RNLI shops, museums and the College will open as Government guidance allows. Lifeboat stations remain operational but are not open to visitors.

Station history


Thirteen medals have been awarded, four Silver and nine Bronze, the last being voted in 1992.

Station established by Institution in 1869.  Site for the boathouse at South Sands being presented by the Earl of Devon.  The boathouse cost £309 10s.


Silver Medals awarded to coastguardsmen, William Wedge, James Turpin and David Warder for putting off in a small boat and rescuing at great risk of life two out of three people who had been capsized from their boat on Bantham Bar on 27 August 1857.


Lifeboat house constructed at South Sands, Salcombe at a cost of £285 on land supplied by The Earl of Devon.


Lifeboat station established at Hope Cove, provided by The Freemasons of England.


Slipway undermined by severe gale.


Albert Medal awarded to Hope Cove crew members Isaac Jarvis and Jack Argrat who rescued 117 people from Elder Dempster liner Jebba after the two men scaled vertical cliffs at Bolt Tail and rigged a Bosun's chair.  A further 38 people were rescued by the remainder of the lifeboat crew.


On 27 October Salcombe lifeboat William and Emma capsized at Salcombe Harbour entrance drowning 13 of her crew of 15.  The crew of the casualty, Plymouth schooner Western Lass, which had gone ashore to the east of Prawle Point in a furious gale was rescued by the coastguard but it was not possible to communicate with the lifeboat.  One of the survivors from the lifeboat, Edwin Distin became coxswain of the replacement boat Sarah Ann Holden which arrived in April 1917.  A new crew of 13 was readily available in spite of the war.  Committee of Management voted £2,200 to local fund and £75 to meet immediate needs and paid funeral expenses.  The names of those who died were J A Cranham, J A Crook, J H Cove, J A Cudd, F W Cudd, A Dustin, S M Dustin, P H Foale, P H Foale (Jnr), W J Foale, W W Lambie, T Putt, and A E Wood.


Salcombe lifeboat moved from South Sands to permanent mooring in harbour.


Salcombe Lifeboat Station closed.


Salcombe Lifeboat Station re-opened.


Hope Cove Lifeboat Station closed


Silver Medal awarded to Coxswain Edwin W Distin and Bronze Medals to each of the other seven crew members for the rescue of 62 survivors of the Belgian Steamer Tajandoen which was sunk by enemy action on 7 December 1939.  They had been picked up by the Belgian Steamer Louis Sheid which herself went ashore in Bigbury Bay and the lifeboat took them off.  This was a service in which the coxswain showed magnificent seamanship both in crossing the bar and alongside the steamer.


Bronze Medal awarded to Coxswain Edwin W Distin for the rescue in an easterly gale and very high sea of 11 people from the Admiralty Salvage craft LC18 in distress in The Skerries, east of Start Point, on 4 December 1943.  The lifeboat launched at 2215 and found the casualty to be very high out of the water and dragging across the bank, rolling heavily.  Coxswain Distin took the lifeboat right alongside four times before the 10 man crew could be induced to jump aboard.  



The Last War Service - The war in Europe ended one minute after midnight on 8 May, and the last launch of a lifeboat was one minute before the end.  Two under water explosions, either torpedo or mine, had blown up a Norwegian Mine-sweeper, one of four, off Berry Head and the Salcombe lifeboat was launched at midnight.


Centenary Vellum awarded.


The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum accorded to Coxswain H W Distin for rescuing by breeches buoy of the five crew of the Belgian fishing trawler Amelie Suzanne on 1 April in a strong westerly wind and poor visibility.


The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum accorded to Coxswain John Griffiths in recognition of his skill and determination when the lifeboat was manoeuvred close to dangerous rocks, stood by the coaster Heye P ashore on Sea Gull Rock and illuminated the scene during the rescue of the coaster's crew of three by helicopter in the darkness of the night of 16 December.


A Framed Letter of Thanks signed by the Chairman awarded to Coxswain J G Griffiths, Motor Mechanic F Y Smith, Assistant Mechanic B Cater and crew members S Turns, R Evans, M Hicks and D Lamble in recognition of their fortitude and determination, following the capsize of the lifeboat The Baltic Exchange during a service to an upturned inflatable dinghy on 10 April.


Watson class lifeboat withdrawn and replaced by a Tyne class.


Bronze Medal awarded to Coxswain/Mechanic Frank Yeoman Smith in recognition of his courage, seamanship, leadership and determination when the lifeboat Baltic Exchange II took the 1,200 ton coaster Janet C in tow and held her off the rocks at Start Point for three hours until the arrival of a tug in the early hours of 8 January 1992.  The coaster had suffered total power failure in south westerly gale force winds and heavy sea.  A Framed Letter of Thanks signed by the Chairman was awarded to Staff Coxswain John Marjoram for the support he gave to Coxswain/Mechanic Smith, who was officially on leave but had made himself available for this service because of prevailing conditions and his knowledge of the Start Point area.

Modification and modernisation work was carried out on the boathouse.  It included a new museum and display area plus updated staff facilities.



A Framed Letter of Thanks signed by the Chairman was awarded to Coxswain/Mechanic Frank Smith when the relief lifeboat Mariners Friend launched on 4 November in a south easterly Force 7 Near Gale to the cargo vessel Ina which was aground near Bolt Head, with engine failure.  The sea was up to three metres high with rain squalls, visibility was reduced to three cables. .  A line was passed which held the bow seaward whilst the anchor chain was recovered and in deteriorating conditions the Ina was slowly towed away from the rocks on which, if she had not been towed clear, would have become a wreck.


Former Coxswain Frank Smith was awarded the MBE in the New Years Honours List.  It was formally presented at Buckingham Palace.

Following the visit on 25 October 2001 by the Coast Review delegation, led by Admiral Sir Jock Slater, it was agreed by the Search and Rescue Committee on 6 February 2002 and resolved by the Executive Committee at their meeting on 10 April 2002 that the decision to allocate a Trent class lifeboat to Salcombe be rescinded and that the station be earmarked for the allocation of an afloat FSB2 in due course.  It was also resolved that the obtaining of consents for the provision of a B class boathouse/launching facility be progressed.



The new station Atlantic 75, B class lifeboat, B-794 Joan Bate was placed on service on 7 November.  This lifeboat was funded by the generous bequest of Miss Joan Bate.


New slipway and extensive improvements to the ILB boathouse and ALB berth at a cost of £884,336.


The new station Tamar class lifeboat ON1289 The Baltic Exchange III was placed on service on 10 March.  The lifeboat was funded by the Baltic Exchange and a generous donation received in memory of Marjorie D Heath from Marjorie’s Settlement Trust together with other gifts and legacies.  Lifeboat ON1130 has been withdrawn.


Crew member Iain Dundas and Adam Lilley were awarded Certificates to recognise their initiative and exceptional First Aid skills when they tended a seriously injured man on board a fishing vessel on 16 May 2010.