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)


Anonymous said...

Excellent research John, but before you say it, I was not around in 1875. Keep up the good work.

Dave Corb

lifeboatjohn said...

Shame Dave, I was going to come around and interview you!