Royal National Lifeboat Institution
(RNLI) is a charity that saves lives at sea around
the coasts of the British
Isles, as well as inshore.
It was founded on 4
March 1824 as the National Institution for the Preservation of
Life from Shipwreck
, adopting the present name in 1854. It now
operates as an international service to the peoples of the UK and
Ireland and has official charity status in each nation.
operates over 230 lifeboat
stations around the coasts of Great Britain, Ireland, and the
lifeboat rescues have doubled. The RNLI's lifeboats rescued an
average of 21 people a day in 2008. They saved 288 lives in 2008.
The RNLI Operations department defines 'rescues' and 'lives saved'
The charity also trains and equips lifeguards
England and Wales. In 2009, this service was expanded to cover over
140 beaches. The RNLI is funded entirely by voluntary donations and
(together with tax reclaims),
and has an annual budget of £130 million (€144 million).
William Hillary came to live on the
Man in 1808. Being aware of the treacherous nature of the
Sea, with many ships being wrecked around the Manx
coast, he drew up plans for a national lifeboat service manned by
Initially he received little response from
but on appealing to the more
philanthropic members of London society, the plans were adopted
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.
years later the title changed to the Royal National Lifeboat
Institution and the first of the new lifeboats to be built was
stationed at Douglas in recognition of the work of Sir
At the age of 60 Sir William took part in the rescue, in 1830, of
the packet St George
, which had foundered on Conister Rock
at the entrance to Douglas harbour. He commanded the lifeboat and
was washed overboard with others of the lifeboat crew, yet finally
everyone aboard the St George
was rescued with no loss of
life. It was this incident which prompted Sir William to set up a
scheme to build The Tower of
on Conister Rock - a project completed in 1832 which
stands to this day at the entrance to Douglas Harbour.
In its first year, the RNLI added 12 boats to the existing 39
independent lifeboats. By 1908 there were 280 RNLI lifeboats and 17
Since the RNLI was founded, its lifeboats have saved over 137,000
lives (as of November 2006).
The RNLI operates three classes of inshore lifeboats, both inflatable boats
, of 25-40 knot
, and five classes of all-weather motor life boats
, with another (FCB2)
currently in development, with speeds ranging from 17 to 25 knots.
It maintains 332 lifeboats based at 235 lifeboat stations. It also
has four hovercraft
, introduced in 2002,
allowing rescue on mud flats and in river estuaries inaccessible to
conventional boats. The crews of the lifeboats are almost entirely
. The 4,600 boat crew members,
including over 300 women, are alerted by pagers
and attend the lifeboat station when
Humber lifeboat station at
Point, East Riding of
Yorkshire is one of only four lifeboat stations in the UK which
are crewed full time (the others being Tower Lifeboat
Station at Waterloo Bridge,Chiswick Station and
Kent Station, all on the River Thames).
live in a few houses on Spurn Point which in bad weather can be cut
off from the mainland. The other occupants of Spurn Point are
Associated British Ports
who man their Vessel Traffic
control tower 24 hours a day, 365 days a year along
with the lifeboat crew.
Ireland and Great
Britain, ships in distress or the public reporting an
accident must contact the Emergency
The call will then be redirected to HM Coastguard
or the Irish Coast Guard
, as appropriate.
The Coastguard co-ordinates air-sea
and may call on the RNLI (or other lifeboats) or their
own land-based rescue personnel or rescue helicopters to take part.
Air-Sea rescue helicopters
by the Royal Air Force
, the Royal Navy
, the Marine & Coastguard Agency
), and the Irish Air Corps
biggest rescue in the RNLI's history was 17 March 1907 when the
12,000 tonne liner SS Suevic hit
the Maenheere Reef near Lizard Point in Cornwall.
In a strong gale and dense fog RNLI
lifeboat volunteers rescued 456 passengers, including 70 babies.
Lizard, Cadgwith, Coverack and Porthleven rowed out repeatedly for 16 hours to rescue all of
the people on board.
Six silver RNLI medals were later
awarded, two to Suevic
Main category: Classes of RNLI
The RNLI has two main categories of lifeboat:
- All weather boats - Large boats that are capable of high speed
in extreme weather conditions and have a large range.
- Inshore lifeboats - Smaller boats that operate closer to the
shore than all weather boats and are able to operate in shallower
waters and closer to cliffs.
Over the years, many members of boat and launching crews have been
killed during or died as a result of lifeboat operations.
- Sandycove while assisting the brig Ellen of
Liverpool. Four volunteer lifeboatmen drowned
- Aldeburgh lifeboat capsized on service in December with the
loss of 3 of her crew of 15.
- Bridlington lifeboat RNLB Harbinger was lost with six
lives in the Great Gale of
- The Wells-next-the-Sea lifeboat Eliza Adams went to the aid of
the stricken brig Ocean Queen in heavy
seas. The lifeboat capsized and 11 of her 13 crew were
drowned. (See Wells lifeboat
- 1885 - Caister Lifeboat, the
yawl "Zephyr" struck a sunken wreck as she responded to a distress
call from a schooner on the Barber Sands. 8 of the 15 crewmen were
lost: John Burton, Joseph Sutton, George Hodds, Frederick Haylett,
Joseph Haylett, John Riches, James King & William Knowles.
- St Anne's,
Lytham and Southport lifeboats went to the assistance of a German
barque, the Mexico in
trouble in heavy seas. The St Anne's and Southport boats
were lost with 27 lifeboatmen. (See Southport and St Anne's lifeboats
- Kingstown (now Dún Laoghaire) lifeboat was capsized while
attempting to rescue the crew of the stricken SS
Palme. All fifteen lifeboatmen were lost. (See Kingstown Lifeboat
- Aldeburgh The lifeboat "Aldeburgh" capsized with the
loss of seven of the eighteen man crew.
- Nine members of the Caister-on-Sea lifeboat were drowned when their lifeboat
Beauchamp overturned in heavy seas. Asked why they
had persisted in their rescue attempts the retired coxswain was
reported as saying "Caister men never turn back". (see 1901 Caister Lifeboat
- Nine members of the crew of the Fethard-on-Sea lifeboat crew were drowned when their boat
capsized. They were attempting to reach the stricken
steamer Mexico which was going down off the Co Wexford coast.
- The Rye
Harbour lifeboat disaster, in which the Mary Stanford was capsized and
17 men lost their lives.
- 8 crew of the Mumbles lifeboat died attempting to rescue the crew of
Samtampa off south Wales, on 23 April 1947. A total
of 45 lives were lost.
- On 9 February six crew of the Fraserburgh lifeboat lost their lives when the lifeboat
capsized whilst escorting fishing boats into the
- six of the seven crew of the Arbroath lifeboat Robert Lindsay drowned when the
boat capsized outside Arbroath Harbour just before dawn on 27
- All 8 crew of the Broughty Ferry lifeboat Mona
died while attempting to rescue the North Carr lightship
- After rescuing the five crew members of the Coble Economy on the 17 November, the
capsized on its way back to the shore. All five lifeboat
crewmen died, only one crewman from the Economy
- On 17 March, the Longhope lifeboat - the T.G.B. - went to the aid of
the Liberian vessel Irene. The lifeboat capsized with the
loss of her entire crew of eight.
- 1970 - On 21 January, the Fraserburgh lifeboat - the
Dutchess of Kent, while on service to the Danish fishing
vessel Opal, capsized with the loss of five of her crew of
- The Penlee lifeboat Solomon Browne was lost, with all
eight crew, going to the aid of the freighter Union
Star. A total of 16 lives were lost - there were no
survivors and only 8 bodies were recovered. (See Penlee
Roll of honour
Lifeboat crewmen have been awarded medals for their bravery. The
RNLI awards three classes of medal; Gold, Silver and Bronze.To date
the number of medals awarded are:
the most notable recipients is Henry
Blogg, of the Cromer lifeboat
crew, who was awarded the RNLI gold medal three times (and the
Silver four times).
- Gold: 150
- Silver: 1564
- Bronze: 793 (Bronze only issued since 1917).
He also received the George Cross
and the British Empire Medal
. He is known as
"The Greatest of all Lifeboatmen".
The youngest recipient of an RNLI medal was eleven-year-old
Frederick Carter who, along with sixteen-year-old Frank Perry, was
awarded a Silver Medal for a rescue at Weymouth in 1890.
The Thanks of the Institution Inscribed on Vellum
given for notable acts.
One lifeboat received an award. For the Daunt lightship
rescue in 1936, the RNLB Mary Stanford
entire crew were decorated.
Darling was 22 years old when she risked her life in an
open boat to help the survivors of the wrecked SS Forfarshire on 7
With her father, she rowed for over a mile
through raging seas to reach them.
headquarters of the RNLI are in Poole, Dorset.
site is located adjacent to the Holes Bay in Poole Harbour.
It includes RNLI HQ, lifeboat maintenance
and repair facilities, the Lifeboat Support Centre and the National
Training Centre, the Lifeboat College. The support centre and
college were opened by Queen
in 2004. Specialist training facilities include a
and capsize pool, a fire
simulator, a bridge simulator and a live engineering
- Visit Isle of Man.
- Encylopaedia Britannica 1911
- RNLI Official Website
- BBC news - Biggest RNLI rescue is remembered
- Royal Opening for RNLI, BBC News, 2004
- RNLI Lifeboat College, Poole