of Weymouth…

keep reading

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Among the 105 who died was Mary Rogers, the senior stewardess.
Her body was never found. Mary became a national hero.  more

Following the disaster, the two steamship companies finally agreed to co-operate. They ran services on alternate days, pooling ticket receipts: there would be no more racing. +

The wreck of Stella was discovered in June 1973 by two Channel Islands divers. It lies in 49 metres (161 ft) of water south of the Casquets. –SS Stella (1890) on wikipedia

Wreck of the Stella on the Guernsey Museum website (pdf)

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History of the RNLB Solomon Browne

The Penlee Lifeboat Disaster

imageThe Penlee lifeboat disaster occurred on 19 December 1981 off the coast of Cornwall, England.

The MV Union Star, a coaster launched in Ringkobing, Denmark just a few days before, suffered engine failure in heavy seas just off the Cornish coast.

above: Royal National Lifeboat Institution

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The bravest of men remembered
(1126×693)

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capsized hull of the Union Star; MaritimeQuest.com

Winds were gusting at up to 90 knots (100 mph; 170 km/h)  –  with waves up to 60 feet (18 m) high. As the ship drifted nearer and nearer the shore, the Coastguard at Falmouth summoned a Royal Navy Sea King helicopter from 771 Naval Air Squadron, RNAS Culdrose; flown that night by United States Navy exchange-pilot Lt Cdr Russell Smith. High winds made any attempt at winch-rescue futile.  +

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Penlee Lifeboat Station
photo by John Wootton – (3264 x 2448)

Coxswain Trevelyan Richards from the Penlee Lifeboat Station at Mousehole was told to put RNLB Solomon Browne, a 47-foot, wooden 1960-build on standby. He summoned the lifeboat’s volunteer crew and picked seven men to accompany him.  +

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The lifeboat launched at 8:12 pm and headed out through the storm to the drifting coaster. After several attempts to get alongside, four people managed to jump across.

The lifeboat radioed “We’ve got four off.”  It was the last ever heard from either vessel.  +

(source, image above)

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 Remains of Union Transport (London) Ltd.’s MV Union Star;
Lamorna Cove on 1/4/83 – shipspotting.com

Wreckage from the Solomon Browne was found along the shore, and the Union Star lay capsized onto the rocks west of Tater Du Lighthouse. Some, but not all, of the 16 bodies were eventually recovered. +

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on the rocks
(1280 × 824)

Two nights before the disaster, Charlie Greenhaugh had turned on the Christmas lights in Mousehole. After the storm the lights were left off but three days later his widow, Mary, asked for them to be repaired and lit again. The village has been lit up each December since then, but on the anniversary of the disaster they are turned off at 8:00 pm for an hour as an act of remembrance.  +

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Penlee Lifeboat memorial
photo by Dean Ayres (3504 x 2336)

More:

VIDEO: Penlee Lifeboat 1930′s

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VIDEO: BBC Documentary Penlee Lifeboat Disaster (58 mins)

Solomon Browne Remembered on BBC Cornwall

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Video tribute for the crew of the Solomon Browne

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Penlee lifeboat today; photo by Paddy Buck
(3648 x 2736)

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Ballycotton Lifeboat and Daunt Rock Lightship 1936
painting by Bernard Finnigan Gribble (full size)
more lifeboat paintings

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RNLB Mary Stanford after the Daunt rescue in 1936
Ballycotton Lifeboat from 1930 to 1959
The only lifeboat to be awarded a gold medal for gallantry (boat as well as the crew)
Daunt rescue on wikipedia

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Mary Stanford, October 2011 â€Ž(2,048 × 1,536 pixels)
she served as a  Limerick Harbour pilot launch until the mid-1980s
now languishing in Dublin’s Hanover Dock

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magic lantern slide showing the dedication of the City of Winchester
lifeboat at Aldeburgh in Suffolk July 23rd 1903
-  (1256 x 1074)

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Toy Magic Lantern slide- British lifeboat rescue sequence
(800 x 453)

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RNLI boats in the Diamond Jubilee Flotilla (1600×1200)

The RNLI is funded by voluntary donations.
In 2011, the RNLI’s income was £162.9M,
its expenditures £140.6M.

Official website

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“The President of the Board of Trade has, by command of the QUEEN, conveyed, through the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, to the crews of the lifeboats of Atherfield, Brightstone, and Brooke, Her Majesty’s warm appreciation of their gallant conduct in saving the crew and passengers of the steamship Eider.”

 Project Gutenberg eBook of Punch, Or the London Charivari, 1892
‎(2,003 × 2,168 pixels)


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