Station history

A station was established in Eastbourne in 1822, two years before the Royal National Lifeboat Institution itself was founded.  The first boat was provided by Mr John Fuller MP of Rose Hill, Sussex.  When he died in 1833 he left the boat "To the inhabitants of Eastbourne".  She was built in Eastbourne by Mr Simpson, was 25ft long and pulling ten oars.

The Institution did not take over the station until 1853.  Between 1903 and 1924 two boats were stationed there.

Eastbourne has the first permanent lifeboat museum, being opened in 1937.  It is housed in what was originally a lifeboat house and was used as such for 26 years.  It was built in 1898 as the William Terriss Memorial Lifeboat House in memory of the famous actor, out of a fund raised by the Daily Telegraph.

1824

Gold Medal awarded to Lieut J Clark RN for the rescue of six people from the brig Juno was wrecked in a storm at Birling Gap, near Beachy Head on 18 November 1824.

1833

Lifeboat named John Fuller on death of its Donor

1840

Silver Medal awarded to Lieut H Blair RN for the rescue by Manby Apparatus of four men from a French Lugger that was wrecked at Birling Gap, on 3 July 1840 in a severe gale.

1843

Silver Medal awarded to Lieut J A Gilson RN for the rescue of four seamen by boat from the Schooner L'Unione Fortunata wrecked near Beachy Head on 28 January 1843.

1845

The South Holland Society for Saving the Shipwrecked presented each member of the crew with a Silver Medal and diploma in English for a service to a Dutch East-Indiaman in December, in which the lifeboat rescued the master and nine seamen.

1863

A new 33ft SR lifeboat Mary Stirling, built at a cost of £266 was placed on service.

1867

A new boathouse was built at a cost of £459.

1880

A new 34ft SR lifeboat William and Mary ON 186, built at a cost of £363, was placed on service.

Whilst the new lifeboat was being drawn through the streets a small boy, Ernest Best, had his foot so badly crushed that it had to be amputated.  The donor of the lifeboat undertook to pay all medical expenses.  The Committee of Management placed £50 to the boy's credit.

1883

On Sunday, 25 November in the teeth of a gale and pouring rain, the lifeboat was taken to Birling Gap overland and rescued the crew of 11 of the Barque New  Brunswick of Norway.  The journey took two and a half hours.

1890

Bell placed on the coxswain's house for summoning crew.

1895

Gas service provided.

1898

A new boathouse costing £1,314, was built, paid for by a Daily Telegraph fund in memory of the assassinated actor William Terriss.

1899

A new 35ft SR lifeboat James Stevens No 6 ON427, built at a cost of £612, was placed on service.

1902

Corrugated iron lifeboat house constructed at the Fishing Station at a cost of £400 to be used by the No 2 lifeboat, which arrived in 1903. She was a 36ft Liverpool class lifeboat, named Olive ON511, and built at a cost of £839.

Whilst on service to the aid of SS Southport on 8 November, two men were washed out of lifeboat; fortunately both were recovered.

1903

Mortar supplied to No 1 station as bell could not always be heard.

1915

During the war, arrangements were made for co-operation with local motor boats; one proceeded to scene of casualty and another was to tow lifeboat.

1919

The station was temporarily closed until 1921.

1921

A new motor driven Miller class SR lifeboat Priscilla Macbean ON655, built at a cost of £6,623, complete with a new carriage was placed on service in July. ON511 was withdrawn and sold out of service.

1924

The James Stevens No 6 was withdrawn from service, remaining on site as an exhibition boat until 1935.

1926

Bowman Harry Hendy died of epilepsy stated to be due to exposure on service.  He was a widower with two children who received the appropriate pension until they were 16.

1927

A new motorised SR lifeboat, L P and St Helen ON703, built at a cost of £4,961, was placed on station in November and ON655 transferred to the Kirkcudbright station.

1928

Centenary Vellum awarded.

1929

ON703 withdrawn due to engine problems and replaced from the Relief fleet by the Jane Hannah MacDonald ON611, a 35ft SRP formerly stationed at Appledore.
In July the former Selsey lifeboat Jane Holland ON673, a 40ft motorised SR lifeboat, was placed on service and ON 611 returned to the Relief fleet.

1937

The No 2 station “William Terriss Memorial Boathouse” was turned into the country’s first permanent “Lifeboat Museum”

1940

The lifeboat Jane Holland was one of the 19 lifeboats that took part in the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk.

Bronze Medals awarded to two members of the crew, Thomas Allchorn and Alec Huggett who went aboard the burning steamer Barnhill on 20/21 March 1940 to rescue the master after the lifeboat had previously taken off 28 of the crew.  The Barnhill, when in the Channel, approximately six miles off Beachy Head, had been attacked by German aircraft; a bomb had struck her amidships and set her on fire.

1949

A new Beach Watson class lifeboat Beryl Tollemache ON859, built at a cost of £15,012, was placed on service in June and ON673 transferred to the Relief fleet.

1955

The Bronze Second-Service Clasp awarded to Coxswain Allchorn for the rescue of 16 from the wreck of the ss Germania and the rescue of four from the salvage boats Moonbeam and Endeavour on 6 May 1955.  The Maud Smith award for the bravest act of life-saving by a member of a lifeboat crew was awarded to Coxswain Allchorn for the Germania rescue.

1964

D class lifeboat D-32 sent to station in May.

1966

The Thank of the Institution inscribed on Vellum accorded to Coxswain J Bassett for his courage, skill and seamanship when landing an injured keeper from the Beachy Head lighthouse on 11 May.  The keeper, who weighed 21 stone and who had injured his legs, was transferred to the lifeboat in a strong south-south-westerly wind and a rough sea.

A new D class lifeboat D-61 replaced D-32.

1968

A new D class lifeboat D-159 replaced D-61.

1971

A 150th Anniversary Vellum awarded.

1977

A Beach Watson class lifeboat Charles Dibdin (Civil Service No 32) ON948, formerly on service at Walmer, was placed on service in June and ON859 transferred to the Relief fleet.

1978

A new D class ILB D-266 was placed on station, D-159 was transferred to the Relief fleet.

1979

The new lifeboat Duke of Kent ON1055 was placed on service and named by the Duke of Kent, President of the RNLI, on 3 July. She was a Rother class boat built at a cost of £150,000. ON 948 was transferred to Aldeburgh station.

1983

Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum was accorded to crew member John D Cooper, in recognition of his meritorious action when on 11 May 1983, in a south westerly gale and a rough sea, he entered the water to right a capsized sailing dinghy, helped a woman and two children to re-board her, and when the dinghy capsized again swam beneath the sail with complete disregard for his safety to release a child who had become entangled in the halyards.  Framed Letters of Thanks signed by the Chairman of the Institution, the Duke of Athol, awarded to Helmsman Paul Metcalfe and crewmember Ian Stringer for the part they played in this service.

1986

A new D class ILB D-322 named Humphry and Nora Tollemarche was placed on station, D-266 was transferred to the Relief fleet.

1987

Bronze Medal awarded to the Helmsman Ian Stringer, in recognition of the leadership and strength of purpose displayed by him when the lifeboat rescued three men, clinging to their 17ft Dory which had capsized off Beachy Head and was being driven towards the bottom of the cliffs in a moderate breeze and confused breaking seas on 9 December 1986.  The boat was assisting in the filming of a new James Bond film.  Crew member Derek P Tucker received the Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum in recognition of the extreme physical effort displayed by him on this occasion.

1990

A Framed Letter of Thanks signed by the Chairman of the Institution, Michael Vernon, was awarded to Coxswain/Mechanic Graham Cole for the support he gave with the lifeboat Duke of Kent on 23 June, to the crew of the inshore lifeboat who were in difficulties whilst on service to a car which had been driven over the cliffs east of Beachy Head Lighthouse.

1993

The all weather lifeboat station moved to Sovereign Harbour, a new Marina at Langley Point.

The new Mersey class lifeboat ON1195 Royal Thames was named by Her Royal Highness Princess Michael of Kent in a special ceremony that took place at Sovereign Harbour Marina on Monday 6th September. ON1055 was transferred to the Relief fleet.

A new D class ILB D-449 Humphry and Nora Tollemache II was placed on station, D-322 was transferred to the Relief fleet.

1994

New crew facilities completed at Sovereign Harbour.

1995

Work was carried out on the main boathouse in order to house the station's D class lifeboat.  Following completion of this work, the previous ILB boathouse was removed.

1997

Silver Medal awarded to the helmsman of the D class lifeboat, Ian Stringer, in recognition of the leadership and strength of purpose displayed by him when the lifeboat rescued, at great risk in very strong tidal conditions and turbulent sea, a man clinging to Eastbourne pier on 8 April 1997.  The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum awarded to crew member Gary Mead and Mr Tom Hobdel, Letters of Thanks signed by the Chairman of the Institution to crew members Mark Chessell, Dawn Mead and to Auxiliary Coastguard Stuart McNabb in recognition of their meritorious actions during this service.

2003

Silver Medal awarded to Coxswain Mark Sawyer and Bronze Medal to Mechanic Dan Guy in recognition of their courage and skill when the crew of two of the yacht Paperchase was saved on 20 October 2002.  The disabled yacht was in very shallow water at the entrance to Sovereign Harbour.  It was dark, the seas were very rough and the south-easterly winds were Force 8 and waves were breaking over the lifeboat as the two people were rescued and Mechanic Guy was washed into the sea, but held onto the man he was assisting.  Coxswain Sawyer received an award from the James Michael Bower Endowment Fund for this service as the only recipient of an RNLI Silver Medal for Gallantry during 2003.  The Shipwrecked Fishermen and Mariners’ Royal Benevolent Society awarded Coxswain Sawyer the Emile Robins Award for 2002/3 for this service.  This award goes to the Master/Coxswain of a British vessel who incurs the greatest peril in rescuing survivors at sea.

The new station D class lifeboat D-605 Joan and Ted Wiseman 50 was placed on service on 15 August 2003.  D-449 had been transferred to the Relief fleet in 2001 and had been replaced by various Relief fleet D class lifeboats up until the arrival of D-605.

2009

Alterations to ALB facilities completed in March at a cost of £9,000.

2011

The new station D class lifeboat D-744 Laurence and Percy Hobbs was placed on service on 8 December 2011. Lifeboat D605 Joan and Ted Wiseman 50 has been withdrawn.

2012

New Tamar class lifeboat ON1303 Diamond Jubilee was placed on service 27 June 2012. This lifeboat was funded by the Eastbourne RNLI new lifeboat appeal the legacy of Mr John Alan Jackson together with other gifts and legacies. Lifeboat ON1195 Royal Thames has been re-allocated to Leverburgh.

WAR RECORD - 1939-1945

Lives rescued 42
Launches 22
Medals Two Bronze Medals awarded in 1940.  See above for details.

MEDAL RECORD

Ten medals – one Gold, four Silver and five Bronze, the last was voted in 2003.