Lifeboat timeline 1900-1999

January 5th GWR ‘Ibex’  strikes Platte Fougère rocks, two lost. Capt. Baudains certificate suspended for 6 months. Refloated months later.  

The sum of 10/- per hour paid to the Guernsey Tug Company for the use of a tug when required by the lifeboat, day or night. 

March 6th. ‘Ocean Queen’, London to Jersey strikes Kaines d’Amont near Creux Mahie, Pleinmont and becomes a total loss.  Lifeboat ‘Alert’ launches but returned unused, under tow of tug ‘Vixen’. 

Yet another shipwreck prompts building of the Platte Fougère Light on the Brayes reef. The first concrete lighthouse, the first unattended, controlled from ashore-lighthouse. Probably the ugliest lighthouse in the world.  Cost £10,000.  

March 15th. Platte Fougère 17,600 candlepower lit for the first time.  The foghorn, known as ‘The Lowing Cow’ was said to be powerful enough to be heard on France.  
The RNLI offer the station a new lifeboat. The Hon. Sec, Cox and treasurer go to the UK where they visited Teignmouth, Polkerris and Salcombe to inspect other lifeboats.  They recommended replacement with one similar to that stationed in Salcombe

RNLB ‘Arthur Lionel’ 35 ft. sailing and pulling lifeboat, 12 oars replaces ‘Vincent Wilkinson, Kirk Ella’.(to 1929).  Donated by Sir Thomas Tobin of County Cork, at a cost of £1,000.  John Gillman Cox, David Luscombe 2nd.Cox. 

Experiments to keep the lifeboat afloat in the Harbour during the winter and resolved ‘That the scout boat and dinghy be hired for £3 a year to put the crew on to the lifeboat.’

Nov 13th.  The steamer ‘St Malo’ sighted 5 miles NNW of the Brayes, by the Coast Guard at Ft. Le Marchant, is seen to turn turtle and founder.  This remains unreported to the lifeboat station for two hours.  Lifeboat then not launched due to damage and weather.  This event was the cause of much communication between States of Guernsey, Coast Guard, Admiralty and RNLI.  Recommendation made for powered lifeboat.

Jan 20th Guernsey RNLI committee resolve that the station be temporarily closed (due to the war) but the resolution not carried through into action.  There is also a call for a powered lifeboat by the Bailiff among others, which was rejected by RNLI as the ‘station history does not warrant it and the funds being raised locally are insufficient’.

Jan 23rd, The body of R. F. Manning, from the yacht ‘Iris’ is found under a rude shelter made from a ship’s grating on Galeau, a.k.a. Galand, (The Humps) – sadly he died of starvation and exposure within sight of safety.  

June 6th,  a public meeting held to request the RNLI to station a motor lifeboat in the Island.

The States resolve to contribute £300 as a voluntary gift to the RNLI- when they station a power driven lifeboat in the Island. 

Although John Coombes the Coxswain had a telephone in 1918, telephones were officially approved and installed for Coxswain, Second Coxswain and then all the crew.

Oct 27th RNLB ON 719 Barnett class 51 ft. lifeboat at cost of £11,500 replaces ‘Arthur Lionel’ (to 1954).  Capable of 8.5 kts, two 60 hp petrol engines and fitted with W/T radio.  Called out 90 times whilst on station, the first powered lifeboat and the first to be properly moored afloat in Guernsey.  Communications were still relatively poor and much reliance was placed on the services of Mr.W.T. Bennet in a private capacity and also reliance upon the Post Office and the Railways Company – always provided, of course, staff were on duty. 

February 25th  The first rescue by a Power Driven Lifeboat based in Guernsey- to the States own workboat!

Sept 9th, a Centenary Vellum awarded to the station.  This award, gratefully accepted, is presently believed to have been in error, as it appears to have no obvious connection with any relevant historical date.

August 12th.  Ladies Lifeboat Guild created under the direction of Mrs. O. Priaulx.

Dec 6th RNLB ‘Arthur Lionel’ returned to the UK, the ‘old lifeboat house’ was closed as it was no longer required.  

September 5th. ON 719 named ‘Queen Victoria’.

H.R.H. the Prince of Wales meets the lifeboat crew on board the ‘Queen Victoria’

April 6th Regular Seaplane service Guernsey to Alderney started up.

July 31st.  Seaplane ‘Cloud of Iona’ lost en route from St. Peter Port to St. Aubin, Jersey. This fascinating and tragic event prompted Jersey to have a motor lifeboat – the ‘Howard D’ arrives the following year.  

W/T (Wireless telegraphy) radio replaced by R/T (Radio Telephony).  Until the previous year, the Jersey lifeboat had neither engine nor radio!

French Trawler ‘B3035’ in difficulties at Havre Gosselin, Sark. Lifeboat and ‘New Fawn’ with Harbourmaster Capt Franklin on board, attend.  It was later revealed that she was a French ‘submarine chaser’ with 43 crew, 6 guns and depth charges! 

28th June.  What a terrible day for the Channel Islands ships and seafarers. At 1854 pm, and known as the ‘Tomato raid’, the Steamer ‘Isle of Sark’ was strafed whilst alongside in Guernsey, sixty-seven injured and thirty-four killed in the raid.  Capt. Golding later awarded the OBE for his calm management of the situation.  ‘Isle of Sark’ sailed at 9.54 pm with 651 passengers, the last passenger voyage from the Islands until after the war.  During same incident, ‘Courier ‘ from Alderney under Capt. James Ingrouille was also attacked, ran herself aground at St Sampson, and was refloated later that night.  The relief lifeboat RNLB ‘Alfred and Clara Heath’ ON 672 was strafed en route to Jersey to collect their lifeboat the ‘Howard D’, intending to evacuate both lifeboats to the UK, thus preventing them from falling into enemy hands.  Harold Hobbs, crew, son of the Coxswain Fred Hobbs, was killed. Gerald Dunstan injured.   Harold’s wife was granted a pension by the RNLI.

The dead from the raid on St. Peter Port included Police Constable Clifford ‘Chipper’ Bougourd.  His son Peter went on to become the Coxswain of the St. Peter Port lifeboat. 

As a consequence, during the war period, the relief lifeboat RNLB ‘Alfred and Clara Heath’ remained in Guernsey and was used by the German forces as a patrol boat and scrapped at the end of the war. 

Harold Hobbs

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RNLB ‘Queen Victoria’ returns to station having been used as a relief lifeboat in England and Eire during the war years. 

Signal Station established at the North Pier Head. 

Lifeboat house built to the east of St Julians Emplacement

February 16th Lifeboat called to search for ‘Deeness’ in trouble South of Alderney. Found her high and dry 5 miles south of Goury in France, less than 4 miles from the French lifeboat station.  The crew had walked ashore. This event prompted discussions between Islands and French Authorities, held in Jersey, which led to much improved communications and development of a square grid overlay for charts.  This system, known as the MANCHEGRID is still in use 2008.  

22nd July ‘Flying Christine’, ex Seaplane Tender and Herm speedboat launched, as the very first St. Johns Ambulance Launch.  This useful Search and Rescue asset is now recognised as both inspirational and pioneering. 

Commemorative vellum to mark 150th anniversary awarded

RNLB ‘Euphrosyne Kendal’ ON 912 arrives to replace ‘Queen Victoria’. (To 1972) Barnett Class, 52 ft. two 60 hp diesel engines.  ‘EK’’s record was as follows: 162 services saving 173 lives. 

Crew now called out by Deputy Supervisor at the telephone exchange, to the requirements of the Launching Officer.  Maroons still used during working hours.  

Dr. W.B. Fox appointed as the first Ex Officio Medical Advisor to the lifeboat station. 

H.R.H Princess Margaret meets the Lifeboat Crew.

An ‘Offshore Ferrograph’ echo sounding machine fitted from proceeds of funds raised – £100.

5/6 February, RNLI Gold Medal and Norwegian Lifeboat Service Gold Medal awarded to Hubert Petit for rescue crew of 9 from ‘Johann Collett’, a Norwegian motor vessel, cargo of zinc, northwest of the Hanois. 

Guernsey Airport Radio used to direct the lifeboat to a casualty for the first time.  

May 11th Her Majesty the Queen Mother visits. 

After much lobbying, the St. Peter Port Lifeboat is fitted with radar.

October 11th H.R.H Princess Alexandra and her husband the Hon. Angus Ogilvie meet the Lifeboat Crew. 

The ‘Arun’ Prototype lifeboat built ON 1018 (52-01) 52’x 17’ self-righting and 18 knots. 

CROSSMA Marine Rescue Co-ordination Centre established at Jobourg Cap de la Hague. 

Arun’ prototype lifeboat stationed at St Peter Port for evaluation.  The first wooden example of this very successful lifeboat. 


Arun class lifeboat Sir William Arnold

‘Sir William Arnold’ ON 1025 (52-02) the first of the Arun class lifeboat on station replacing the prototype (to 1997).  Named after the recently deceased Bailiff, and affectionately known to the crew as ‘The Willie’, was probably the most successful lifeboat ever to be stationed in Guernsey, completing over 600 services.  Many of her crew were decorated for gallantry.  

The sculling dinghy used by the crew to reach the lifeboat on her moorings was at long last replaced by a boat with an outboard motor. 

December 25th  the ‘Elwood Mead’ a Bulk carrier on her maiden voyage carrying 122,954 tons of iron ore under Capt. Robert Noworyta,  runs onto Petit Grunes rock (Grunes de L’Ouest reef).  She was ripped open from bow to stern and re-floated months later.  A bell from the ship is currently in the care of ‘Buz’ White, Cox of the St. Peter Port lifeboat on the condition that it never leaves the island. 

January 16th , MV ‘Prosperity ‘ breaks apart on La Conchée reef, in terrible weather – in sight of the ‘Elwood Mead’.  All 18 lost but only 16 bodies found.  The cargo of timber was spread along the coast.  She was on her final voyage to a breaker’s yard.  A memorial erected to those lost on headland at Lihou.  Bodies come ashore at the Queen’s landing in the harbour at St. Peter Port and buried at Le Foulon cemetery. 

Feb 27th Elwood Mead’ was refloated, towed to Rotterdam for repair before coming back into service as the ‘Good Leader’

May 23rd, RNLB ‘Sir William Arnold’ formally named by Duchess of Kent. 

Feb 15th‘Pegase’ a 10,000 ton Swiss freighter lost by fire, towed to Falmouth.  26 of 27 on board are saved by the St Peter Port lifeboat.  

Sept. ‘Prosperity’ memorial unveiled. A Guard of Honour was provided by local Sea Scouts and an annual service established to remember and honour all those who died at sea.  

The ‘Point Law’, a Shell-Mex and BP coastal tanker ran aground at full speed on the south-west of Alderney on 15th July 1975. St.Peter Port lifeboat saved 6 and a French helicopter the remaining 6 crew.  This RNLI Bronze medal service became much used to advertise rescue methods.  The Master of ‘Point Law’ lost his Certificate of Competency, was demoted and was found dead in his bunk six weeks later. 

Guernsey St. John Ambulance Transport division build a mobile radar set.  

Her Majesty the Queen Mother meets the lifeboat crew again

Maroons abandoned in favour of callout using ‘Bleepers’ donated by a Mr. Houseden. 

A VHF Direction finder was fitted, enabling the lifeboat to actively track and find the source of a VHF signal.

Proposals were also put forward regarding extension of the Lifeboat ‘Shed’ to accommodate lifejackets, oilskins and sea boots, together with heating and proper ventilation. 

February 1st. Jack up oil rig ‘Orion’ on board barge ‘Federal 400-2’ runs aground at Grandes Rocques, behind the Hotel. The rescue by the relief lifeboat ‘John Gellatly Hyndman’ was mostly captured on TV. This was an RNLI Silver medal effort and John Petit awarded the ‘Maud Smith’ award for the bravest act of lifesaving that year. This rescue was also unique in that many re-boarded the rig at low tide and had to be rescued again the following day. Rig refloated 25 days later. 

Recommended and agreed that a room at Castle Cornet should be set aside for display of R.N.L.I. related memorabilia. 

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth 2nd  visits and meets the Lifeboat crew. 

Click on this Link for a report

Jan 4th   Cargo ship ‘Cantonad’ sank. Two bodies recovered, for which Cox John Petit is awarded a fourth Bronze Medal. 

Channel Islands Air Search set up, using a Piper Aztec aircraft. Range capability covers over 4,000 sq miles of sea. This was the start of a hugely successful ‘Eye in the Sky’ capability, saving much valuable time in the Search and Rescue process. 

A new Decca 150 radar was fitted to the lifeboat, using money donated to the memory of Mr. Peter Dorey.  

Telex installed at St. Peter Port Harbour Offices.

An Audio Alarm system was fitted at the Signal Station, bringing the station in line with the other major incident authorities so that the Lifeboat could be put in instant readiness in the case of Full Emergency or an ‘Aircraft Ditched’ signal from the Airport.

September.  The lifeboat crew authorised to use flashing green lights on their vehicles when responding to a ‘shout’.

RNLI Gold Medal awarded to Michael Scales for the rescue of 29 from ‘Bonita’.  (13 December 1981)  The crew also recognised, as was the Master of the ‘Abeille Languedoc’ for saving one of the ‘Bonita’s crew.   As if to demonstrate the mortality of all, six days later, the Penlee lifeboat ‘Solomon Browne’ is lost with all hands.  The two sides of lifesaving at sea cruelly demonstrated in less than a week. 

A new callout pager system introduced.

August 11th Peter Bisson earned his second Bronze medal, in assisting the French yacht ‘Matam II’.  The thanks of the Institution Inscribed on Vellum was also awarded to Assistant Mechanic Alan Martel and Crew Member Michael ‘Micky’ Guille.  Sadly, Micky was later to lose his life at sea.  The station visited by  the Deputy Chairman of the RNLI, the Duke of Atholl and  Mr. Michael Vernon of the Committee of Management

May 10th. Duchess of Kent officially re-opened Alderney lifeboat station.  She also presented a Vellum to Coxswain Steve Shaw for the rescue of nine and saving the yacht ‘Sea Keveral’ on 5 May. 

RNLI ‘Louis Marchesi of Round Table’ (44ft Waveney) stationed in Alderney. 

The Lifeboat shed moves to new position on the New Jetty.   
A Silver medal awarded to Coxswain Peter Bisson for the rescue of 6 from the yacht ‘Sena Sioria’, for which he was also awarded the Maud Smith for the bravest act of lifesaving in 1992. 

Channel Islands Air Search Aztec replaced with a Britten Norman Islander ‘Lion’s Pride’

‘Spirit of Guernsey’ ON 12-03 a Severn Class lifeboat arrives on Station.