Donate now

Bembridge's station history


Three medals have been awarded to the men of Bembridge – two silver and one bronze, the last voted 1940.

The Institution placed a lifeboat at Bembridge because of the removal of the Nab Light to a greater distance from the shore and as a result of the rescue of the crew of the Norwegian Barque Egbert by the fishermen of Bembridge in an ordinary open boat.  The first lifeboat was launched off a carriage with the aid of oil flares on dark nights, and messages had to be passed by foot messenger or a man on horseback.


Lifeboat house constructed at a cost of £165.

The first lifeboat, City of Worcester, costing £2,462, was put on service having been funded by a donation from the citizens of Worcester.


Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum was accorded to Coxswain Charles Searle in recognition of his gallantry and determination during services at the wreck of the brigantine John Douse on 11 November.  It was reported that a vessel was ashore off Sandown.  It was blowing a hurricane from the south with thick rain.  The Worcester lifeboat was taken over land and arrived about midnight, and launched at about 0130.  After having difficulty in locating the John Douse because of the intense darkness, the lifeboat succeeded in saving the master and the mate.  A tremendous sea then swept the boat off before any others could be rescued.  As the steer-oar touched the ground when the boat was in the hollow of the surf, Coxswain Searle deemed it inadvisable to approach the wreck again until daylight.  The lifeboat remained near the vessel during the night.  Coxswain Searle was washed over board in the night and was rescued with great difficulty due to darkness and heavy seas.  At dawn the lifeboat was backed towards her, when it was discovered that a coastguard galley had by that time been launched and was rescuing the other four men.


New lifeboat, named Queen Victoria, ON112, costing £440, was placed on service, launched by Duchess of Edinburgh, to mark the Jubilee of Her Majesty.

James Arnold was killed when his cart used for collecting seaweed was thrown over by a rope used in launching the lifeboat; the horse was also killed.

The Brooke lifeboat was launched on service on 9 March to the ship Sirenia but was thrown back on the beach and her second coxswain was washed out of her and lost.  Two others were also washed out but were safely recovered.  Word reached Bembridge and Coxswain Attrill of the Bembridge lifeboat set off on foot and walked to Brooke, some 15 miles, in heavy leather sea boots and offered himself as a volunteer to replace the man who had been killed. The lifeboat was again launched and rescued the crew of the ship.


The Lifeboat rescued 14 men from the Naval Torpedo Boat No 059 grounded on the corner of Bembridge Ledge during a gale on 16 December.  It is worth noting that the young Naval Officer in command was later well known as Admiral Beatty who commanded the Cruiser Squadron at the Battle of Jutland.


New lifeboat, also named Queen Victoria, ON468, costing £631, launched by HRH the Duchess of Edinburgh, who came over from Osborne in the royal yacht Alberta, and was accompanied by HRH the Prince Henry of Battenberg and Prince Alfred of Edinburgh.


Gas service provided.


Harness and pushing poles returned to London.


When the lifeboat was launched on service to the schooner Theodora on 19 March, she was beaten back broadside onto the rocks and slightly damaged and was not got off until the next tide flow.


Silver Medal awarded to Coxswain John Holbrook for the rescue of 110 men from HM Transport Empress Queen that was stranded on the Ring Rocks Foreland carrying ammunition on 3 February.  The lifeboat made four trips and on the third she was driven on the rocks and damaged.


Silver Medal (Second-Service Clasp) awarded to Coxswain John Holbrook for the rescue of 13 people from the SS Wakulla of Los Angeles that was driven ashore on West Wittering shoal on 28/29 August in a strong southerly gale and very heavy seas.


The motor lifeboat to be sent to the Isle of Wight was stationed at Bembridge; this necessitated great changes for a concrete pier some 250 yards in length from the shore to the outer ridge of rocks had to be constructed with a boathouse on piles at the seaward end with a launching slipway directly into deep water.  As a result of the advent of power at Bembridge it was considered that the locations at Brooke and Brightstone Grange were redundant and they were therefore closed.  Adaptation of station cost approximately £5,000.

New lifeboat, Langham, ON676, costing £7,781, was placed on service.


The boathouse was enlarged to accommodate a more powerful lifeboat.

New Watson Class lifeboat, Jesse Lumb, ON822, costing £9,455, was placed on service.


Bronze Medal awarded to Coxswain Harry J Gawn for rescuing the crew of the Naval minesweeper Kingston Cairngorm that was flooding in a blizzard and very heavy seas on Chichester Bar on 29/30 January 1940.  In an operation involving several approaches her crew of 21, including the Institution’s Chief Inspector who had been recalled to the navy, was taken off and landed at Portsmouth.  The lifeboat had been at sea for 14 hours with the coxswain at the wheel all the whole time and with the weather so bad that at the end of the service the lifeboat’s deck was covered in ice.  In the early days of the war it was necessary to warn the artillery batteries on the cliffs before the lifeboat was launched on service.  The lifeboat herself was provided with a couple of rifles to repel any attack by the enemy.  An ex Honorary Secretary of the station, Captain Flack, was rescued from the Goodwin Sands by RNLI.


D class lifeboat sent to station in May.  Cost of ILB defrayed by a collection from HMS Mohawk ship’s company.


Centenary Vellum awarded to station.


A Framed Letters of Appreciation was sent to inshore lifeboat crew members Martin S Humphrey and Barry L Dyer for the rescue of two men from two motor boats on 10 September.
New Solent Class lifeboat, Jack Shayler and the Lees, ON1009, costing £72,000, was placed on service.


BEM awarded to Coxswain Peter Smith in Her Majesty’s New Years Honours List.


Boathouse adapted in order to accommodate the new Tyne class lifeboat.  Major slipway repairs were also carried out.

New Tyne Class lifeboat, Max Aitkin 111, ON1126, was placed on service


Work completed on extending the slipway enabling the lifeboat to be recovered at low tides.


The North East corner of the boathouse suffered damage during the night of 28 January as a result of heavy seas.  Temporary repairs were swiftly carried out prior to the permanent replacement of missing cladding sheets.


A Framed Letter of Thanks signed by the Chairman of the Institution was presented to Coxswain Archibald Henley in recognition of the contribution made by the Bembridge lifeboat Max Aitken III in the rescue of 17 people from the yacht Donald Searl, which was in difficulties close to the Chichester Bar in atrocious conditions on 25 October.  For this service the Second-Service Clasp to the Silver Medal was awarded to Roderick James, Helmsman of the Hayling Island lifeboat, and Silver Medal to Helmsman Frank Dunster of the rigid inflatable Hayling Rescue (see Hayling Island history).

Work was carried out on the complete re-cladding of the ALB boathouse.  A major programme of concrete repair works of both the boathouse and slipway sub-structures carried out.  Southern Water Services granted approval to connect to the sewerage system at Lane End.


The Thanks of the Institution Inscribed on Vellum was accorded to Helmsman Alan Attrill in recognition of his skill and high standard of seamanship when, in a south-westerly near gale, confused seas and darkness on the night of the 11 August 1993, the D class lifeboat rescued the crew of three from the stricken yacht Bari.  The yacht had run aground on Bembridge Ledge, was holed and taking water.

Framed Letters of Thanks signed by the Chairman of the Institution was awarded to Helm Alan Attrill and crew members Graeme White and Geoffrey Attrill in recognition of their courage and fine teamwork when the D class lifeboat rescued the crew of three from the motor cruiser Jade on 2 May 1994.  The Jade was aground on the Bembridge Ledge in an easterly Force 5 wind and moderate seas.  The three survivors were rescued just as their vessel began to break up.

Work was carried out in the roof space of the ILB boathouse in order to provide the station with improved crew facilities.  Major slipway repair works carried out together with the installation of a new Bigland boathouse winch.


New D class lifeboat D-503 was placed on service on 20 June.


Former Coxs Martin Woodward has been awarded the MBE by Her Majesty The Queen in this years New Years Honours.


The new class of lifeboat IB1, D-649 Dorothy Beatrice May Gorman was placed on service on Wednesday 10 August.  This lifeboat was funded by a generous bequest from Mrs D Gorman.  D503 (relief) has been withdrawn to the Relief Fleet.


Tyne class lifeboat ON1126 Max Aitken III was on service from 9 August 1987 until 9 Feb 2009.  Mersey class lifeboat ON1124 Peggy and Alex Caird placed on temporary duty on 23 January.

At a meeting held on 1 April the Trustee Committee resolved that a Tamar class lifeboat, currently in build, be allocated to Bembridge Lifeboat Station.


The Tamar class lifeboat ON1297 Alfred Albert Williams was placed on service of 27 Sept.

A new Tamar boathouse and walkway was completed in October at a cost of £7,650,000.

Her Majesty The Queen, honoured LOM Capt Graham Hall in her Birthday List by making him a Member, Order of the British Empire (MBE).