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)

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