The History of the Eastbourne Lifeboat Station

A station was established in Eastbourne in 1822, two years before the Royal National Lifeboat Institution itself was founded. The first boat was provided by Mr John Fuller MP of Rose Hill, Sussex. When he died in 1833 he left the boat “To the inhabitants of Eastbourne”. She was built in Eastbourne by Mr Simpson, was 25ft long and pulling ten oars. Whilst reading the station history below, please keep an eye out for missing detail, we’d love more pictures and information. Thank you.


Eastbourne’s first Lifeboat.

Gift of Mr John Fuller of Rose Hill, Sussex .
The Institution did not take over the station until 1853. Between 1903 and 1924 two boats were stationed there.

At Eastbourne is the first permanent lifeboat museum, being opened in 1937. It is housed in what was originally a lifeboat house and was used as such for 26 years. It was built in 1898 as the William Terriss Memorial Lifeboat House in memory of the famous actor, out of a fund raised by the Daily Telegraph.
1824 Gold Medal awarded to Lieut J Clark RN for the rescue of six people from the brig
Juno was wrecked in a storm at Birling Gap, near Beachy Head on 18 November 1824.


Silver Medal awarded to Lieut H Blair RN for the rescue by Manby Apparatus of four men from a French Lugger that was wrecked at Birling Gap, on 3 July 1840 in a severe gale.


Silver Medal awarded to Lieut J A Gilson RN for the rescue of four seamen by boat from the Schooner L ‘Unione Fortunata wrecked near Beachy Head on 28 January 1843.


The South Holland Society for Saving the Shipwrecked presented each member of the crew with a Silver Medal and diploma in English for a service to a Dutch East¬Indiaman in December, in which the lifeboat rescued the master and nine seamen.


Eastbourne’s second lifeboat The Mary Stirling.
Gift of Mr J Stirling Donald of Cheltenham


Whilst the new lifeboat was being drawn through the streets a small boy, Ernest Best, had his foot so badly crushed that it had to be amputated. The donor of the lifeboat undertook to pay all medical expenses. The Committee of Management placed £50 to the boy’s credit.


Eastbourne’s third lifeboat The William and Mary.
1883 On Sunday, 25 November in the teeth of a gale and pouring rain, the lifeboat was taken to Birling Gap overland and rescued the crew of 11 of the Barque New Brunswick of Norway. The journey took two and a half hours



Bell placed on the coxswain’s house for summoning crew.


Gas service provided.


Eastbourne’s fourth lifeboat The James Stevens No 6. (ON 427)  1899 – 1905

Part of legacy of Mr J Stevens of Birmingham (The boat remained on exhibition in the museum until 1939).

The funds to pay for a new boathouse, was raised by the ‘Daily Telegraph’, to comemorate the well-known actor William Terriss, who had been assassinated outside the stage-door of the Adelphi Theatre, in London, the previous year.

Her Grace, The Duchess of Devonshire, laid the foundation-stone of the new lifeboat-house on Saturday, July 16th. 1898. This building being 50 feet long, 20 feet wide and built of Keymer red brick, at a total cost of one thousand three hundred and fourteen pounds three shillings and eleven pence.

The new lifeboat arrived at Eastbourne on September 26th. 1899 and she was a 35ft. x 8’6″, 10 oared self-righter, which had been built by Roberts, of Mevagissey, at a cost of six hundred and twelve pounds.

Twenty Life Boatswere purchased out of a legacy of fifty thousands pounds from Hr. James Stevens. Of Birmingham.

The Eastbourne Lifeboat was named “James Stevens No. 6”

The boathouse was known as the ‘William Terriss Memorial Lifeboat-House’.


Photo of the William and Mary circa 1880

September 1900

Benjamin Eridge took over as Coxswain.

During a southerly gale, with heavy seas and torrential rain the “Caroline”, of London, a two-masted schooner, had dropped anchor, being storm-bound. At 9-30 a.m. on the 3rd., she was driven ashore, twomiles east of the Lifeboat Station. The lifeboat was taken along the sea-front and launched just east of the Redoubt.

The lifeboat dropped anchor on the weather-side of the vessel and the lifeboat was slowly veered down to her.

Three men were rescued, but the Master refused to leave his ship and so the lifeboat returned ashore at 11.15 hrs.

Later, the Coastguard fired several rocket-lines over the wreck, as she was then being swept by heavy seas and, using the Breeches-Buoy, the Master was brought ashore.

On November 8th. 1902, the “James Stevens No. 6” was launched at 2-30 p.m., to the aid of the s.s. “Southport”, of Cardiff, which was in difficulties near Hastings. M; there was a full gale blowing, it was decided to double-bank the mid-ship oars with four extra crew.

The 17 men who made up this crew were Coxswain Ben Erridge, Second Coxswain Tom Boniface and lifeboat-men Hurd, Simpson, C. Hide, E. Hide, J. Mockett, J. Erridge, G. Erridge, George Erridge, Tim Erridge, G. Erridge, A. Erridge, W. Erridge, F. Huggett and W. Huggett. It must have been something of a record to have had 8 members of one family in the same lifeboat-crew. On this occasion, there were 7 Erridge’ s in the regular crew, plus one more on the double-banked oars.

The seas were so heavy that, on the way to the steamer, the life­boat-men had to use the drogue, or sea-anchor, to ‘steady the boat. But, when they arrived off Hastings, recall-signals were fired from the shore, as the steamer had got out of trouble and gone on her way. M; the conditions at sea were too bad for the lifeboat to get back to her station by sea, Coxswain Erridge decided to land at Hastings, although he mew that to round the western-arm of the small harbour there, he would have to turn the lifeboat broadside-on to the heavy seas. But he decided to try and, as he did so, those watching from the beach were convinced that the lifeboat would be lost, as huge waves crashed right over her. One enormous wave swept Second Coxswain Boniface out of the boat and, a few minutes later, lifeboat-man Hurd was also washed overboard. Fortunately, he was washed back in again by the following wave and Coxswain Erridge then threw a line to the Second Coxswain. But because of the prevailing condi tions, he then had to be towed by the lifeboat towards the shore, for a distance of between 200 and 300 yards. Just before the lifeboat reached the shore, Second Coxswain Boniface became so exhausted that he let-go the rope, but was pulled out of the breakers by members of the crew of -the Hastings Lifeboat. The exhausted Eastbourne men returned home later that night, leaving their lifeboat at Hastings, the boat being sailed back to Eastbourne next day by the Hastings lifeboat-men, under Coxswain Ben Erridge.

These two unique photos, taken arround 1900, show what is believed to be the “James Stevens No 6”
Photos donated to the museum by Mr D. Martin of Bosham, West Susssex.


Corrugated iron lifeboat house constructed at the Fishing Station at a cost of £400 to be used by the No 2 lifeboat, which arrived in 1903. Whilst on service ss Southport on 8 November, two men were washed out of lifeboat; fortunately both were recovered.

In 1902, the R.N.L.I. decided to open a second Lifeboat Station at Eastbourne and a corrugated-iron boathouse was built at the Fishing Station, to the east of the Pier, at a cost of £445-7-Od. A 36ft. x 9ft. ‘Liverpool’ class non-self-righting lifeboat was built, by the boat yard of Thames Ironworks, at a cost of eight hundred and thirty nine pounds, provided out of legacies from the late Misses Wingate, of Edinburgh. The new lifeboat arrived at Eastbourne on June 16th. 1903 and from then on, the Fishing Station boathouse was mown as the ‘No. 1 Station’ and the ‘William Terriss Memorial Boathouse I as the ‘No. 2 Station I, the new lifeboat being christened “Olive”.

This lifeboat served at Eastbourne for 18 years, but was launched on service just 5 times, only two of those launches resulting in effective services. The first of these took place on September 9th. 1903, when, early that morning, during a full westerly gale, the yacht “Britania” began to drag her anchor, near the Pier. The seas were too rough for a shore-boat to go out and so, at 5-45 a.m., the “Olive” was launched and her crew saved the yacht, which had been left at anchor overnight.

During the summer months, the “Olive” would occupy the boathouse at the Fishing Station, with the “James Stevens No. 6” in the boathouse at the Wish Tower, the positions being reversed for the rest of the year.

1903 Mortar supplied to No 1 station as bell could not always be heard.

The James Stevens no6


Eastbourne’s fith Lifeboat The Olive.

Legacy of the Misses J J and CA Wingate of Edinburgh (the boat remained in store at Eastbourne until 1921)


Eastbourne Lifeboat Crew who saved 21 lives from the P & O Liner Oceana which sank when it struck the Barque Bisagua off Eastbourne, Saturday March 16th, 1912.


During the war, arrangements were made for co-operation with local motor boats;
one proceeded to scene of casualty and another was to tow lifeboat.





Eastbourne’s third lifeboat “The James Stevens No 6”.
Eastbourne’s sixth lifeboat “Priscilla Macbean”.
Eastbourne. ON 655, Self Righting Motorboat. Priscilla MacBean.
The greater part of the boats cost has been met by a legacy from the late Mr Edward Macbean of Glasgow.

Eastbourne. ON 655, Self Righting Motorboat. Priscilla MacBean.

The inaugural ceremony of the new motor lifeboat to be stationed Eastbourne, the Bishop of Lewes is dedicating the new lifeboat.
This was the first ceremony at which a motor lifeboat has been launched from a carriage, as in the case of rowing and sailing lifeboats.



Bowman Harry Hendy died of epilepsy stated to be due to exposure on service. He was a widower with two children who received the appropriate pension until they were 16.


Eastbourne’s seventh lifeboat The L P and St. Helen. (Self-righting)
Legacies of Miss A Lovelock of Thatcham, Mr A H Pett of Hastings and Miss H M Turner of Leamington Spa


Centenary Vellum awarded.


Eastbourne’s eighth lifeboat The Jane Holland. (Self-righting)

Legacy of Mr W H Clarke of London


The lifeboat Jane Holland was one of the 19 lifeboats that took part in the evacuation
of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk.

Back row from left to right left to right

? Hurd. Bert Annington. Tom Allchorn. Mike Hardy. Will Prodger. Steamboat Allchorn.Ned Sayers. Bill Boniface.

Middle row from left to right left to right

Fred Allchorn. Harry Sayers. Sharkey Sayers.Not known. not known. not known.

Front row from left to right left to right

Front row? Allchorn. not known. Not known. Fred Allchorn.

Bronze Medals awarded to two members of the crew, Thomas Allchorn and Alec Huggett who went aboard the burning steamer Barnhill on 20/21 March 1940 to rescue the master after the lifeboat had previously taken off 28 of the crew. The Bamhill, when in the Channel, approximately six miles off Beachy Head, had been attacked by German aircraft; a bomb had struck her amidships and set her on fire.


SS Barnhill on fire in the Channel

Eastbourne Lifeboat alongside SS Barnhill


Aftermath of the Action
The full account of the final voyage of the SS Barnhill was reported in the Eastbourne Herald on Saturday 8 April that year. The Eastbourne Chronicle of 10 April reported that the owners of the Barnhill had donated £105 to the Royal National Lifeboat Institute in recognition of the gallantry of the Eastbourne lifeboat men in saving crew off the blazing ship. At a Gildredge Hotel dinner the Mayor, Alderman AE Rush, paid a glowing tribute to the daring and heroism of the lifeboat men and particularly to Thomas Allchorn and Alec Huggett. The following month it was announced they were each to receive RNLI Bronze Medals in recognition of their bravery re-boarding the disabled Barnhill.


Captain Michael O’Neil, the Irish-born skipper of the Barnhill, met the Ladies Lifeboat Guild in the Mayor’s parlour on Tuesday 11 June after several months in hospital. Bearded and haggard after his ordeal Captain O’Neil stood and publicly paid tribute to the bravery of the Eastbourne lifeboat men who had risked their lives in order to save those of the crew and himself.


May 30th 1940


The R.N.L.I. Headquarters, in London received a telephone message from the Ministry of Shipping Headquarters, in London, requesting as many lifeboats as possible, be sent Immediately to Dover. No other information was given or asked for.

Urgent telephone calls went out to 18 lifeboat stations, from Gorleston, in Norfolk, to Shoreham, in Sussex, one call being made to Eastbourne, asking for the “Jane Holland” to be taken to Dover.

This was done and she arrived there the next morning and the lifeboat was then taken over by the Admiralty. During the next two days, the “Jane Holland” helped in the evacuation of the soldiers from the beaches around Dunkirk.

On Sunday, June 2nd., at Dover, a Naval Officer asked the Authorities there if he could be given a boat to take to Dunkirk, .that would not sink under him. Apparently, he had already been over several times, in various craft, but each time, his boat had been sunk. And so he was given the “Jane Holland”.

Just as they approached Dunkirk, the lifeboat was rammed by a motor ­torpedo-boat, which caused a huge gash in her side. But the lifeboat remained afloat on her air-cases, shortly afterwards, a German aeroplane sprayed the lifeboat with machine-gun bullets and the engine stopped.

They were then right outside Dunkirk Harbour and, when the boat came under more machine-gun fire, the Naval party were forced to abandon-ship.

Two days later, the “Jane Holland” was found, drifting in the English Channel and she was towed into Dover Harbour. Her fore-end box had been stoved-in, and there were over 500 bullet-holes in the boat and she was full of water. But, as had been promised, she had not sunk.

It took 10 months to complete the repairs and it was not until April 5th. 1941, that the “Jane Holland” returned to Eastbourne, where George Bonniface had been appointed Motor Mechanic in June 1940.


The Jane Holland after Dunkirk.


November 26th 1948

The “Jane Holland” was launched to the report of a member of the Royal Sovereign light ship was seriously injured.

Two Policeman and the Doctor were taken out to the light ship, the Doctor was transferred aboard to administer aid to the casualty.

The casualty was then transferred to the Lifeboat for the voyage back to Eastbourne where he was then taken by ambulance to hospital.

This was the last Service Launch of the “Jane Holland”


Eastbourne’s ninth lifeboat “The Beryl Tollemache” (Beach)

(Gift of Sir Lyonel and Lady Tollemache of Richmond, Surrey.)

Eastbourne lifeboat Watson class ON 859 “Beryl Tollemache”  (1949 – 1977)

The Crew are wearing both orange and yellow clothing and Beaufort life jackets.

Picture of crew during the 1960s

from left to right

Ron Wheeler.  Alan Pitcher.  RNLI Inspector. Councilor Baker. Derrick Huggett. Eddie Knight. John Buckland.  Graham Cole. Denzil Philips. Ken Morley. RNLI Inspector.


                     On low tides the Beryl Tollemache               Beryl Tollemache would be hauled up to the boat house

                     would be hauled down to the sea.


4th November 1952

The Coastguard reported that an injured seaman from a Dutch ship neede.

April 26th. 1955

The 3,000 ton SS Germania collided with the SS Maro four miles off Beachy Head. The “Germania” suffered some damage, but her Master radioed that he did not require assistance.The vessel was taken close in-shore and tried to drop anchor, to enable the damage to be assessed. half-a-mile east of Beachy Head Light­house, the vessel ran aground.

At 16.45hrs the Beryl Tollemache was launched. Coxswain Allchorn had to pick his way through the rocks to reach the steamer.As the lifeboat got alongside, the steamer broke her back.

The crew of 26 weretransfered to the lifeboat, later, the Master, Chief Mate and one seaman were put back on board. The lifeboat landed the other 23 men and then returned to the steamer and stood-by her all night.

The following morning, the lifeboat transferred the Mate and the crew’s belongings ashore.

That afternoon the lifeboat went out again and assisted the Coastguard to rig a line out to the steamer,

During the next 10 days, salvage-boats frequently went out to the wreck.

May 6th 1955

The Beryl Tollemache was launched in a south-westerly gale and rough seas, , after flares had been fired by the men on board the wreck. When about a mile from the Germania, the lifeboat came up with the salvage-boat Endeavour. Coxswain Thomas Allchorn that the flares had been fired to call attention to their plight. In the heavy seas that were running they were in danger of being swamped. A tow-line was passed and the lifeboat towed the casualty into the shelter of Eastbourne pier where she was anchored.

The Coxswain of the Lifeboat received a radio-message, reporting another salvage­boat was in trouble a mile and a half miles south-east of the lifeboat-house. The casualty was the “Moonbeam”, with a crew of two,a tow line was quickly passed and the casualty taken in-tow. But, as they headed back towards Eastbourne in very heavy seas, the tow-line parted 4 times, the “Beryl Tollemache” herself was then damaged when a piece of driftwood was drawn into her starboard propeller. As a result, the prop-shaft was bent, the Moonbeam was also then anchored close to the Pier, the crews of both boats were then transferred ashore.

Another radio-message was received, reporting more flares being fired from the Germania. The Beryl Tollemache headed for the wreck again.The seas were extremely high, with a severe south-westerly gale and it was dark. towards the wreck,

Huge waves were crashing into the steamer and breaking over the top of her mast and funnel, making an approach on the port side quite impossible operated by the Lifesaving Apparatus Company, on top of the cliffs helped the Coxswain to manoeuvre the lifeboat in towards the starboard side of the Germania,

After hitting the bottom twice the lifeboat was not damaged and ropes were quickly thrown from the steamer, the lifeboat-men then held the lifeboat close to a rope-ladder. Using the engines and rudder most skillfully, Coxswain Allchom held the pitching, rolling lifeboat in position as best he could, being seriously hampered by the damage to the lifeboat’s starboard prop-shaft. In the very difficult situation, all 16 men on board the wreck were rescued.

Coxswain Thomas Allchom skillfully brought the “Beryl Tollemache” back out into deeper water, without further damage and the rescued men were landed safely at 10-15 p.m.

For his outstanding seamanship and tremendous courage, Coxswain Thomas Allchom was awarded a Bronze Medal, his second, by the R.N.L.I., with Motor Mechanic Michael Hardy being awarded the Institution’s Thanks on Vellum for his part in this excellent service.

1955 The Bronze Second-Service Clasp awarded to Coxswain Allchorn for the rescue of 16 from the wreck of the SS Germania and the rescue of four from the salvage boats Moonbeam and Endeavour on 6 May 1955. The Maud Smith award for the bravest act of life-saving by a member of a lifeboat crew was awarded to Coxswain Allchorn for the Germania rescue.


    SS Germania  aground off Beachy Head.

Local boats assisting in unloading cargo

         SS Germania taken from Beachy Head with the William Allchorn  pleasure boat.

4th June 1955.

The wreck of a Sunderland Flying Boat which crash landed in the sea off Eastbourne 4 crew were killed
9 saved by RAF launches and pleasure craft, 1 saved by Lifeboat (ON 859 Beryl Tollemache).

Please read the story of a survivor of the Sunderland Flying Boat Click here


Picture of Will Prodger and Denzil Phillips, Lifeboat crewmen working as boatmen at Eastbourne Angling Club.

Photo taken by George Bridger


Christmas supplies for the Royal Sovereign Lightship

 Picture donated by Dr D. Lewis.


Eastbourne Lifeboat Crew 1961

Back row  left to right,

Jack Huggett. John Bassett(Coxswain). Derek Huggett. Neville Dean. Jim hall.

Front row  left to right,

Eddy Knight. Alan Pitcher. Ken Cramphorn . Dick Strudwick. Tom knight.

1st May, 1963

Aghios Georgios II. was beached at Pevensey Bay 30 April 1963.

Reported Blaze to Coastguard’s

An Eastbourne Coastguard told the Gazette that at 2.48pm a Mr Beckley, of Pevensey Bay, reported spotting a ship on fire in the channel. There were flames on the fo’c’sle.

The Coastguard informed Eastbourne and Hastings lifeboats and suggested immediate launching.

A helicopter was called from No22 Squadron, RAF Tang-mere, but after standing by it was found not to be needed.

The vessel was blazing fore and aft four miles south of Pevensey Bay. The Eastbourne lifeboat launched at 3.5pm.

When it arrived at the stricken vessel the crew had abandoned ship and Eastbourne life boatmen picked up the Greek deaman from the ships small lifeboats.

(report taken from Eastbourne Gazette)



photo’s donated by J. Flude of Willingdon.


D class lifeboat sent to station in May.


The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum accorded to Coxswain J Bassett for
his courage, skill and seamanship when landing an injured keeper from the Beachy Head lighthouse on 11 May. The keeper, who weighed 21 stone and who had injured his legs, was transferred to the lifeboat in a strong south-south-westerly wind and a rough sea.


Sunday October 20th.  During the evening a number of explosions were heard out at sea.  Minutes later two maroons were fired calling the lifeboat crew to the station.

The Beryl Tollemache launched with Derek Hugget the Coxswain at the helm. The casualty was the Sitikund a fifteen and a half thousand ton Norwegian tanker, three explosions had ripped a large hole in the aft section of the hull.

The Sitikund started to list to the starboard side, this made launching the port side lifeboats. Many boats went to the rescue of the casualty including French fishing boats and HMS “Mohawk” a Royal Navy Frigate.

Thirty one survivors were taken off by the fishing boats and then transferred to HMS “Mohawk”. Three crew members had perished in the fire.

The Master and seven crew members stayed on the tanker to fight the fire, The Tug “Meeching” towed the burning ship escorted by the Eastbourne and Newhaven lifeboats, it was eventually beached just off the Hollywell.

Picture from Lifeboat Museum


A 150th Anniversary Vellum awarded.


Charles Dibdin (Civil Service No 32) (Beach)

Gift of Civil Service Lifeboat Fund (previously stationed at Walmer where she rescued 115 lives).


Eastbourne’s eighth lifeboat The Duke of Kent.

Named by the Duke of Kent, President of the RNLI, on 3 July. (Rother Class).


                            Photo donated by J. Flude


                            Photo donated by J. Flude

Photo donated by Ron Wheeler


7th February.

The Lifeboat was launched to assist a small motor boat with one person on board, the casualty was just off Langney Point and had engine failure. One member of the Lifeboat transfered over to casualty to help in rigging a tow line and the steering of the vessel back to the beach at the Lifeboat station.

18th March.

Both Newhaven and Eastbourne Lifeboats were launched to assist 500 ton Cargo ship (Iveran).

The casualty had radioed the Coastguard reporting that the main cargo was on fire.

There was smoke coming from the cargo hatch, the ships crew were using hoses to keep the hatch cover cool.

A fire fighting team from HMS Soberton transferred over using an inflatable dinghy, once on board the fire fighting team started using what foam they had. Eastbourne Lifeboat ferried out a further seventy five gallons of foam.

Early hours of the next day with the fire under control, the cargo (Soya Bean Meal) was just smoldering.

HMS Soberton escorted the Iveran which was now covered with a blanket of foam to Dover.


Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum was accorded to crew member John D Cooper, in recognition of his meritorious action when on 11 May 1983, in a south westerly gale and a rough sea, he entered the water to right a capsized sailing dinghy, helped a woman and two children to re-board her, and when the dinghy capsized again swam beneath the sail with complete disregard for his safety to release a child who had become entangled in the halyards. Framed Letters of Thanks signed by the Chairman of the Institution, the Duke of Athol, awarded to Helmsman Paul Metcalfe and crew member lan Stringer for the part they played in this service.

ILB Crew 1980

Tony Walker. Dave Hendy. Dick Guy. Terry Colbran. Eddie Buckland.


Bronze Medal awarded to the Helmsman lan Stringer, in recognition of the leadership and strength of purpose displayed by him when the lifeboat rescued three men, clinging to their 17ft Dory which had capsized off Beachy Head and was being driven towards the bottom of the cliffs in a moderate breeze and confused breaking seas on 9 December 1986. The boat was assisting in the filming of a new James Bond film. Crew member Derek P Tucker received the Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum in recognition of the extreme physical effort displayed by him on this occasion.

The Eastbourne Lifeboat Crews and Shorehelpers in front of the RNLB Duke of Kent Circa 1987/88

Back row

Eddie Buckland (Head Winchman), Jim Hall (Signalman & former Crew Member),

Tony Hylands (ILB Crew Member), John Delaunay (Deputy Head Launcher),

Alan Wood (ILB Crew Member now Deputy Launching Authority), Frank Tyhurst (Head Launcher),

Dave Hendy (Deputy Head Winchman), Graham Boniface (ILB Crew Member)

Middle row

Peter Toner (Crew Member now Lifeboat Treasurer), Colin Burden (Crew Member),

Martin Charlton (Crew Member), Terry Colbran (Crew Member now Lifeboat Sea Safety Officer)

Front row

Paul Metcalfe (Emergency Mechanic now Lifeboat Operations Manager),

Tony Walker (Assistant Mechanic), Bob Billich (Crew Member), Roger Billich (Crew Member),

Graham Cole (Coxswain/Mechanic), Dave Corke (2nd Coxswain)

The photograph was taken by Peter Stoneman (Shorehelper) at the Lifeboat Station on Royal Parade now the Eastbourne Inshore Lifeboat Station.



A Framed Letter of Thanks signed by the Chairman of the Institution, Michael Vernon, was awarded to Coxswain/Mechanic Graham Cole for the support he gave with the lifeboat Duke of Kent on 23 June, to the crew of the inshore lifeboat who were in difficulties whilst on service to a car which had been driven over the cliffs east of Beachy Head Lighthouse.


Coxswain Dave Corke and the Crew of the “Duke of Kent”

Back row Left to right

Peter Toner (Now Lifeboat Treasurer), Next ? (am making enquiries), Next ? (am making enquiries),

John Hemingway, John Cooper.

Front row Left to right

Paul Metcalfe – Assistant Mechanic ( Now Lifeboat Operations Manager), Andy Huggett – 2nd Coxswain,

Dave Corke – Coxswain/Mechanic, Bob Billich.


9th November.

The Duke Of Kent was launched to assist the yacht Gulmaid with one man on board, The yacht had been anchored in various positions off Eastbourne over the last 24 hours. The Coastguard called for the lifeboat to launch after a large wave had knocked the boat over and she had lost her anchor, with no anchor the yacht started to drift towards the shore. David Corke the lifeboat Coxswain managed after several attempts to get alongside so the yachtsman could be transferred.

Minutes later the yacht was washed ashore near to the lifeboat station.


Gulmaid the next day on the beach


The All Weather Lifeboat moved to Sovereign Harbour.

The Eastbourne All Weather Lifeboat Crew in the newly opened Sovereign Harbour 1993

From left to right

Paul Metcalfe (Assistant Mechanic) now Lifeboat Operations Manager, John Hemingway (Crew Member),

Dave Corke (Coxswain/Mechanic), Martin Charlton (Crew Member), Andy Huggett (2nd Coxswain),

Peter Hurt (Emergency Mechanic), Steve Corbett (Crew Member), Mark Sawyer (Crew Member) now Coxswain.

Eastbourne’s ninth lifeboat “The Royal Thames” (Mersey Class) was named by Her Royal Highness Princess Michael of Kent in a special ceremony that took place at Sovereign Harbour Marina on Monday 6th September.

The Royal Thames was provided by funds raised as a result of an appeal to members of the Royal Thames Yacht Club together with the proceeds of a local appeal in Eastbourne, a generous anonymous gift and other gifts and legacies

Motor Vessel “Tern”

Motor Vessel “Tern”

Motor Vessel “Tern”

The Royal Thames was launched to assist the Tern, which was taking in water eleven miles south east of Sovereign Harbour, (With heavy seas and a westerly gale with gusts up to 50 knots).

The Hastings ALB joined in taking station on one side of the casualty and the Eastbourne ALB on the other side.

When the ALB arrived at the scene the Tern’s cargo had shifted, the fo’c’sle was underwater and her decks and hatches were awash.

A large container ship was standing by and trying to provide a lee for the stricken vessel.

Four of the crew were taken off by helicopter.

After eight hours the Tern eventualy ran aground off Bexhill.


New crew facilities completed at Sovereign Harbour.

January 1st

The Eastbourne All Weather Lifeboat was launched to assist a commercial fishing boat with engine failure.

May 14th

The 100 metre Panamanian registered cargo vessel ‘Ariake Reefer’ was on May 14 1994, in the vicinity of the Bassurelle lightbuoy in dense fog, had a rather too close encounter with the 150 metre Taiwan registered container vessel ‘Ming Fortune’. Both were ships navigating the Dover Strait, neither was meant to be quite so close to the other. Both the ‘Ariake Reefer’ and the ‘Ming Fortune’ were badly damaged and some containers were lost overboard. The enormous gash in the prow of the ‘Ariake Reefer’ suggests the ‘Ming Fortune’ came off the worse.

Lifeboats from Eastbourne, Hastings and Newhaven were launched to the incident along with a Rescue Helicopter.

The Eastbourne All Weather Lifeboat ‘The Royal Thames’ launched at 1435hrs and arrived on scene at 1611hrs. The distance from Sovereign Harbour was 23.8 miles at a bearing of 160 degrees true. The weather on scene was heavy rain and fog with a visibility of approximately half a mile.

After standing by the vessel throughout the late afternoon and evening to monitor the situation giving updates to Dover Coastguard the Eastbourne lifeboat was relieved by Newhaven Lifeboat and returned to Sovereign Harbour at 2338 hrs.

‘Ariake Reefer’

‘Ariake Reefer’


Work was carried out on the main boathouse in order to house the station’s D class lifeboat. Following completion of this work, the previous ILB boathouse was removed.


Silver Medal awarded to the helmsman of the D class lifeboat, lan Stringer, in recognition of the leadership and strength of purpose displayed by him when the lifeboat rescued, at great risk in very strong tidal conditions and turbulent sea, a man clinging to Eastbourne pier on 8 April 1997. The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum awarded to crew member Gary Mead and Mr Tom Hobdel, Letters of Thanks signed by the Chairman of the Institution to crew members Mark Chessell, Dawn Mead and to Auxiliary Coastguard Stuart McNabb in recognition of their meritorious actions during this service.


Two inshore lifeboats were used in rescue work during the floods in Lewes and Uckfield.



10th February

At approximately midnight on the high tide the yacht Going Concern had been driven up the beach to the high water mark. The crew and Coastguard then approached the DLA J Banfield to ask for lifeboat assistance as the crew were going to re-board to attempt to re-float her on the next days lunchtime tide, but as she was laying beam on, assistance from seaward would be needed. Consultation between Duty Officer Ops TDI/E and DLA and it was agreed to launch. The crew assembled at 1145 on the 11th and a short sea trial was undertaken after the fitting of new props. We arrived on scene at 1212; the ILB was in attendance to assist in passing a line to the casualty. At 1225 the crew aboard the casualty informed us that she was starting to lift so at 1226 our towline was passed to them via the ILB. When made fast to his bridle and winches we took up a steady strain as the water flowed the forward securing lines from the casualty to the shore fastenings were let go the bow then came to seaward. We carried on with a steady strain for a further 15 minutes re-positioning ourselves on a couple of occasions. She then slowly slid off the beach and in to deeper water. Before we pulled them much further we requested they check for ingress of water to which they reported they were taking on a small amount, but at the moment their pump was coping. We made our salvage pump ready in case they also reported they were unsure about propulsion, so I informed them that we would tow them straight into the harbour. The Lifting hoist was jacked up ready to lift them straight out of the water when they were through the lock. We towed them into the harbour and up to the lock, they were then happy to motor the short distance into the lock.
When this was completed we returned to station.


photo by Eddie Buckland.


Silver Medal awarded to Coxswain Mark Sawyer and Bronze Medal to Mechanic Dan Guy in recognition of their courage and skill when the crew of two of the yacht Paper chase was saved on 20 October 2002.

The disabled yacht was in very shallow water at the entrance to Sovereign Harbour. It was dark, the seas were very rough and the south-easterly winds were Force 8 and waves were breaking over the lifeboat as the two people were rescued.

Mechanic Dan Guy was washed into the sea, but held onto the man he was assisting.

Coxswain Mark Sawyer received an award from the James Michael Bower Endowment Fund for this service as the only recipient of an RNLI Silver Medal for Gallantry during 2003.

The Shipwrecked Fishermen and Mariners’ Royal Benevolent Society awarded Coxswain Sawyer the Emile Robins Award for 2002/3 for this service. This award goes to the Master/Coxswain of a British vessel who incurs the greatest peril in rescuing survivors at sea.

To read the RNLI report on this callout click here


                         PAPERCHASE the next day                      Member of harbour crew securing boat to the beach


                             RNLI press photo call                                          Mark and Dan with their medals


The new station D class lifeboat 0605 Joan and Ted Wiseman 50 was placed on service on 15 August.


Joan and Ted Wiseman 50 D – 605,

The first of the new breed of inshore lifeboat to be issued to the coast. The boat was given to the RNLI by a Middlesex couple who wished to mark their 50th Wedding Anniversary in a special way. The boat is similar in some respects to the previous D Class boats but improved in others. The material is now polyester rather than nylon and thus more dimensionally stable. A large number of boats whose crews thought of as good boats had been measured and tight dimensions specified in the build. The old D Class boats varied in speed fro 14 to 24 knots and that was just in Eastbourne’s experience.

With the tighter dimensions, less elastic material, improved floor boarding system and a pod to house electronics, anchor, anchor rope, and fist aid kit the new boat is some 50% faster than some of the older boats.
The more rigid hull provided by the new flooring system has allowed for a more powerful engine, more equipment is now carried, including Oxygen, so the boats are heavier and more power was desired. With a new 50HP engine the boats are very responsive to helm input and rapid for transiting to a search area or casualty.


8th January 2007

Three Crew members of the Eastbourne Inshore Lifeboat received a certificate of appreciation from the RNLI for a dramatic rescue in choppy seas on the 18th July 2006.


Helmsman David Needham, Crew Members Andy Chatton and Ian Patterson were invited to the Mayor’s parlour to receive their certificates from the Mayor of Eastbourne.

The photograph of the presentation shows (from left to right) Mr Arthur Perry of Perriwinkles Seafood Stall who alerted the Coastguard, Andy Chatton, Inshore Lifeboat Crew Member,

Councilor Colin Belsey, the Mayor of Eastbourne, Dexter Jones who received an award for keeping one of the youths afloat, Ian Patterson, Inshore Lifeboat crew member, Dan Guy received the Certificate on behalf of David Needham, the Helmsman of the Inshore Lifeboat.


2011 September

Lifeboat volunteers at Eastbourne RNLI lifeboat station have been officially commended for the rescue of a Dutch yacht which was stranded in bad weather and rough seas.

Paul Metcalfe, Lifeboat Operations Manager at the station in the town’s Sovereign Harbour, has received an official letter of commendation from the charity’s Operations Director, Michael Vlasto, who thanked him and his crew for their actions during the rescue.

The incident happened on 8 July 2011, when the station’s all-weather lifeboat, Royal Thames, was launched at 6.55am, following reports that a Dutch-registered yacht, Enterprise, was in difficulties.  At the time it was raining heavily and, following an engine failure, the yacht was stranded in south westerly force 7 winds, the crew facing very choppy seas and a two metre swell.

The lifeboat crew reached the yacht at 7.13am and Deputy Second Coxswain, Dan Guy, was safely transferred to the yacht despite the poor conditions. A tow line was passed from the lifeboat to Dan and established on the yacht. On approaching Sovereign Harbour, Dan deployed the drogue to give the lifeboat better control over the yacht through the large swell running across the harbour entrance.

Once through the locks, the yacht was berthed on a pontoon and the lifeboat returned to station at 9.10am.

In his letter of commendation, Operations Director Michael Vlasto wrote: ‘Although I have specifically mentioned coxswain Mark Sawyer and Dan Guy, it is readily apparent that they were supported by a very professional and committed crew, whose seamanship was of the highest order.’ He continued: ‘Everyone is to be thanked on my behalf – well done, all of you!’

Full report and video clip of rescue


Paul Metcalfe, Eastbourne RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager, welcomed the official commendation. He said: ‘Our volunteer crew members undergo intensive training to ensure that they are ready to respond to any kind of emergency. I am immensely proud that my crew worked so hard in these conditions to bring about such a positive outcome.

‘It is gratifying to know that the selfless efforts of the volunteer lifeboat crew members have received this recognition from the RNLI’s Operations Director. I am very proud of this station and all of its volunteers.’

Lifeboat volunteers at Eastbourne RNLI lifeboat station have been officially commended for the rescue of a Dutch yacht which was stranded in bad weather and rough seas.

WAR RECORD 1939-1945
Lives rescued – 42.

Launches Medals – 22
Two Bronze awarded in 1940 service – ss Barnhill in London (rescued 22).

Ten medals – one Gold, four Silver and five Bronze, the last was voted in 2003.