‘Sir William Arnold’ entered service at St. Peter Port in 1973 and was the second in the Arun class after the prototype which had also been stationed at St. Peter Port for evaluation She was christened on 23rd May 1974 by HRH the Duchess of Kent.
The first three of the Arun Class were built of wood, but apart from one other, the remainder were built of fibreglass. One was built of steel. Some 46 were built, culminating in a Design Council Award. After 20 years service, these boats began to be replaced by the Trent, Severn and Tamar class lifeboats and were eventually sold into private ownership and to other lifesaving organisations around the world.
Brian Green’s great picture of the Sir William Arnold in action
Some £55,000 of the £132,000 were raised by the local community and she was named after the then Bailiff of Guernsey and vice-president of the local branch. ‘Sir William Arnold’ was launched over 500 times in service and saved some 223 lives. Her various coxes and crew were in collective receipt of many awards for gallantry, many of these successes were attributed to collective utter belief and confidence in the lifeboat itself. Probably the most famous rescue associated with the “Willie” as she was affectionately known, was to the cargo vessel ‘Bonita’ in December 1981. https://www.rnli.org.gg/bonita-34-years-ago-gold-medal-rescue/
After Service Life
The ‘Sir William Arnold’ remained on the RNLI books until 24th February 1998 when she was sold to two gentlemen from Manchester who renamed her ‘Our Lady’, keeping her at Fleetwood. Three years later she was sold again to a London owner and renamed ‘Theocrat’. Two years later in 2003, she was sold again. By this time, her internals had been modified to two double cabins and an awning on the aft deck and she lay near the M27 road bridge across the Hamble River. September 2005 saw her purchased by an Irishman Mr. John O’Regan, wh took her over to East Ferry in Cork harbour where she became the ‘Samuel J’ for a decade. Mr. O’Regan said
“I bought her in 2005 and we only love her. Did quite a major conversion inside and summertime used her practically every weekend. Up down the coast here to place like Kinsale, Ballycotton where RNLI lads and lassies there only love to see us, they had an Arun years ago and love going for a burn in our one. I keep her at East Ferry, Cobh, Cork Harbour”
John O’Regan also kindly provided some online links:
The next owner was the Northumberland charity Blyth Independent Rescue which folded in 2018 resulting in her being placed yet again, on the market. It was at this point that Colin Trowles showed an interest and purchased her with a view to restoring her to her original condition with a view to using her as a floating classroom for the RYA training centre with which he was associated. Eventually, it was decided to utilise her as a floating education and experience centre at St. Katherine’s docks in London.
The Amble Boat Company undertook much of the restoration and Colin spent an awful lot of time travelling between London and the North to make his dream come true. Finding equipment of the right vintage was a challenge, as was ensuring that the Caterpillar engines were fit for use. Colin spent quite some time liaising with many interested parties, including the son of Sir William Arnold and various members of the St. Peter Port lifeboat crew to ensure that he would “get things right”. Unfortunately, the Covid pandemic intervened and various planned events have had to be delayed.
Sir William Arnold. (52-02) ON 1025
Designed by J.A MacLachlan of GL Watson, Glasgow
Built by William Osborne yard, Littlehampton 1973
Length 52’ Beam 17’, Draft 5’
Propulsion: 2 x 460 bhp (340 kW) Caterpillar D343 6-cylinder diesels. Fuel capacity 620 Gallons
Range 250 miles at 18.5 knots
The Arun Class took their name from the River Arun in Sussex.