1917: First RNLI Bronze Medals

Introduced in 1917, the first RNLI Bronze Medals for Gallantry were created for Cromer lifeboat crew members who rescued 33 people in a 14-hour shout. 
An RNLI Bronze Medal for Gallantry, engraved with the motto: ‘let not the deep swallow me up’, from Psalm 69:15

RNLI / Nathan Williams

An RNLI Bronze Medal for Gallantry, engraved with the motto: ‘let not the deep swallow me up’, from Psalm 69:15

The first RNLI Bronze Medals for Gallantry were awarded in 1917. The award was created for Cromer crew members who fought fierce conditions for 14 hours to rescue 22 people from the Pyrin and 11 people from the wrecked SS Fernebo.

Courage and dogged tenacity

During a terrible storm on 9 January 1917, Cromer’s lifeboat launched 4 times in 14 hours. The crew, who had an average age of over 50, battled heavy seas to rescue the 22 sailors aboard the Greek ship Pyrin.

Just as Cromer’s crew arrived back on shore, triumphant and exhausted, they were alerted of the Swedish steamship Fernebo, which had been broken in two and grounded. The lifeboat made three brave attempts to reach the ship but the rough conditions smashed five of the lifeboat’s oars and washed three more overboard. 

By the third attempt conditions had calmed and, armed with spare oars and a short rest, the crew rescued the 11 onboard. The lifeboat arrived back onshore at 1am, where a cheering crowd were waiting.

Coxswain Henry Blogg was awarded his first Gold Medal for the rescue. The crew were praised for their ‘courage and dogged tenacity’ and the Bronze Medal for Gallantry was created to recognise their heroic contribution to the rescue.

Cromer lifeboat Louisa Heartwell on her carriage. The crew are wearing lifejackets and holding oars aloft.
Cromer lifeboat Louisa Heartwell on her carriage.

The RNLI Bronze Medal today

As well as heroic crew members, recipients of the RNLI Bronze Medal for Gallantry now include dedicated fundraisers, lifeguards and Flood Rescue Team members. 

In 2005, Aileen Jones became the first female crew member to receive a Bronze Medal. Aileen, helm on the Porthcawl lifeboat, braved gale force conditions to rescue two fishermen. She was the first woman in 116 years to be awarded an RNLI medal. 

Sophie Grant-Crooksten was awarded the Bronze Medal for Gallantry a year later for rescuing a stranded surfer in dangerous seas. She was the second lifeguard and first female lifeguard to receive the Bronze Medal.   

In 2013, the first RNLI Gallantry Medals were awarded to members of the Flood Rescue Team – Paul Eastment, Chris Missen and Martin Blaker-Rowe – for their part in rescuing a woman who had been swept from her car after it was forced off the road by powerful flood water.  

Chris Missen of Porthcawl Lifeboat Station holding his Bronze Medal for Gallantry

Photo: RNLI / Nathan Williams

Chris Missen of Porthcawl Lifeboat Station holding his Bronze Medal for Gallantry