Whitby Lifeboat


Whitby Lifeboat Station History

Situated on the North East coast between Teesmouth and Scarborough, the station plays an important part in helping to cover Britain's coastline. Whitby has a long maritime history and a lifeboat station was established in Whitby 30 years before the inauguration of the RNLI.

The Beginning

1802 One of the earliest lifeboat stations in Britain was established by the Whitby Lifeboat Association on the west side of the harbour; the first lifeboat was built by Henry Greathead.

1823 A second lifeboat (No.2) was provided for the town and kept on the east side of the harbour.

1841 While on service to two yawls, the No.2 lifeboat capsized on Whitby Bar and four of her 13 crew were lost.

In the 1800s four Gold Medals and six Silver Medals were awarded for Gallantry for rescues to the many wrecks that occurred off the coast. These included the Medals awarded to Henry Freeman and Thomas Robinson for a rescue in 1861.

1861 The west side lifeboat launched five times to vessels in distress on 9 February. On the fifth occasion two waves capsized the lifeboat, drowning 12 of the 13 crew. Henry Freeman was the sole survivor on what had been his first day in the crew, saved because he was wearing a cork lifebelt. Valiant efforts were made to save the other crew members, especially by Thomas Robinson who tried unsuccessfully to cut the bottom of the lifeboat open with a hatchet.

The lifeboat station was finally adopted under the auspices of the RNLI.

1877 Coxswain Samuel Lacey and Crew Members Richard Gatenby and John Thomson drowned when the east side lifeboat capsized while on service to the schooner Agenoria.

1881 A famous overland rescue took place on 19 January when the lifeboat was taken by a small army of helpers and horses six miles over moorland through deep snow drifts to launch to a wreck off Robin Hoods Bay. The crew of the wreck were all rescued.

In the early 1900s, before the Second World War, one Gold Medal, five Silver Medals and two Bronze Medals were awarded for Gallantry, including:

1914 Gold Medal to Coxswain Thomas Langlands, and Silver Medals to Second Coxswain Richard Eglon and George Peart for saving 35 lives when the hospital ship Rohilla, with 229 people on board, on her way to Dunkirk to evacuate wounded men during the First World War, ran onto a dangerous reef at Saltwick Nab. Lifeboats from Scarborough, Teesmouth, Tynemouth, Upgang and two from Whitby were involved in this rescue. In total, 146 people survived. This was the most outstanding lifeboat service of the War and one of the greatest in the whole history of the RNLI.

The Old Station

1919 The stations first motor lifeboat was placed on service on the east side of the harbour at a new boathouse and slipway. The boathouse served Whitby until its replacement in 2007.

1929 A Centenary Vellum was presented to the station.

1940 A Silver Medal was awarded to Motor Mechanic James Philpot and Bronze Medals to Coxswain James Murfield, Acting Second Coxswain John Dryden (posthumously), Acting Bowman Christopher Wale (posthumously), Assistant Mechanic William Dryden and Crew Members Matthew Winspear and John Walker for a service to the wrecked steamer Charles. A huge wave threw two crew out of the lifeboat and badly injured the coxswain. Crew members John Dryden and Christopher Wale were the first members of a lifeboat crew to be lost during the war.

1946 A Silver Medal was awarded by the King to Crew Member John Harland and Bronze Medal to Coxswain Harry Murfield for rescuing a man overboard from the fishing vessel Easter Morn. The Maud Smith Award for the bravest act of lifesaving was also awarded to John Harland for this service.

1954 A Bronze Medal was awarded to Coxswain Eric Taylor for rescuing four men from the fishing boat Foxglove.

1957 The No. 2 station was closed and the last active pulling lifeboat remains in her boathouse, now used as a museum.

1966 An inshore D class lifeboat (ILB) was placed on service alongside the all weather lifeboat.

1970 A Bronze Medal was awarded to Coxswain William Harland for rescuing the crew of two of the fishing vessel Gannet.

The Thanks of the Institution Inscribed on Vellum was awarded to Crew Members David Frampton and Robert Allen for rescuing a man from a sinking rowing boat.

1974 The all weather lifeboat was placed in a mooring pen near the boathouse.

Over the next 20 years the following awards have been presented.

1975 Bronze Medal to Helmsman Michael Coates Thanks of the Institution Inscribed on Vellum to Crew Member D Wharton for rescuing a man cut off by the tide.

A Bronze Medal was awarded to Crew Member Brian Hodgson for rescuing two people overboard from a swamped speedboat.

1977 Silver Medal to Coxswain Robert Allen Bronze Medal to Helmsman Richard Robinson for rescuing a survivor from the fishing vessel Admiral Van Tromp.

Thanks of the Institution Inscribed on Vellum to Helmsman M Coates and Crew Members B Hodgson and J Easton for rescuing a man cut off by the tide.

1982 Thanks of the Institution Inscribed on Vellum to Coxswain Mechanic Peter Thomson for a service lasting over nine hours to the fishing vessel Rayella.

1988 Bronze Medals to Coxswain Mechanic Peter Thomson and Helmsman Nicholas Botham for saving one of the crew of the capsized yacht Cymba.

1993 Bronze Medal to Helmsman John Pearson

The Thanks of the Institution Inscribed on Vellum to Crew Members Nick Bentley and Glenn Goodberry

A collective Framed Letter of Thanks to Coxswain Mechanic Peter Thomson and his five crew members for rescuing a man after his rigid inflatable boat had capsized.

1996 The Tyne class lifeboat was withdrawn and replaced by the Trent class lifeboat, ON-1212 George and Mary Webb, on 10 April.

1997 The new station D class lifeboat, D-521 OEM Stone II was placed on service on 23 July.

2000 Thanks of the Institution Inscribed on Vellum to Second Coxswain Keith Elliott for a joint service with the Staithes and Runswick inshore lifeboat for rescuing a man from a trimaran.

Framed Letter of Thanks to Coxswain Keith Stuart for saving three men and their fishing coble the Mary Ann.

2002 A Bicentenary Vellum was awarded to the station to commemorate 200 years as a lifeboat station.

2003 A Framed Letter of Thanks signed by the Chairman of the Institution, Mr Peter Nicholson, presented to Helmsman John Pearson in recognition of his initiative and actions in raising the alarm and landing the D class inshore lifeboat to save three men in a small boat on the afternoon of the 23 January 2003. The small boat was in danger in three metre breaking seas at the mouth of the harbour. Having rescued the three men he safely negotiated the entrance to the harbour, despite the dangers to the D class that the sea conditions had created.

2005 The old lifeboat station reopened 19 September 2005 after nearly 50 years. The lifeboat house closed in 1957 and became a museum. It will be brought back into service for approximately a year while the town’s current lifeboat station is demolished and a replacement built.

2006 Boathouse substructure and new berth completed in September at a cost of £1.200,000.
2007 The new ILB1 lifeboat D674 OEM Stone III was placed on service on 15 May. This lifeboat was provided by the generous bequest of Miss Olive Emma May Stone. D521 has been withdrawn to the Relief Fleet.
A new crew facility building completed in August at a cost of £575.000.
2008 A framed Letter of Thanks signed by the Chairman of the Institution, Admiral Sir Jock Slater, was presented to the station in recognition of the initiative, teamwork and professionalism display by all those involved in first attempting to prevent a small craft leaving the harbour in totally inappropriate conditions, and then the subsequent rescue of two of the three occupants on 23 November 2007. The craft capsized and sadly, despite their being rescued, none of the three survived.

I have some work to do to this page as it ends at 2003 leaving it a little outdated.

Station Honours Summary.

At Whitby lifeboat station the following awards have been made

Framed Letter of Thanks
Thanks of the Institution Inscribed on Vellum
Bronze Medals
Silver Medals
Gold Medals

Friday, 19 September 2008 August saw the volunteer crew of Whitby Lifeboats called out a total of 11 times, 7 for the inshore lifeboat & 4 for the All Weather boat. Call outs ranged from people actually in the water to vessels requesting escort into the harbour due to severe weather.

WAR RECORD 1939-1945
Thirty six medals have been awarded, five gold, 14 Silver and 17 Bronze. The last being awarded in 1993.

It is clear that Whitby Lifeboat Station is without doubt a station with a unique heritage, one that is held in high regard throughout the town!

Copyright © Colin Brittain 2022 All Rights Reserved