History of St Helier lifeboat by Helen Attenborough

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Launching the WIlliam Henry Wilkinson

This history of St Helier lifeboat was written by Helen Attenborough as a school project in the 1980s

In 1830, the first lifeboat, funded by the States of Jersey, was kept in a boathouse at Havre des Pas.

Mary and Victoria

On 2 April 1884 the Alderney lifeboat Mary and Victoria was recommissioned to a new site at West Park, St Helier (at a cost of £385) and a local crew of 22 was elected. The Mary and Victoria was a 30-foot rowing and sail boat. The vessel was never called out on service.

Sarah Brooshoft, Kirk Ella

In 1890 Colonel E A D Brooshoft left a legacy to the RNLI which enabled the purchase of three lifeboats, “Sarah Brooshoft, Kirk Ella” for St Helier, “Vincent Wilkinson, Kirk Ella” for St Peter Port, Guernsey and “Jonathan Marshall, Sheffield” for Ackergill, Caithness.

A new boathouse was built at London Bay in Victoria Harbour in 1896.

Launching the Howard D

William Henry Wilkinson

Miss Eliza Wilkinson funded the new lifeboat, which arrived on 12 February 1912 and cost £979. The vessel was 35ft long with a beam of 8ft 6 in. It was self-righting and weighed 3.85 tons.

The launching slipway was extended by 50 feet to rectify the 3 foot drop at the end, which had to be built up with sand. Also, before each launch, stones which collected on the slip during westerly winds had to be cleared.

In 1914, the horse contractor went out of business and it was decided that in future a tractor be used to tow the lifeboat.

At the end of her service the William Henry Wilkinson was sold to W S Le Masurier and converted into a motor boat. She took part in the Saint Malo evacuation in June 1940, leaving Jersey on 16 June and returning on 18 June. Only ten days later, on 28 June she was destroyed by the German bombing of St Helier Harbour.

Howard D

The new lifeboat was presented to the Island by Mr T B Davis on 17 August 1936, in memory of the son he lost in the First World War. She was a Light Liverpool craft, built by Saunders Roe at a cost of £3,626. The boat was 35 ft 6 in in length and 10 ft beam, with a draft of 3 ft 6 in. The Howard D was St Helier’s first motor lifeboat, her maximum speed was 7½ knots which could be maintained for up to 100 miles without refuelling.

In 1996 the Jersey Heritage Trust bought the Howard D and she is now being restored back to her original form by a group from the St Catherine’s Inshore Lifeboat crew.

Elizabeth Rippon off La Corbière

Elizabeth Rippon

The first British lifeboat to have a deck cabin and aluminium alloy structure, the Elizabeth Rippon went into service in St Helier in 1948, and had already answered one call when she was launched by Lady Grasett on 18 October. A German-built bunker on the Albert Pier was taken over and converted to be the new station.

The new lifeboat was 49 ft 9 in long with a beam of 12 ft 9 in and a draft of 4 ft 6 in. The maximum speed was 8¼ knots. She was built by J Samuel White at a cost of £20,000.

Equipment included: M F radio, direction finder radio, loud hailer, flares, rocket-line firing apparatus, large first aid kit (including stretcher), searchlight and signalling lamps. A wheelhouse was fitted in 1960 and an echo-sounder in 1964. In 1966 she had an extensive re-fit, including new 65hp engines, a Decca 202 Radar Set and an inflatable dinghy.

Thomas James King, picture Kevin Le Scelleur

Elizabeth Rippon rescues

  • November 1949: Ketch Hannah of Poole, fast on L’Etacq reef, rescued three. A Bronze Medal was awarded to Acting Coxswain Silver Le Riche.
  • September 1949: (Rescue carried out by relief lifeboat Hearts of Oak) Yacht Maurice Georges, a Gold Medal was awarded to Coxswain Thomas King and Bronze Medals to Crew Members Philip Boutell, Kenneth Gubbey, David Robert Talbot, Charles George King, Reginald John Nicholle, George Stapley and Honorary Secretary Lionel Percival Stevens. The lifeboat had searched unsuccessfully for eight hours for a military aircraft that had come down. On the way back to the station a wireless message was received that the yacht was among the rocks of the Demi de Pas. A successful search located the yacht, which was then towed (with the four crew) back to the station after nine hours at sea.
  • February 1950: Motor Vessel Killurin struck Sillette Rock, landed two bodies and rescued three people.
  • May 1951: Motor Vessel La Cap of Cherbourg struck rock near Frouquier Aubert, rescued three.
  • September 1951: Yacht Santa Maria of Carteret, amongst rocks near La Ronde. Saved yacht, rescued three. A Silver Medal was awarded to Coxswain Edward Larbalestier.
  • February 1952: Collier Lyntre of Jersey, struck rocks off Noirmont, gave help and landed one.
  • April 1953: HMS Trafalgar in St Aubin’s Bay, Put 150 sailors aboard in rough weather. Jersey Fishing Vessel Fiona disabled near rocks at Portelet, saved boat and rescued two.
  • December 1953: Motor Vessel Brookley Coombe of Bristol on Minquiers reef, rescued eleven. The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on vellum was awarded to Coxswain Edward Larbalestier.
  • September 1954: States launch Duchess of Normandy at Minquiers in rough seas, landed ten.
  • September 1958: Three men marooned on Greve D’Azette rock, rescued all three.
  • October 1958: Jersey yacht Tanheti II disabled in St Ouen’s Bay, rescued two.
  • August 1959: French yacht Guisane in difficulty off Noirmont, saved yacht.
  • February 1961: Yacht Bel Espoir among rocks at Green Island, saved yacht and landed one.
  • September 1961: Motor Vessel Heron of Delfzijl on Paternosters, landed six and two bodies.
  • October 1964: Motor yacht Mariecelia found abandoned, two-day search, St Aubin’s Bay.
  • January 1966: Pilot cutter La Rosiere on rocks near Corbiere, landed one.
  • March 1966: States of Jersey Tug La Duke de Normandie, struck Minquiers, escorted vessel.
  • March 1967: French Yacht Kraken on Dog’s Nest reef, rescued four. The Thanks of the Institution Inscribed on Vellum was awarded to acting Coxswain Eric Grandin.
  • July 1970: French Yacht Marie Grillon overdue Jersey-Binic, two day search, south of Island, bodies recovered. Jersey Fishing Vessel Bounty disabled off L’Etacq, landed three. States launch Duchess of Normandy and Fire Service zodiac both disabled in service to Bounty, towed both to Bonne Nuit.
  • March 1972: Jersey Yacht Tien Ho disabled off St Catherine, saved boat and landed four.
  • September 1973: French Yacht Bacchus in difficulty off Green Island, saved crew. A Silver Medal and the Maud Smith Bequest, for the bravest act of lifesaving carried out in 1973, were awarded to Coxswain Michael Berry for rescuing six people from the yacht Bacchus. The Thanks of the Institution Inscribed on vellum was awarded to the remainder of the lifeboat crew.
The Elizabeth Rippon in 1955

Thomas James King

Named after an heroic former St Helier lifeboat coxswain, the Thomas James King came into service in 1975 and was officially named by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. The vessel was a Waveney class boat, built by Groves and Guttridge in Cowes at a cost of £100,000 which was funded by an appeal in Jersey.

The steel hull was made up of nine watertight compartments. In the event of a capsize, the weight of the engines and the air trapped inside the hull would force the vessel to re-right itself. The boat was 44 ft 2 in in overall length with a beam of 12 ft 2 in. Maximum speed was 16 knots, generated by two GM diesel engines, each 260hp. The Thomas James King’s operational number was 44:013, which refers to her length and to the fact that she was the thirteenth of her type to be built.

The Thomas James King was launched 288 times and saved 155 lives.

Thomas James King Rescues

  • August 1975: Motor Yacht Audacity, saved boat and rescued three people.
  • November 1975: Yacht La Croix du Sud of St Malo, saved boat and three lives.
  • December 1975: Catamaran Iro Tiki, rescued five. Coaster Georgious B of Cyprus, landed two people.
  • August 1976: Motor Cruiser Romico of France, saved boat and four lives.
  • October 1976: Yacht La Gisette of France, rescued two.
  • March 1977: Yacht Nemo Auditor of St Malo, saved boat and five people.
  • August 1977: Speedboat Spike One of Jersey, rescued two people.
  • September 1977: Yacht Tio II of Jersey, saved boat and two lives.
  • November 1977: Yacht Bagheera of France, rescued three.
  • May 1978: Survivors of sunken yacht Wolfi II of France onboard dinghy, rescued four
  • September 1978: French Yacht in difficulties off Manguese reef, saved boat and four lives.
  • June 1979: Yacht Homet of France, saved boat and four lives.
  • August 1979: Yacht Arwen Gwen of France, saved four lives. Yacht P J Alexandra of France, saved boat and three lives.
  • December 1982: A Bronze Medal was awarded to Coxswain Michael Berry for rescuing the crew of two from the yacht Festina-Lente shortly before she was wrecked.
  • 1983: A Silver Medal was awarded to Coxswain Michael Berry for rescuing the three crew from the yacht CytharaIl. The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on vellum were accorded to the remainder of the crew.

This is not a complete record of all launches. It does not include those noted as 'Searched area', 'Gave tow', 'Gave help', 'Overdue vessel', 'No help and 'Escorted'.

Sources

Mostly transcribed from circa-1980 school history project, for which I collected information from crew members and from data kept at the station house.

Footnote

... and lastly, a little story told to me a long time ago

A lifeboat was about to be launched into the teeth of a gale, a passer-by remarked to the Coxswain “You can’t put out in a sea like that, you’ll never come back.” The Coxswain replied “We have to go out, we don’t have to come back.”

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