Friday, 30 January 2009

Sample our Sponges

Well today is RNLI SOS day.

Keen to support this, my year group at school have been busy raising awareness by giving an assembly and raising funds by baking and selling cakes. And they did very well too. They raised over £200 selling their home made wares during breaktime. In addition, several young people stopped me today just to let me know that they have decided that they want to be a lifeboatman when they grow up! How about that.

So well done Dumpton Year 8 (it's a long time since I've witnessed such strong armed selling tactics) and well done to all of the other pupils who remembered to bring some money.

(Thanks to Tyneside college students for the image)

Thursday, 29 January 2009


Why not...

I mean, I've a long list of things I'm intending to blog about, but just can't find the energy amidst a cold and the promise of a parent's evening tonight. So it'll all have to wait. In the meantime I hope you enjoy this nice image.

By the way. Just had a message from Dave to say that we are testing a new, ground based, replacement for our old maroons this afternoon. So if you are in swanage and hear some odd noises...that's what they are.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Are we enjoying this?

I mentioned that Sunday was a bit rough. Whenever the weather is like this and it coincides with rougher than average weather, we tend to change our plans and have what we call a 'rough weather' exercise. In these situations we batten down the hatches, take an experienced crew but with the addition of a few youngsters, and go out to sea towards St Alban's head where the roughest water will be.

Then slow time we run through some drills which can only be practised in rougher water. We have plenty of 'man overboards'; these give crew members a chance to get used to searching for small things in rough water and then maneuvering about on deck when it is pitching and rolling. Each crewmember will get a chance to drive the boat both up-sea and down-sea to get a chance to develop a feel for how she handles in rougher weather and how to adapt your helming style so as to make progress while keeping the crew safe and comfortable.

We will then also practise using the drogue in realistic conditions and also practise
using the breasting lines when recovering the boat onto the slipway.

On Sunday, we did all of this and more. And it went well. The crew coped with the extra demands and most of them seemed to positively enjoy it. And that is the truth of the matter...once you've been on the crew for a while you begin to relish a bit of rougher than average weather. John here certainly seemed to be loving every moment of it (in any case, he's one of those people who lives life for the moment and enjoys it come what may).

Monday, 26 January 2009

You know that it's lumpy when this happens...

You take off from one wave.

And when you land you disappear from view!

Yesterday wasn't really too rough but there were a few larger than average waves out there just waiting to ambush us!

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Soap Our Saloons

As the Swanage crew contribution towards the RNLI annual SOS fundraising day, many of the crew spent part of today washing cars to raise money. Based at Jewsons, our lads and lasses apparently brought part of the town to a standstill as up to 30 cars queued to be washed. In total £723.76 not bad for 6 1/2 hours work!

Tomorrow is an exercise day so be sure to check back and find out what we've been up to.

Friday, 23 January 2009

Opportunity Knocks

Every now and then an opportunity comes along which is to good to pass up. Last week exactly that happened when one crewmember from our station was offered the chance to spend some time on HMS Ark Royal while she is on passage from Newcastle to Portsmouth. As far as I understand it this is purely a jolly and designed to strengthen the (already very strong) link between the armed forces and the Institution. As is traditional in these situations, names were drawn from a hat and the 'wonderful - and not even slightly interested in girls' Matt Steeden won! Amazingly, and incredibly generously, he then decided that he would give his place on the ship to Skid as it is his 60th birthday this year. What a fine fellow.

Well done Matt, a very generous and selfless act. Skid, we are all looking forward to seeing your photos and reading a few blog posts about your trip. Perhaps you'll consider keeping a diary which we could post here?

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Military MAYDAY

Our patch is an area where there is plenty of military activity.

To the North is Poole harbour home to 1 Assault Group Royal Marines and 148 (Meiktila) Forward Observation Battery Royal Artillery, these two essentially fulfill the 'Per Mare' part of the Royal Marine's motto.

To the East is the Solent, home to Marchwood Sea Mounting Centre, the only military port in the UK. A bit further East is Portsmouth, spiritual home to the Royal Navy.

To the West are the MOD Lulworth ranges both on land and sea where live firing exercises are conducted throughout the year.

And yet despite this activity we seldom have much to do with these fine people. By their very nature they are self-sufficient and able to deal with emergencies in their own way using their own resources. Sometimes they have been know to assist us in searches and other rescue situations.

So it was a pleasure yesterday to be able to assist a landing craft from Marchwood in difficulties off St Alban's Head. During the middle of the afternoon the bow ramp on the Landing Craft began to leave. This grew worse to the point where the crew sent out a MAYDAY asking for immediate assistance. First on the scene was Rescue 106 which airlifted 2 of the crew to hospital to be checked over.

By the time that the Swanage lifeboat had arrived the range safety boat from the Lulworth range had taken the stricken vessel in tow stern first to try to step the ingress of water.

Once on scene the Swanage lifeboat passed across the salvage pump and began to deal with the water as best as possible. In due course engineers from HM Warship Sutherland that was also in the area made temporary repairs to the bow ramp. Once this was done the landing craft's Coxswain was happy to head to Poole under his own power. The lifeboat escorted them down the Swash Channel where Poole lifeboat took over the escort duties. The lifeboats were then released to return to station.

The MCA's news report is here

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

I need a hero...

No sooner had I finished writing about Chad this morning than I discovered that he has also featured in today's Daily Echo. Turns out...he's a flippin' hero!

Well done lad.

Where have all good men gone
And where are all the gods?
Where’s the street-wise Hercules
To fight the rising odds?

Isn’t there a white knight upon a fiery steed?
Late at night I toss and I turn and I dream of what I need

I need a hero
I’m holding out for a hero ‘til the end of the night
He’s gotta be strong
And he’s gotta be fast
And he’s gotta be fresh from the fight
I need a hero

(Thanks to Bonnie Tyler for the lyrics)

By the way, Chad is the cheeky looking one stood right behind the General.

Lovely Mathew

It was mechanics work night down at the boathouse last night so I popped down to have a chat. I bumped into Matt and couldn't help but get the impression that he is slightly hurt by my regular digs at him. So I'm taking this opportunity to publicly apologise...sorry mate!

I had been planning to do a post about Matt and his cousin Chad in any case. Sadly Chad is having to take a step back from the crew due to his girlfriend being pregnant and wanting to move back to Poole to be closer to her family. Chad's not so much leaving the crew as taking a career break. We all hope that he will be back full-time in the near future but in the meantime, you (and of course Jane) take our very best wishes with you.

The reason I wanted to write a post about Matt and Chad was because I found this gem in the Lifeboat Journal archive:

Triple CHRISTENING, Swanage. Three grandsons of Victor Marsh, coxswain/mechanic of Swanage 37ft 6in Rother lifeboat J. Reginald CORAH were christened on board the lifeboat on Sunday August 28, 1983. The babies were Gary Marsh, whose three-year-old brother Alan was also christened on board the lifeboat and whose father is a member of Swanage crew; Matthew STEEDEN, whose father is another member of the crew; and James Chadwick, whose parents were home on two weeks holiday from Germany. Belinda, James's mother, was no doubt remembering her wedding in October 1980 when the lifeboat was called out twice, once during the ceremony and again during the reception.

A great story.

Of course I'd love to be able to say that I will never again take a dig at Matt. However...

Wednesday morning at five o'clock as the day begins
Silently closing her bedroom door
Leaving the note that she hoped would say more
She goes downstairs to the kitchen clutching her hankerchief
Quietly turning the backdoor key
Stepping outside she is free

She (We gave her most of our lives)
Is leaving (Sacraficed most of our lives)
Home (We gave her everything money could buy)
She's leaving home after living alone
For so many years (Bye bye)

(With thanks to Lennon and Mcartney)

Monday, 19 January 2009

Deja vu (that's French for 'already seen' Matt)

Remember the Ice Prince last year? Well, almost a year to the day since that happened another 1,500 Tonnes of timber has been lost this time from a Russian ship at about 8am this morning in heavy seas in the English Channel. According to Coastguards it is expected to wash ashore near Brighton later today.

The vessel has a pretty serious 10 degree list to one side but I understand that it is in a relatively stable position to the south of the Isle of Wight. Lets hope that the 25 poor souls onboard are safe and well and remain so.

(Thanks to the Graudian online for the photo)

Blue Monday

The news today tells me that it is 'Blue Monday'. Apparently this is the one day each year when people are at their lowest ebb according to Dr Cliff Arnall, a psychologist with a taste for self-publicity. His formula, taking in six factors - weather, debt, time since Christmas, time until pay day, low motivation and failure to keep new year resolutions - has been wheeled out for the past few years to calculate the most depressing day of the year.

Well, if this sounds like you, we at Swanage Lifeboat have the answer to your problems:

1. Learn to appreciate bad weather (and buy a raincoat).
2. Neither a lender or a borrower be.
3. Think of something to look forward to this year.
4. Tighten your belt.
5. Get a job you love.
6. Make easily achievable New Year resolutions.

Of course, the real solution is even easier. Stop dwelling on you own problems and get out there and volunteer. Do something positive to help others out and you'll find your own problems will just evaporate. heard it here first!

(If you find that my advice is too flippant or that it in any way seems to trivialise your anxieties perhaps you may care to look here)

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Gratuitous post of new toy

Sorry for this non-lifeboat post. It's not as if I haven't got plenty to talk about fact I have a backlog of posts. However, here's my new toy!

Anyone want to buy a 33 year old series 3 land rover? Can't remember how many careful owners it's had but it's a beauty!

Friday, 16 January 2009

Chesley B Sullenberger III

might look like my Grandfather but he sure can handle a bird...he's my new hero!

A mixture of his training, quick thinking, skill and calm determination yesterday averted a significant catastrophe in New York city. I know that this story is all over the web but I just wanted to add my voice to those that are heaping praise on this brave fellow. Backed up by a quick witted and brave team onboard the aircraft and rapid reactions from the various water taxis and other boats, all the passengers were removed from the stricken aircraft in a pretty short time scale. 'Sully' (as Chesley B Sullenberger III is apparently known) then calmly walked the interior length of the plane twice to double check that all were off before making his exit...wing right.


Thursday, 15 January 2009


These details about the establishment if the Swanage Lifeboat Station are taken from an article in the Lifeboat Journal written on the occasion of the lifeboat's centenary in 1975:

In the disaster which precipitated the setting up of the Swanage station, Peveril Point and Poole lifeboat had both played a part, the one in the wreck, the other in the rescue. On January 23, 1875, the brigantine Wild Wave of Exeter was wrecked on Peveril Ledge in a southerly gale. At 0500 when rockets were fired she was on her beam ends. After tremendous efforts, made in the dark hours before a winter dawn, four men and a boy were rescued by Coastguards in four-oared open boats.

Chief Officer John Lose was awarded the RNLI silver medal for gallantry for this rescue.

A telegram had been sent to Poole, whose lifeboat Daylight was towed round by the tug steamer Royal Albert, but they had seven miles to struggle through the gale and when they arrived the survivors had just been taken off.

J. C. Robinson, of Newton Manor, was on the shore, and he was a man of action. That same day he wrote a letter to The Times; it was published on January 26th. This letter he preserved with other papers in a scrapbook now housed at the Library in Dorchester. 'Swanage has hitherto had no lifeboat,' he wrote, 'but after this morning's work we shall supply that want.' Mr Robinson describes how Coastguards took out two boats and used rocket-firing apparatus, but how the boats could not get near enough; how a telegram was sent to Poole; how, at daylight. . . '. . . five dark sodden bundles, rather than living creatures were seen, all clustered together, clinging to a mass of tangled rigging, at the highest part of the ship's hull.' Coastguard boats were manned again, and nine men went out with Chief Officer Lose. The wind moderated and shifted a point or two. 'Soon we see a coil of rope thrown from the largest boat and caught by one of the living "bundles" on the ship's hull, and in a few minutes (thanks be to Heaven!) all five—one a very small one, a poor little benumbed lad of 10 or 11 (who had been washed off once and caught again by the 'scruff' of the neck like a drowning dog) were safely stowed in the boat.' Soon after 0700 the Poole boat arrived; before 1000 Wild Wave was a thing of the past. 'Now, Sir, I have written this account less to record the excellent discipline, efficiency, and gallantry of the Swanage Coastguard, than to call attention to the urgent needs of the district and the adjacent coast. It will scarcely be believed that along all the line of the coast of Dorset and Hants, from Portland to Hurst Castle, there is not a single lighthouse nor a single harbour of refuge!' Mr Robinson was prepared to take direct action himself. Both he and G. Burt, of Purbeck House, at the scene of the wreck proposed to present £20 each towards a lifeboat.

But on the same day that Mr Robinson's letter appeared in The Times, Richard Lewis, RNLI secretary, wrote to him: 'With reference to your letter in The Times of today, describing the wreck of the brigantine Wild Wave off Swanage on Saturday Morning last, and speaking of the formation of a Lifeboat Establishment at that place, I beg to say that I have no doubt the National Lifeboat Institution will be quite prepared to organize a Lifeboat Station at Swanage should it be found desirable and practicable to carry out your suggestion.' It was found desirable and practicable, and the lifeboat Charlotte Mary was on station at Swanage the following September. Moreover, Trinity House erected a lighthouse on Anvil Point in 1881.

(Taken from the complete historical archive of the Lifeboat Journal Volume 44, Issue 453 - 1975)

Top Secret

Last night was exercise night. Both boats were at sea and busy. Unusually the ALB had a full complement of experienced hands and so rather that being a 'learning' exercise it was more of a 'doing' exercise. This of course is very beneficial as it forces us to rely on each other and ultimately gives us all confidence in our joint ability. Amidst various technical problems with electronic kit we conducted a 'blind-pilotage' exercise through the East-Looe and Swash channel approaches to Poole harbour and acquitted ourselves very well.

On completion it was back to the boathouse for a wash down and tidy up. I spent a moment looking through our archive of old photos and papers to try and find more information about old lifeboats. Tucked into a file I found this gem. Apparently this came form the estate of Bobby Brown and details what the crew of the lifeboat were to do in the event of a German invasion during the war! It is headed Secret but I hope it is now OK to talk about this and that the danger has passed?

It says:

In the event of invasion Life boats will be ordered to be immobilised by the Naval Officer-in-Charge Poole. The following procedure will be carried out in Poole and Swanage respectively. The Naval Officer-in-Charge or other responsible Officer, will personally order the Life Boat to be immobilised by visiting the Life Boat House in conjunction with his duties (paragraph 5(c) Action and immobilisation, Poole). The Lifeboat's crew will immobilise the craft by removing vital parts of the engines and concealing or destroying the masts and sails. The crew will retire to a safe place.

How exciting! I wonder what the crew then might have considered to be a safe place to retire too?

Wednesday, 14 January 2009


There has not always been a lifeboat in Swanage. Until 1875 it was the responsibility of the local Coastguard to rescue the crew of any vessel in peril in the vicinity of Swanage. Typically this would be done once the vessel had gone ashore using the ‘rocket apparatus’, a rocket powered breeches buoy. Alternatively they might alert a nearby lifeboat, the nearest at the time being in Poole, and request that they assist. Often this might prove impossible or take too long in the circumstances. Commonly, local men, manning their own shore boats, would launch to assist. In doing so they not only imperiled their own lives but also put their own livelihood at risk. It was common at the time for the RNLI to recognize these selfless acts of bravery with their thanks, with medals and with cash rewards.

On the 23rd of January 1875 there was a serious gale and a heavy sea running down-channel. The Brigantine, ‘Wild Wave’ of Exeter, was heading for Poole harbour but loosing its struggle to round Peveril Point. Gradually it became apparent that she was not going to make it and that the 6 men onboard were going to need rescuing in some way. It was only “with difficulty, and by incurring much risk”, that the Chief Officer of H.M. Coastguard, John Lose and 12 of his men put to sea in their boats and saved all 6 of the crew from the Brig. For this act of bravery Mr Lose was awarded the Silver Medal of the Institution and his men were rewarded.

As a direct result of this rescue the local residents of the town decided to petition the Lifeboat Institution and request that a lifeboat station be created in the town. Consequently the region’s Lifeboat Inspector was sent to visit the town to assess the need. On Thursday 4th March 1875 at a committee meeting of the Insitution, the Duke of Northumberland, Chairman of the Lifeboat Institution at the time, approved the request of local Swanage residents and the recommendation of the Lifeboat Inspector that a lifeboat be stationed at Swanage. Provided, that is, that the local residents “extend their co-operation to the undertaking”. This was of course agreed to and in a very short space of time a boathouse was built (at a cost of £350 on land provided by the Earl of Eldon), a slipway constructed (Cost £175) and a boat, the ‘Charlotte Mary’ provided from a bequest of Miss Margaret Ryder Wilde in memory of her two sisters Charlotte and Mary.

On the 16th September Miss Wilde’s nephew and his wife came to Swanage along with various dignitaries, officials of the Institution, local people and nearby lifeboat crews. The first President of the Swanage branch of the Lifeboat Institution, George Burt esq, attended the naming and launch saying, “that he felt sure that the crew would fully perform their duty with the lifeboat at all times”. Miss Wilde’s niece then named the boat before it launched in style (the Coastguard and Artillery Volunteer Corps fired a volley each) for its maiden exercise with the Poole and Kimmeridge lifeboats in the bay. This included being intentionally capsized by a crane to prove its self-righting ability.

I would like to think that in the ensuing 133 years the crew of the Swanage lifeboat have lived up to the expectations of George Burt and been a credit to the memory of Miss Margaret Wide and her two sisters…

(Quoted material is Copyright to the RNLI and taken from the Complete Historical Archive of the Lifeboat Journal)

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Good neighbours

Our neighbours, the Coastguard, will shortly be moving from their current building (which is minute and woefully inadequate) to a new purpose built facility in another part of town. It will obviously be a huge improvement for them to have a building which is warm, dry and has the space to train, maintain and recover from shouts. It will also probably be good for us. At present, whenever we have a shout, we drive out to Peveril point. Part of the journey is along a single track road. Almost by definition, there will be at least one vehicle struggling to drive against the flow of lifeboat traffic...the Coastguard rescue truck! So there is every likely hood that our response times and the Coastguard response times will improve marginally. All we need now is for Southern Electric to connect the power!

Friday, 9 January 2009

Well hung...

Dave informs me that the three portraits have now been hung in the boathouse. I think they look pretty fine. I'm sure you'll agree?

Jim Hardy

Although I never knew Jim Hardy, this 1969 painting shows that he certainly had the face of a lifeboatman. Born in 1907 he had the reputation of having been a true local character. He became involved with the lifeboat in the early 1930's and enjoyed a long association with the boat and it's crew. Although he was not eligible for war service, he left Swanage during the war years and moved to London where he built lifeboats for Merchant ships in a boatyard on the Thames. In 1947 he returned to Swanage and continued his work with the Lifeboat.

His commitment to the town extended to being a local Councillor and he sat on the old Swanage Urban District Council. It is clear from what little I know of Jim that he valued the concept of service before self (a concept which I tend to think is undervalued today), we could learn much from him I'm sure.

Sadly details of Jim's service are in short supply, but I did find this interesting snippet in the 'Complete Historical Archive of the Lifeboat Journal'. It is probably a service which Jim took part in:

At 11.25 in the morning of the 4th of November, 1951, the Niton Radio Station reported a wireless message from a steamer that a schooner was in distress sixteen and a half miles south-south-east of Durlston Head, and at 11.40 the SWANAGE life-boat R.L.P. was launched. A southerly gale was blowing, with a heavy sea. At 2.45 in the afternoon the life-boat found H.M.S. Redpole towing the schooner Lamorna, of Southampton. The schooner had a crew of fourteen, and was bound for the South China Sea to search for Captain Kidd's treasure. The warship asked the life-boat to stand by,' which she did, but at 4.20 the Redpole said the life-boat was no longer needed and she made for Poole, as in that weather she could not have been put into her house at SWANAGE. When she was about half a mile east of Poole harbour she received a wireless request from the Redpole, now four and a half miles south of the Needles, asking her to return and stand by again, but she replied that the Yarmouth life-boat could reach the position more quickly.

Accordingly at 6.10 a message was sent to the Yarmouth life-boat station through the Niton Radio Station and the Ventnor coastguard, and at 6.24 the life-boat S.G.E. left her moorings, with the second coxswain in command. She found that the Lamorna had broken away from the Redpole, had lost her masts and had damaged her rudder. The life-boat spread oil on the water to help calm the heavy, breaking seas, and with great difficulty, owing to floating spars and ropes went alongside. She was slightly damaged, but she rescued the fourteen men and returned to her station, arriving at 8.50. The SWANAGE life-boat meanwhile had reached Poole at seven o'clock. The Lamorna eventually drifted ashore five miles east of Bournemouth. The owners and captain of the Lamorna gave 75 guineas to the Institution and 25 guineas to the Yarmouth crew in gratitude for the rescue. — Rewards, SWANAGE, £83 3s. 6d.; Yarmouth, Isle of Wight, £9 3s. 6d.

Curiously the Swanage crew were rewarded with £83 3s. and 6d. while the Yarmouth crew (who actually effected the rescue) only received £9 3s. and 6d. Perhaps this was due to their additional reward from the owners of 25 guineas? I'd certainly be intrigued to know how this system of rewards worked and when it was phazed out...

(Quoted material is Copyright to the RNLI and taken from the Complete Historical Archive of the Lifeboat Journal)

Thursday, 8 January 2009

'If there be one...

subject that might be expected to command the attention of a maritime country, it surely must be the safety and welfare of those “whose business is in the great waters” and yet how imperfectly informed, how supinely indifferent, is the great bulk of our population as to the causes, the prevention or the mitigation of the horrors of shipwreck!’

So started the first issue of the Lifeboat Journal in 1852. Today the arrival of each Journal is eagerly awaited by enthusiasts and supporters up and down the country. The latest issue has just arrived and was particularly exciting because it contained several mentions of us here in Swanage. It was also interesting because it contained a mini review of the new complete historical archive of the Lifeboat Journal which has been produced by the RNLI Heritage Trust. This is available to buy on CD-Rom and DVD from the RNLI (Cost - a whopping £100 but believe me it's worth it).

The RNLI has recently completed this epic project. In total an amazing 582 issues of The journals were scanned and cross referenced to provide a complete account of 156 years of saving lives at sea. You may have noticed that I've been dipping into this recently (Tamsin Thomas arranged on-line access for me in return for a review on here) and very exciting it is too. Hidden in amongst the minute detail of past times in the Institution are some incredible hidden gems. Over the next few weeks I'll try to bring you a few more of these. Here's one for starters:

Major Peter de la Billiere M.C., 22 Special Air Service Regiment, wrote to the honorary secretary of the Tenby life-boat station after the service in March, recorded in the June 1965 issue of THE LIFE-BOAT,

Dear Mr. Reason-Jones,

I am writing to thank you on behalf of all my men and in particular those who were involved in the recent canoe incident off St. Govans. We are all very much aware that it is thanks to the prompt and efficient action of your crew that we owe the safety of the four survivors of the two canoes which you rescued.

Your service is famous throughout the world and nothing I can say can enhance your unbeatable reputation. However, I hope you will accept this plaque as a small token of our esteem and appreciation of your work and in gratefulness to you for your efforts on our behalf on the night of 18/19 March. We would also be grateful if you would put the enclosed cheque towards the funds for your invaluable work.

Yours sincerely,


Being a keen kayaker and military historian this was of particular interest to me. Not surprisingly, then Major, now General Sir Peter De La Billiere has remained a keen supporter of the RNLI ever since. Some of you might have heard of him?

(Quoted material is Copyright to the RNLI and taken from the Complete archive of the Lifeboat Journal)

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Robert Charles Brown BEM

Robert Charles Brown was born in 1901 and was known as Bob or Bobby. He began his long and distinguished career in the RNLI in 1917 at the age of 16. Whilst continuing his work as a local fisherman he became highly respected as a skilled boatman. On the 25th March 1934 he was appointed Second Coxswain of the lifeboat and his service record of this time states that he could, 'navigate East of the station to Newhaven and West to Fowey'. It added that he could read a chart.

During 1934 he received the Institutions Bronze medal in recognition of his part in the rescue of the yacht Hally Lise. On this rescue Bobby spotted an unconscious man in the water. Without hesitation, and still wearing his oilskins, lifebelt and seaboots, he jumped overboard and swam to the drowning man. He then supported them both until the lifeboat was able to turn and pick them out of the water.

In 1941, during the second world war, Robert Charles Brown was appointed Coxswain of the Swanage Lifeboat and served as such for 25 years before retiring in 1966 (having had his service extended beyond retirement age). He was later awarded the British Empire Medal for service to the RNLI. During his service he recieved various other awards too. Notably this one:

On the 31st, December, 1943, the Swanage life-boat rescued three lives from the French naval launch "Chasseur 5", which had capsized in a heavy sea when escorting a submarine. The men were clinging to her keel. On July I7th at Swanage an officer of the French Navy presented medals awarded by the French Government to COXSWAIN R. C. BROWN and each of the five members of his crew, the silver-gilt medal of the French Life-boat Society to COXSWAIN BROWN, and the Society s bronze medals to the bowman and motor mechanic. He also presented to Sir Godfrey Baring, Bt., chairman of the Institution, the cross of commander of the French Merite Maritime, and a plaque from the French Life-boat Society.

(Taken from the Lifeboat Journal Archive: War Years War Bulletin 25 - 1946)

A further interesting service resulted in the 'Thanks fo the Institution on Vellum':

At 1.55 on the afternoon of the 12th of December, 1955, the Swanage coastguard told the honorary secretary of the Swanage life-boat station, Mr. W. Powell, that the tug Flying Kestrel had passed a distress message to Niton Radio Station. The Flying Kestrel had had a barge in tow, but this had broken adrift off Poole Bar buoy and was driving ashore. There was one man on board the barge.

The Swanage life-boat R.L.P. was launched at 2.14. The sea was very rough, a gale was blowing from the east-south-east, and it was one hour before low water.

Breaking Sea Astern: COXSWAIN Robert BROWN made for the position, setting a course which would keep the life-boat well clear of Standfast Point at the southern end of Studland Bay. As he neared the buoy he saw the barge aground on Milkmaid Shoal, and once more altered course. This brought the wind and the breaking sea astern, and the drogue was streamed until the life-boat approached the barge. By then the time was 2.40.

The barge was aground on the seaward edge of the shoal, about half a mile from the shore, and was in six feet of water. Her head was to the north-north-east. COXSWAIN BROWN decided to approach the barge on the weather side because of the lack of water to leeward. He made one trial run, in which he passed close to the starboard side of the barge, but the lifeboat hit the bottom a number of times and was swept by the breaking sea.

Veered Down on Barge: After this trial run COXSWAIN BROWN decided that he must anchor and veer down on the barge. Using both engines he was able to manoeuvre the stern of the life-boat so that the survivor was able to jump aboard without injury. The man was rescued at 3.5.

The life-boat returned to Poole, where the survivor was landed at four o'clock.

As the weather would not allow her to be re-housed at Swanage she remained at Poole until the 15th of December, when she returned to her station.

For the good seamanship, sound judgment and initiative which he showed in handling the life-boat in difficult and dangerous circumstances, COXSWAIN Robert BROWN has been accorded the thanks of the Institution inscribed on vellum.

Rewards to the crew, £12 10
Travelling expenses, £2 2s

(Taken from the Lifeboat Journal: Volume 34, Issue 375 1956)

In due course he returned to service after a fashion when our current Mersey class lifeboat was named after him by his son Robert James Brown, the British actor famed for playing the part of 'M' in the Bond films between 1983 and 1989.

I wonder if in years to come we will be putting to sea in a lifeboat name the 'Martin Steeden', or the 'Christopher Haw'?

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Fred Crutchfield

In the 60's and 70's Eric Lydon, the licensee of the 'Old Ship Hotel', and a very gifted artist, painted several paintings of crewmembers of the Swanage Lifeboat. In time these paintings were re-hung in the bar at the Mowlem, owned by Hall and Woodhouse. Sadly this bar is no longer being run by Hall and Woodhouse and so the pictures have been passed to us for safe-keeping by the families of the three men depicted.

Fred shown here led an interesting and slightly unusual life. Born in 1908 he trained and began his working life as a solicitor in London. At the outbreak of the second war he joined the Navy and went to sea on Minesweepers off the East coast of England. The war would seem to have unsettled Fred's life somewhat as when hostilities ceased he resumed work as a lawyer but in Swanage rather than London. Working for a local solicitor Fred lodged initially with Ron Hardy who became Coxswain of the lifeboat on Bobby Brown's retirement.

Obviously this proximity to the sea and lifeboatmen re-kindled his interest in the sea and so Fred joined the crew (I haven't been able to find out exactly when). In due course he became reserve Mechanic on 6th May 1957 and served as such until 14th September 1963 when he was appointed Station Mechanic. He retired on 12th April 1970. During his time on the lifeboat crew Fred not only served onboard the Swanage lifeboat but was also spent time delivering other stations lifeboats around the coast for repair and refit.

Thanks to our Chairman Robin for his research. If anyone has any further details to add to this potted history of Fred please let me have them as I'd like to add to this.

Monday, 5 January 2009

A day of three parts

Yesterday both boats exercised at 9.30. Being the first exercise of the New Year this was very much a dusting off of the cobwebs and a chance to get back into the groove ready for another year in the life of Swanage Lifeboat. Little did we know that the year was about to kick off with a bang. Just as the ALB was being backed onto the slipway and the first lines re-attached the call came for the boat to head out to sea to assist a charter fishing boat with a sick passenger. It turned out that the bat in question was our very own Tom Greasty's boat San Gina.

Not surprisingly he dealt with the situation in a very cool, calm and professional fashion.

Two crew members (Gav and Matt) were put on board the vessel with a first aid kit and oxygen and Tom headed back into the pier to meet the ambulance. In pretty short order the job was done and the lifeboat returned to station to re-house.

And then later in the day, just as most of us were tucking into our Sunday roasts our pagers went off again. This time it was to search for a woman who had been seen entering the sea near ocean Bay but had not been seen coming out again (it was dark by this time). Naturally, because of the cold and darkness, Portland called out all assets; both lifeboats, Rescue 106, CG shore based teams, the police and the police helicopter. Luckily (and I say luckily because if the woman had been still in the water she would have been lucky to survive even the length of time it took us to get out there and search) the police found the lady at home fit and well.

I wonder if this is an indication of what the new year will bring?

(Photos from the boat camera - photographer not known)

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Coming up...

Read Becky's recent press release and you will see that we have been lent some rather fine oil paintings of past crewmembers. I intend to spend time over the next week filling in some of the details about these predecessors of ours. In the mean time, have a read of the press release here.