Discussion in 'The War at Sea' started by von Poop, Sep 19, 2008.

  1. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Quick question as I'm finding it difficult to Google up much on the RNLI during wartime.

    Was 'Lifeboatman' a reserved occupation? or were the crews made up from a more 'home guard' level of volunteers to replace the younger chaps sent off to war?

    I wasn't sure if a volunteer role could be reserved, but thinking about it Fisherman probably was (?) so maybe the RNLI didn't lose too many crewmen anyway.
    Anybody know?

    Peter Clare likes this.
  2. gaztwrO

    gaztwrO Member

    von poop

    try and get a copy of 'Riders of the Storm' History of the RNLI just read it last week. It covers the RNLI's history from the early 1800's and includes their involvment during both wars really good read! ..... i should know i've been a RNLI crewmember for the past 15yrs.

    During WW2 RNLI crews saved many lives, they also played a big part in the evacuation of Dunkirk, an interesting story....???

    The Royal Navy needed as many craft as possible for the evacuation and the RNLI were not excused, their small tough well designed boats were comandeered for the evacuation... the problem came when the navy crews manning them reported that the boats were impossible to handle, the reason was that RNLI boats have always been designed differently extra bouyant extra tough with shallow draughts for inshore work a law unto themselves to handle.

    Some of the RNLI coxswains approached the Navy and stated that they were happy to crew the boats to Dunkirk as they wanted to help in every way, however they stated that if any RNLI crew man was killed during the evacuation his family would recieve a full naval pension the Navy flatly refused.

    After a bit of pressure the Navy relented they realised that the RNLI crews knew how to handle their boats effectivley, they also realised that most of the crew were fishermen who's families relied totally on the man's income.

    The RNLI made a big impact in Dunkirk and there figures were large they are recorded in the book but i can't remember them .......you'll have to go and buy the book (yes a donation goes to the RNLI i'm being biast!!)

    Anyway i hope that helps von poop feels good to be able to help someone for a change instead of asking everyone else for their assistance.

    By the way the book also has some good pics in of downed pilot rescues.


  3. gaztwrO

    gaztwrO Member

    bit i forgot as well the the avergae age of a crew man during WW2 was 50yrs old some crew members were in their 70's the younger crews had been enlisted mainly to maritime service.

  4. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

  5. Finbar Saunders

    Finbar Saunders Junior Member

  6. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Thanks for those David, & Great stuff gaztwrO,
    Maximum respect due to any Lifeboat crewman mate.
    The Gold medal they give out is easily the equivalent of the GC/VC in my eyes, and the citations always as gripping/astonishing.

    I spend so long reading panels in Lifeboat museums and boathouses when I encounter them (and photographing the weird tracked boat-handling devices often parked nearby :unsure:) I suspect I'll have to get the book.

    RNLI Memorial snapped at the NMA.

  7. gaztwrO

    gaztwrO Member

    glad to hear the positive replies thanks, finbar owen von poop.

    one of the links relates to henry blog the most decorated lifeboatman of all time his lifeboat career spanned the early 1900's where lifeboats were still oar/sail drawn right through to the combustion engine.

    And yes i do agree i think the RNLI gold medal does match that of the GC or the VC when reading the book you can see men openley sailing into situations where they know they are highly unlikeley to return yet they do to save life....it takes a special breed. The most recent being Hewitt with the Green Lilly disaster.

    The RNLI was just one organisation that stood up to assist the war effort there must have been countless others within britain and the allied countries would be interesting to hear.

    Also RNLI stations themselves are good sources of information our station in Holyhead has the original Plaques with records of service on them, they cover both world wars.
    So it's always worth a look they may be of assistance to your research what may have been an insignificant wreck to the navy may have been a notable rescue for the RNLI.

    Thanks for your responses..........gaztwrO.
  8. gaztwrO

    gaztwrO Member


    i like the tugs of war link looks good


  9. gaztwrO

    gaztwrO Member

    from a south east lifeboat station website:

    RNLI Lifeboats and the Dunkirk Evacuation

    As many of you will know, an armada of "little ships" took part in Operation Dynamo in 1940. This involved the rescue of Allied troops from the beaches at Dunkirk, France.

    What is not so commonly known is that a number of lifeboats were involved in this operation. At least two of these boats were crewed by the Royal Navy.

    As far as our branch historical guru Les Bridgwater has been able to ascertain nineteen RNLI lifeboats were deployed. Only one was sunk, the Viscountess Wakefield from Hythe. This was manned by the Royal Navy when the Coxwain refused to take the lifeboat and took his own fishing boat instead.

    I have listed below the lifeboats that Les has identified as being involved. StationNameTypeOfficial NumberOn StationMargateThe Lord SouthboroughWatson Motor LifeboatON6881925-1951RamsgatePrudential CS1RotherON6971926-1953Aldeburgh No1Adby BeacclerkWatson Motor LifeboatON7511931-1958Aldeburgh No2Lucy LaversLiverpoolON8321940-1959WalmerCharles Dibdin CS2BeachON7621933-1959SouthendGreater London CS3RotherON7041928-1941HastingsCyril & Lillian BishopSelf RightingON7401931-1950NewhavenCecil & Lillian PhilpottWatson Motor LifeboatON7301930-1959PooleThomas Kirk Wright32 ft SurfON8111939-1962SouthwoldMary ScottNorfolk & SuffolkON6911925-1940HytheThe Viscountess Wakefield42ft BeachON7831936-1940 SunkDungenessCharles Cooper Henderson42 ft BeachON7611933-1957GorlestonLouise StephensWatson Motor LifeboatON8201939-1967LowestoftMichael StephensWatson Motor LifeboatON8381939-1963WaltonE.M.E.D.RotherON7051928-1953ClactonEdward DresdenWatson Motor LifeboatON7071929-1952EastbourneJane HollandSelf RightingON6731929-1949ShorehamRosawood & Phyliss LunnWatson Motor LifeboatON7581933-1963CadgwickHerbert SturmeySelf RightingON6641932-1941 also served at Swanage 1918-1928 and Falmouth 1928-1931
  10. geoff501

    geoff501 Achtung Feind hört mit


    Have you tried putting 'lifeboat' in the search engine info field? A few hits come up for lifeboat men and ex-lifeboat men. Also a few civilians who died on lifeboats during rescue after being torpedoed.

  11. geoff501

    geoff501 Achtung Feind hört mit

    Have to agree here. Our youngest used to take the RNLI 'Storm Force' magazine, which is aimed at pre-teens. There is always a story on the back cover of every issue on a rescue from their archives. Long past her teens, I still keep the subscription up so I can read these!
  12. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    I see a 'J. Phillips' that turns up by searching 'lifeboat' (odd as lifeboat doesn't seem to appear on the record, sure I must have screwed up) appears to be listed under the unit 'Fishing Fleet', and with the rank of 'Fisherman'.
    Interesting to see 681 further records for 'Fishing fleet'.
  13. geoff501

    geoff501 Achtung Feind hört mit

    Don't know how you did that. Probably just dodgy software :unsure:
  14. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    IWM Collections strikes again:

    Collection No.: 4700-27

    Description: Men of the Home Guard, who are also members of the lifeboat crew, run up the steps of the lifeboat station, still in their Home Guard uniforms, following an emergency call.
    Period: Second World War

    Collection No.: 4700-27
    Description: 65 year old John Markham (facing camera) runs down the steps of the lifeboat station, pulling his oilskins on over his Home Guard uniform, as a colleague pauses to dress. John is the cox of the lifeboat on Lindisfarne.
    Period: Second World War


    Collection No.: 4700-27

    Description: The Lindisfarne lifeboat makes its way out to sea, following an emergency call. In the background, Lindisfarne Castle is just visible on the horizon.
    Period: Second World War
  15. gaztwrO

    gaztwrO Member

    I love these old photos of lifeboats, they were small open craft compared to our current fleet of beasts! and the storms were just the same in the 1940'S ..... the cliche balls of brass comes to mind not just of the lifeboat crews but of everyone living in that era.

    Anyway our 2ND Cox at Holyhead is currently doing research in relation to wrecks around Holyhead as a result of WW1 so i thought why not write a list off of our plaques at the station for the period between 1939-1945 of wrecked ships or rescues and it may be helpful to everyone else with teir research will update soon.

  16. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    At 1.15pm on 30th May 1940 the Royal National Lifeboat Institution received a request from the Ministry of Shipping to send as many lifeboats as possible to Dover. The RNLI telephoned its eighteen stations between Gorlestone, Norfolk, and Shoreham, Sussex, asking that the boats proceed immediately with full crews, full fuel tanks and towing warps. Hythe lifeboat was first to arrive. The Flag Officer, Dover, told Coxwain Buller Griggs that, with a Petty Officer in charge, he would be requested to run his lifeboat, the Viscountess Wakefield, on to the sands at Dunkirk, load her with troops, and bring them out to waiting ships. Coxwain Griggs pointed out that his lifeboat weighed over 14 tons, and if run ashore she would never get off again without winches. He was prepared to go to Dunkirk but said it would be better to tow three small boats for ferrying troops. Coxwain Griggs reported back to his crew and consulted Coxwain Oiller (Dungeness) and Coxwain Mercer (Walmer), both experienced and decorated lifeboatmen, whose boats were even heavier. The naval officers in charge wanted boats, not advice. And before the lifeboatmen could make a decision the three lifeboats, and all the others as they docked were commandeered, naval personnel put onboard, and the lifeboat crews sent home.

    No lifeboatman had refused to go to Dunkirk. But within three weeks an embarrassed RNLI staged an inquirey at Hythe before a largely naval panel, headed by an Admiral, who decided that the Hythe Coxwain had not only induced his own crew but also the crews of the Dungeness and Walmer boats to refuse to take their lifeboats to Dunkirk. Coxwain Griggs and his brother Dick, the full-time motor mechanic, were dismissed from the service.

    However, Griggs' prediction proved all too true. Nothing was heard of the Viscountess Wakefield for three weeks; then the Admiralty admitted she had been abandoned , aground at La Panne on 31 May. The Charles Cooper Henderson arrived back at Dungeness slightly damaged. Ironically, Coxwain Griggs' advice that the troops should be ferried out by small boats was largely adopted.

    From Romney Marsh at War.
  17. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    As part of the rapid strengthening of the Kent Coast defences in 1940, the Royal Engineers laid hundreds of land mines and it was discovered they had laid some too close to the lifeboat house at Dungeness which caused a danger to the crew when they launched. The Army and Navy had numerous arguments as to who was responsible for the area and eventually the 'Senior Service' came out on top and ordered the Royal Engineers to remove the offending mines. Due to the fact that there was no records to the mines locations it was decided to blow them one at a time and whether by accident or the Royal Engineers way of having the last laugh-The first mine that was exploded set of a further 50 and blew the roof off the Lifeboat House and to add to this many windows in the area were shattered and numerous fish floated to the surface !

    The Army then decided that the Lifeboat house would make a rather good machine gun nest so it was entangled with barbed wire and more mines were placed around the building. Once again the Navy protested and stated that the Lifeboat needed to be free to launch at any time. While all this was going on the Lifeboat men being the 'Piggy-in-the-middle' kept calma nd carried on. No longer could the crew launch on the Coxwain's say so, no matter what the incident they had to get clearance from the Admiralty at Dover first. It was the Navy's job to inform the Army and Naval vessels in the Channel when the lifeboat was launched to prevent it being mistaken as a enemy vessel. Despite the increased risks the crews never failed to answer a call.
  18. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    At 13.15hrs on 10th July 1940 three aircraft were seen to crash into the English Channel about four miles off Lade after taking part in a fight over Romney Marsh.

    The Dungeness Lifeboat was launched at 13.30hrs and on arrival at the scene only floating wreckage was found by the crew. One of the planes was a Hurricane which had collided with a Dornier Do.17. The pilot, Flying Officer T.P.K. Higgs baled out but was killed and his body was eventually washed up at Noordwijk, Holland. The Dornier crashed near the Dungeness Bouy and two of its crew, Fw Umpkelmann and Fm Osovsky were killed but Hptm Kreiger and Ofw Werner Thalman were both injured but were picked up by a Naval Speedboat. The thrid plane was a Messerschmitt Me 110 was shot down and Ltn Kishrich and his crewman were killed.

    From ATB's BoB:
    No.111 Squadron Hurricane P3671. Attacked by Oblt. Oesau of III/JG51 during combat over the Channel off Folkstone 1.00pm. Collided with Do.17 of 3/KG2 and lost a wing at 6,000ft. Flying Officer T.P.K. Higgs baled out but killed. Body washed ashore at Noordwijk 15.08.1940. Aircraft Lost.

    :poppy: CWGC :: Certificate :poppy:

    Dornier Do.17Z. Lost a wing in collision with Flying Officer Higgs of No. 111 Squadron and crashed near Dungeness Bouy at 2.00pm. Hptmn. Kreiger (St. Kap) and Oberfw. Thalman captured. Fw Emkelmann, Fw Osinsky missing. Aircraft U5+FL Lost.

    There are 3 possibles for the Me 110 that was shot down. All were from 8/ZG26.

    On 25th July the Dungeness lifeboat and her crew were called out in the late afternoon to rescue the crew of a steamship sinking off Sandgate. She was one of a convoy that had been attacked earlier that day by some sixty German Dive-Bombers which resulted in five ships sinking and several more damaged. When the Dungeness Lifeboat arrived on the scene the crew discovered the Dover Lifeboat had beaten them to it and had taken the crew off. However the Dungeness Coxwain, Coxwain Oiller decided to escort the convoy as far as Dungeness, where the lifeboat berthed at 19.00hrs.
  19. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    In the early hours of 20th June, 1940 there was heavy gunfire in the English Channel and Ben Tart of the Observer Corps was on duty at Dungeness he later recalled:

    'We saw this ship - we now know it was the SS Rosenburn - coming up. She was not in the convoy and it was light as day, a full moon. She was a mile or two off the Point (Dungeness), and almost immediately we could hear, before we saw, the torpedo boat. He came right up behind the Roseburn right under the rays of the moon; you could see the silouette of the Roseburn. At first he fired many tracers, but she kept going, and the next thing she went up with a huge bang, and Jerry turned round and went off as fast as he could go.'

    The attack was also observed by the Royal Naval Shore Signal Station at Dungeness and the lifeboat was launched. Coxswain Doug Oiller recorded the following in his log:

    At 2.55am on June 20 I received a message from RNSSS Dungeness. I at once called crew and helpers, launched as quickly as possible. We proceeded to the position and found the steamer Roseburn sinking slowly and for'ard and part of her crew were in boats. We transferred them and their luggage to the lifeboat. I then went on board to see the captain. I told him he had better beach his vessel and arrange a tug. He told me a boat with his crew were missing. I dispatched at once the lifeboat, but a naval drifter had picked them up and was going to Dover. The lifeboat returned to station with the ship's crew. On returning we stood by and waited for the tug. It tried towing, but after 1 1/2 hours we had to give up and beached her at Dengemarsh. We remained alongside, then returned to station with crew and an injured man at 1.30pm.

    The SS Roseburn was sailing from Canada to the Tyne with a cargo of pit props. Sometime after the war SS Roseburn was blown up due to her continual danger to shipping in the area.

    Page 59 http://www.arac50.dsl.pipex.com/shipwrecks.pdf
  20. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    I have a war time era book called Britian's Merchant Navy edited by Sir Archibald Hurd, has this illustration of wartime RNLI boats.


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