The Duchess of Kent, Fraserburgh

The Duchess of Kent was a Watson class lifeboat built by Groves and Guttridge in 1954, and stationed at Fraserburgh. 

While in service with the RNLI, The Duchess of Kent launched 23 times and saved 13 lives. On 27 October 1959, she launched to the assistance of two fishing boats, rescuing two men and earning RNLI Gold Medals for Gallantry for acting Coxswain Alexander John Duthie and Mechanic Frederick Alexander Kirkness.

On 21 January 1970, while on service to the Danish fishing vessel Opal, the lifeboat capsized – resulting in the loss of five of her six-person crew. The five men who lost their lives were Coxswain John Stephen, Mechanic Frederick Kirkness and crew members William Hadden, James R.S. Buchan and James Buchan. Assistant Mechanic John (Jackson) Buchan was flung clear and saved by a Russian trawler. 

13,000 people attended the joint funeral of the crew members. 

Following the capsize The Duchess of Kent was broken up at Herd and McKenzie’s boatyard. It was the third loss of a Fraserburgh lifeboat in the 20th century, following Lady Rothes in 1919 and John and Charles Kennedy in 1953.

The names of the crew of The Duchess of Kent are listed on the RNLI Memorial Sculpture outside the RNLI College in Poole, Dorset. Above the list of names of those who sacrificed their own lives to save others, the sculpture bears the motto of Sir William Hillary: 'With courage, nothing is impossible.' 

Photographed on 26 May 1954