Admiration for the work and bravery of British Lifeboat crews is unquestioned. As one stands at the mouth of Southwold's harbour on a stormy winters day, watching the raging sea, one is forced to ask the question, " who would want to be at sea in that raging torrent"..?
Not surprisingly many vessels get into difficulties off our coasts every year and It is solely due to the dedication, skill and training (not to mention oceans of bravery) of our lifeboat crews that so many people are rescued from the sea.
Over the years there have been many sad losses of lifeboatmen attempting rescues around our shores, but these tragedies are far outweighed by the many successful rescues that have been achieved. British crews have been honoured time and time again with medals and awards for bravery, and have been featured in many television documentaries, including 'This is your Life'.
The present Southwold lifeboat is of the 'Atlantic 75 class', a rigid, inflatable, rapid launch, high speed craft, for quick response close to shore. It has a maximum speed of 32 knots, an overall length of 7.3 meters, and normally carries a crew of 3. The Royal National Lifeboat Institution expects to attempt rescues within 50 miles of the UK, using its fleet of 260 lifeboats, housed in its 200 stations.
In recent years there have been about 5,000 call-outs annually, with perhaps 1,500 lives saved. Today's lifeboats are a far cry from the earliest boats, which were powered by oar and sail. The first steam powered lifeboat was introduced in 1890, and the first petrol boat in 1904.
Notable Southwold Awards since 1925:
1925 Stations first motor Lifeboat arrives.
1942 Bronze medal voted to J. H. Gillings for gallantry rushing into the sea and rescuing a man in 1942.
1940 The Lifeboat 'Mary Scott' took part in the evacuation of the British expeditionary forces from Dunkrk in May, manned by naval ratings.
1973 Atlantic 21 inshore Lifeboat 'Sole Bay' sent to station.
1973 Bronze medal awarded to Patrick Pile, and Martin Helmer, for the rescue of three people from a motor dingy which capsized off Walberswick Beach on 6th February.
1981 Bronze medal awarded to helmsman Roger Edward Trigg for the rescue of three crew from mvf 'Concorde' which had broken down three quarters of a mile east of Southwold Pier in darkness, gale force winds, continuous snow and rough seas.