Plymouth's station history

Plymouth was one of the first places on the coast of Great Britain to have a lifeboat. This was one of the 31 boats built by Henry Greathead of South Shields, the builder of the first lifeboat on our coasts, which was stationed at South Shields in 1789. The first Plymouth boat was stationed there in 1803. She was a gift to Plymouth from Philip Langmead MP. There is no record of her service.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution itself was founded in 1824.  It at once placed at Plymouth Captain Manby's mortar apparatus for firing lines to ships in distress, and in the following year it sent a lifeboat.

The station lapsed between 1840 and 1862.


Silver Medal awarded to James Craggs for the rescue on 23 November 1824 of the wife of the captain of the ship John. All the officers and crew of the ship were drowned and she was the sole survivor.

Silver Medal awarded to John Miller for the rescue of seven of the crew of the ship Harmonie that was driven ashore in Whitsand Bay on 23 November 1824. Six others perished.

Silver Medal awarded to Richard Eddy for the rescue by boat of four of the crew of the ship Coromandel that was upset in a violent storm on 23 November 1824.


Silver Medal awarded to Lt John Woolland Bake RN for the rescue of 25 of the crew of the ship Mary Ann that was wrecked in Bovisand Bay in heavy seas on 13 January 1828.


Silver Medals awarded to Francis Strong, Thomas Huss and Augustus May of HMS Spartiate for the rescue of the crew of 10 of the brig Erin wrecked on the breakwater in a violent storm on 20 February 1833.

Silver Medal awarded to Lt Adrian Thomas Mann RN for the rescue on 26 April 1833 of two men of a barge and four men of a boat that capsized when it went to rescue them.


Silver Medal and silver boat awarded to Richard Eddy for the rescue by boat of the crew of 10 of the ship Koningsberg that was driven onto rocks during the night of 13/14 January 1834.


Silver Medal awarded to Lt Thomas Holman for the rescue of the crew of six of the ship Thetis that was wrecked on Plymouth breakwater in a violent gale on 14 February 1838.


Silver Medal awarded to Mr J S W Grandy of the Revenue Cutter Harpy for the rescue on 28 November 1838 of five of the crew of the French brig Le Collosse that was wrecked in a storm at the entrance to Mill Bay.

Silver Medal awarded to Andrew Gillespie of the Revenue Cutter Stork for the rescue on 23 March 1839 of the crew of three men and a boy of the sloop Ann was wrecked on Penlee Point.


Silver Medal awarded to Lt John Cornish RN for the rescue of two men when the schooner Norman struck rocks and was wrecked in a gale near Bovisand on 22 October 1843.


It was decided that the best place for a lifeboat house was on the western side of Mill Bay. Lifeboat house constructed at a cost of £159.


The last service of the Prince Consort was one of the finest in the history of the station. On 8 December 1872, when a gale was blowing with almost hurricane violence from west-south-west and there was a long list of disasters on the south coast, the brigantine Eliza of Blyth and the brig Fearful of Sunderland, went ashore in Batten Bay. The Prince Consort was launched and was towed out by the Admiralty steam tug. She rescued the Eliza's crew of four, but was herself badly damaged when she was flung against the rocks. In spite of this she went out again at once and at great risk rescued the crew of eight from the Fearful. She was so badly damaged that shortly afterwards she was replaced by another lifeboat.


The lifeboat Clemency was present on 19 August 1879 at the ceremony of laying the foundation stone of the new Eddystone Lighthouse by HRH The Prince of Wales and the Duke of Edinburgh.


Silver Medal awarded to William Teel on his retirement after 22 years service.


New lifeboat house and slipway constructed at a cost of £350, of which sum the Great Western Railway paid £250.


A Centenary Vellum presented.


On 14 January the lifeboat was launched in a strong south-westerly gale and heavy seas to reported rockets but found nothing. On her return the lifeboat shipped a huge sea and two men were washed overboard. Fortunately they were rescued.


Bronze Medal awarded to Coxswain Walter Crowther and Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum to eight crewmembers, for rescuing two men when a RAAF Sunderland flying boat of the Australian Royal Air Force was carried onto rocks under the cliffs in Jennycliffe Bay in a south to south-westerly wind over very rough seas on 13 January 1942. The medals were presented by HRH The Duke of Kent, President of the Institution. This was the Duke of Kent's last service to the Institution as, on 25 August, he was killed in an air accident on active service.


The Robert and Marcella Beck lifeboat ON696 was requisitioned by the Admiralty and was stationed in Iceland for life-saving service on the most hazardous of the convoy routes, the northern route to Russia. She did not return to her station until February 1947. While she was away her place was taken by a Belgian lifeboat, the Minister Anseels, which was picked up derelict in the English Channel early in the war, repaired and lent by the Belgian Government to the British lifeboat fleet.


A 150th Anniversary Vellum was presented to the station.


A D class lifeboat was sent to the station in May.


In July the D class lifeboat was withdrawn and replaced by 18.001 a hatch type fast rescue/boarding boat.


The Hatch type fast rescue/boarding boat was withdrawn and replaced by an A class McLachlan lifeboat in July.


Bronze Medal for gallantry awarded to Coxswain John Dare for his courage, determination and excellent seamanship in proceeding to the assistance of the Merc Enterprise that got into serious difficulties 26 miles south of Rame Head in a hurricane force south-westerly wind and phenomenal seas on 16 January 1974.


Bronze Medal for gallantry awarded to Second Coxswain Patrick John Marshall and Motor Mechanic Cyril Alcock in recognition of their courage, determination and seamanship when the lifeboat Thomas Forehead and Mary Rowse II stood by the trawler Elly Gerda which was in difficulties in severe weather conditions and had anchored off Looe Island and later rescued two of her crew after the trawler had run aground on the Rennis Rocks in a violent south-easterly storm with very heavy snow and a very rough sea on 15 February 1978.


A Class McLachlan lifeboat permanently withdrawn from station on 31 December.


The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum was accorded to Coxswain John Dare in recognition of his skill and leadership when the lifeboat Thomas Forehead and Mary Rowse II under his command rescued the crew of five of the sinking French trawler Saint Simeon, who had taken to a life-raft 25 miles east-north-east of Lizard Point in a strong east-south-easterly gale and a very rough sea on 15 February.


Waveney class lifeboat withdrawn and replaced by an Arun.


Commencement of refurbishing three-storey granite building in order to provide improved crew and souvenir sales facilities.


A small extension was constructed to the old Customs House in order to provide a workshop for the mechanics.


The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum was accorded to Coxswain Patrick Marshall in recognition of the high standard of leadership displayed by him and his devotion to duty when the lifeboat City of Plymouth rescued the crew of five and saved the fishing vessel Senex Fidelis suffering from engine failure and her anchor dragging seven miles off Rame Head is storm force winds and heavy seas on 6 September 1995.


At a meeting held on 28 November 2001 the Executive Committee resolved that a Severn class lifeboat be allocated to Plymouth and that she be named Sybil Mullen Glover.


The Trustee Meeting held on 27 November decided that Plymouth Lifeboat Station be awarded a Vellum to commemorate the completion of 200 years service in 2003.

Bronze Medal awarded to Second Coxswain Sean Marshall and The Thanks of the Institute inscribed on Vellum accorded to Coxswain David Milford for saving the crew of four and a yacht on 21 May 2002. The disabled yacht was in great danger of going ashore in a south-south-easterly Force 9 Strong Gale, very rough seas and heavy rain. Second Coxswain Marshall leapt aboard the yacht from the lifeboat at considerable personal risk.


The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum accorded to Coxswain David Milford and also to Second Coxswain Sean Marshall in recognition of their actions when the lifeboat saved the yacht March Hare and her crew of one on the night of 9 June 2002. The yacht was disabled in a south-westerly Force 9 Severe Gale. Second Coxswain Marshall was put aboard and secured a tow.

The Queen officially named the new £2m Severn class lifeboat ON1264 Sybil Mullen Glover at Queen Anne’s Battery Marina on the afternoon of Wednesday 23 July. His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh accompanied her.


Temporary station inshore lifeboat B-775 Millennium Forrester was placed on station on 31 March.


Improved facilities/new launching scheme completed in June at a cost of £41,869.


New pontoons completed in February at a cost of £144,500.


The new station Atlantic class lifeboat B-775 Millennium Foresters was placed on service 8 April 2013. This lifeboat was funded by the Independent Order of Foresters.


Twenty medals have been awarded, 15 Silver and five Bronze, the last being voted in 2002.


Netherlands Government thanked crew for services to Zeehond of Groningen in 1936.