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St Davids' station history


Fourteen medals have been awarded, five Silver and nine Bronze, the last being voted in 1989.


See notes for 1956.

The station was established in 1869 at the request of the local inhabitants.

Old lifeboat house is retained for housing the boarding boat.



Silver Medal awarded to Thomas M Rees in acknowledgement of his gallant and conduct in rescuing, at the risk of his own life by being lowered down high cliffs during the very dark and stormy night of 5 January 1867, four men from the wrecked schooner Two Brothers.


Extensive repairs to lifeboat house carried out.


Silver Medal awarded to Coxswain David Hicks on his retirement and in recognition of his long and gallant services in saving life from shipwreck.


A mounted messenger was appointed to take messages on occasions of service from lifeboat station to St David’s Post Office, a distance of two miles.


A telescope was supplied for use of Mr Enoch Lewis who was in charge of the Signal Station and from whose farm there was an excellent view of the Sound.


Silver Medal awarded to acting Coxswain William Narbett in recognition of his gallant and meritorious conduct in the rescue of six of the crew of the ss Graffoe that ran aground on the southern end of Ramsey Island on 27 January 1903.  The lifeboat had much difficulty and great risk in approaching the wreck owing to the strong wind, the set of the tide and current and the close proximity of dangerous rocks.


Mortar abolished and Sound Rocket Signals supplied.


Silver Medal awarded to Mr Sydney Mortimer for rescuing 10 survivors from rocks know as The Bitches on 13 October 1910.  The lifeboat launched on the night of 12th and at approximately 1am after rescuing three crew of the ketch Democrat that was in difficulties in a full gale and heavy seas, was herself wrecked.  Fifteen men scrambled onto the rocks but their fate was not known until 9 am whereupon Mr Mortimer and two coastguards put off in heavy seas and eventually, in two trips, managed to rescue 10 men, the other five were recovered by a second boat.  Coxswain John Stephens (57), and crewmen Henry Rowlands and James Price (unmarried) were drowned when the lifeboat was wrecked.  A local fund amounted to £300.  The Committee voted £100 to each of the widows and £25 to the dependant daughter of Henry Rowlands.  Sydney Mortimer was appointed coxswain at the age of 18 to succeed Coxswain John Stephens.  In 1955 two of the survivors were still alive, Mr Francis Rowlands (86) and Mr W Thomas, and they attended the local presentation of Vellums to the crew of St David’s lifeboat who rescued 35 from the tanker World Concord.

A motor lifeboat placed at the station necessitated its modernisation at a cost of £3,200.  A full-time motor mechanic was appointed.


Bronze Medal awarded to Dr Joseph Soar (doctor of music), the honorary secretary of the station, and to Gwilym Davies, a member of the crew for the rescue in pitch darkness of a man trapped on the cliffs near Llanunwas on 28 February 1943.

Bronze Medal awarded to Coxswain William Watts Williams for his devotion to duty in a difficult service of 10 hours duration and his great skill in rehousing the lifeboat when a tank landing craft was in distress on 25 April 1943 in a south westerly gale and heavy seas.


Silver Medal awarded to Coxswain William Watts Williams and Bronze Medal to Motor Mechanic George G Jordan and Assistant Mechanic Gwilym J Davies.  Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum was accorded to Second Coxswain David Lewis, Acting Bowman William Rowlands, Emergency Mechanic Howell H Roberts, crew members William Morris and Richard Chisholm for the rescue of 35 people from the Liberian tanker World Concord, which broke in two during storms of exceptional violence in the Irish Sea on 27 November 1954.  In a fresh southerly gale, continuous rain and violent seas the lifeboat reached the aft section 15 miles north north-west of the South Bishop Lighthouse.  The tanker was rolling heavily in waves reaching 15-20 feet.  The coxswain stationed five men forward in the lifeboat and came alongside the Jacob’s Ladder which the tanker’s crew had re-rigged according to his instructions.  He took off the first survivor and the lifeboat then went slowly ahead, and then astern until she was abreast of the tanker’s propellers which were turning all the time.  This manoeuvre had to be repeated 34 times, one survivor being embarked each time.  The rescue took 50 minutes and the crew of 35, none of whom could speak English, were all taken on board without injury.


Coxswain W Watts Williams, holder of the Institution’s Silver and Bronze Medals, retired after almost 20 years’ service as coxswain.

Bronze Medal awarded to Coxswain D J Lewis for rescuing the crew of eight from the French trawler Notre Dame de Fatima which had broken from a tow six miles east of St. Ann’s Head in a moderate south south-westerly gale and very rough seas on the evening of 8 November 1956.  Approaching St. Ann’s Head the lifeboat twice filled with heavy seas and rolled heavily to port, crew member I M Bateman was lost overboard, his body was recovered the next day.  The French Government posthumously awarded him the life-saving Silver Medal, first class, and the French Lifeboat Society awarded him the Bronze Medal. 


The new lifeboat ON 971 was the 34th lifeboat to be provided for the RNLI by the Civil Service Lifeboat Fund.  She was named Joseph Soar (Civil Service No 34), as a tribute to the work of the late Dr Joseph Soar MBE who was honorary secretary of the St David’s station branch for over 37 years.  Dr Soar held the RNLI Bronze Medal for gallantry.


Centenary Vellum awarded to station.


Bronze Medal awarded to Coxswain William Morris in recognition of his courage, skill and initiative when the lifeboat saved the Royal Naval tender MFV 7 and rescued her crew of seven after the vessel had an engine failure and was drifting towards the Moelyn and Gribog Rocks three miles west-south-west of the St David’s lifeboat station in a moderate north-north-easterly wind and confused seas on 11 March 1978.


Bronze Medal awarded to Coxswain Frederick John in recognition of his courage, determination and seamanship when the lifeboat rescued three of the crew of the tug Vernicos Giorgos which had a rope around her propeller and was dragging her anchor in a south westerly gale and a very rough sea towards rocks in St Brides Bay on 18 October 1981.


Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum accorded to Coxswain/Mechanic Frederick John in recognition of his skill and judgement when the lifeboat rescued the crew of two of the motor fishing vessel Miss Ali Jane, which had a dinghy in tow, and saved the two vessels when the fishing vessel lost power and was dragging her anchor close to rocks on the west side of Ramsey Sound in a northerly gale and a moderate to rough sea on 22 March.


Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum accorded to Coxswain/Mechanic Frederick John in recognition of his seamanship and determination when the lifeboat rescued the crew of two and towed the motor fishing vessel Marigold A to Milford Haven on the night of 11 December 1986.


Bronze Medal awarded to Coxswain/Mechanic David Chant in recognition of the courage, seamanship and boathandling skill displayed by him when the lifeboat rescued the crew of four of the fishing vessel Stephanie Jane and saved the vessel which had broken down and was dragging her anchor near rocks five cables south of the South Bishop Lighthouse in a strong westerly gale and very rough seas on 26 February 1989.


D class lifeboat D-369 sent to station on 19 July for evaluation.


New D class lifeboat D-543 Saint David-Dewi Sant placed on service on 9 December.  This lifeboat was funded by the generosity of the members of Rotary International District 1070.  D-369 has been withdrawn to ILC Cowes.


Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum awarded to Coxswain Malcolm Gray for his tenacity, determination and seamanship on 24 December 1999.  The St. Davids lifeboat was at sea for over eight hours in the early hours of the morning and saved the tanker Blackfriars which had been swept ashore after the anchor cable had parted.  The lifeboat was operating in very shallow water when a tow was established and the entire service was conducted in rough seas and south-westerly Force 7 winds.


Following the visit on 6 September 2001 by the Coast Review delegation, led by Commodore R C Hastie, 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 station be earmarked for the allocation of an FSB2 in due course and that the replacement of the existing boathouse and slipway be progressed in order to ensure that the new facilities are available when required.  It was also resolved that there be no change to the ILB coverage at this station.


A Framed Letter of Thanks signed by the Chairman of the Institution Mr Peter Nicholson was presented to Helmsman Neil Thomas for the rescue of three surfers trapped in a back eddy in heavy surf off Newgale Beach during the early evening of 21 March 2002.  Although a brief service, Neil Thomas’ skilful handling of the D class lifeboat resulted in three lives being saved.

Former Coxswain Malcolm Gray has been honoured by Her Majesty the Queen in the New Years Honours with a Member, Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to The Institution.

The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum accorded to Coxswain Malcolm Gray MBE for saving the lives of three men from the fishing vessel Yves Marie Amil on 21 December 2004.  The service was carried out at night, in gale force winds and very rough seas.  The fishing vessel was disabled and on fire.


The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum accorded to Coxswain David John in recognition of his courage, leadership and seamanship when the lifeboat brought in the fishing vessel Western Belle and landed her crew of six on the night of 6/7 March 2008.  The service which lasted nearly 12 hours was conducted in gale force winds and five metre waves.  The tow parted twice because of the conditions.  The fishing vessel had lost all power and was adrift in a traffic separation lane.  Conditions were so severe that the lifeboat had to reduce speed and was turned through 180º by the seas twice.  Whilst en route to the casualty Second Coxswain Clive Hayes was injured whilst leaving the wheelhouse to check the tow yet carried on despite two fractured ribs and his stoic contribution to the service was recognised in a Framed Letter of Thanks signed by the Chairman of the Institution Admiral Sir Jock Slater.

A collective Letter of Thanks signed by the Chairman of the Institution, Admiral the Lord Boyce GCB OBE DL was presented to the crew of D-543, Helmsman Nicholas Phillips, Helmsman Simon Thornton and Crew Member Simon Twitchen, and also Crew Member Gareth Morris, who had transferred to the ILB from the all weather lifeboat, for the rescue of three young girls who had been trapped on rocks at Caerfai Bay, during the evening of 5 August 2008.  The rising spring tide and breaking waves made this a particularly difficult rescue and three of the crew had to enter the sea to assist.  The girls were then transferred to the ALB where they were treated for hypothermia.    

The new station D class lifeboat D-704 Myrtle and Trevor Gurr was placed on service on 24 November 2008.  Lifeboat D-543 has been withdrawn to the relief fleet.



The new station Tamar Class lifeboat ON1306 Norah Wortley was placed on service 19 April 2013.  This lifeboat was funded by the generous legacy of Mrs Diana Mary Symon together with a donation from the Diana Symon Charitable Trust.  Lifeboat ON1139 Garside remains on service at St Davids No. 2 pending completion of the new Tamar boathouse.


In July, First slipway launch from the new station of the Tamar class lifeboat Norah Wortley.  The all-weather lifeboat had been moored on a temporary mooring in Ramsey Sound since 2013 whilst work on the new station continued. 

In October, the new £10M station at St Justinian’s was declared fully operational after intensive launch testing. The state-of-the-art building took more than two years to construct and is now the launch base for the station’s £2.7M Tamar class lifeboat and the smaller inshore lifeboat.  A poignant farewell to the Tyne class lifeboat Garside as it launched down the old station slipway for the final time. Garside first arrived on station in 1988 and in its 28 years of service launched 343 times to emergencies at sea. Its crews saved 79 lives and rescued 35 people.  It was also the final time a lifeboat launched from the historic former lifeboat station in St Justinian’s, which has stood since 1912.


Official opening of the new £10M state of the art station and naming ceremony for the £2.7M Tamar class lifeboat Norah Wortley in March. The new station building, situated around 100m from the historic former boathouse at St Justinian, was a feat of engineering built at the base of some of the St Davids Peninsula’s most remote coastal cliffs. As well as the slipway for the Tamar class lifeboat, the new boathouse has additional space to accommodate the smaller D-class inshore lifeboat. Its facilities include a drying room for kit and better provision for crew training and equipment maintenance. There is better access to the station, which is important for the delivery of equipment and, more importantly, for the evacuation of casualties brought in by the lifeboat. Local community fundraising appeal raised more than £214,000 for the boathouse construction.


September, St Davids lifeboat station celebrates its 150th anniversary.  Special service held at St Davids Cathedral at which the new D Class lifeboat Marian and Alan Clayton was officially named and accepted into the lifesaving fleet. The inshore lifeboat was funded by loyal RNLI supporter Mr Keith Clayton in honour of his late parents, who had long-standing ties with the charity.


November, Multi agency search and rescue operation for two missing divers off Martins Haven.  Lifeboat crews from St Davids, Angle, Little & Broad Haven joined Rescue 187 Helicopter, Broad Haven and Dale Coastguard Rescue teams and Dyfed Powys Police.  The lifeboats launched shortly before 5pm in a high spring tide and fading light, with deteriorating sea conditions in gale force eight winds and large swell. After an hour of searching in the dark, the two divers were spotted by St Davids RNLI volunteer Thomas Kirby in the beam of a searchlight, approximately a mile north of Skomer Island, after almost three hours in the water.  They had drifted 1.5 miles from their original position due to the tide.


August, RNLI lifeboat crews from St Davids, Angle and Little and Broad Haven receive a letter of commendation from RNLI Chairman Stuart Popham for the life saving rescue of two divers in difficult conditions on 14 November 2020.


June, Dai John retires as Coxswain at St Davids.  Dai joined the crew at 18 and was involved in over 420 rescues.  Dai followed a family tradition with his father former Coxswain and Mechanic Fred John.  Dai received the RNLI’s Thanks on Vellum for courage, leadership and seamanship for the March 2008 rescue of the 111-ton trawler “Western Belle” and her five crew in a 14-hour rescue. Dai also received a RNLI Letter of Thanks for the rescue of the “Yves Marie Amil” in December 2004 whereby three fishermen were rescued from a burning trawler at night, in near gale force winds.

In July, Will Chant became the stations 16th Coxswain having volunteering at St Davids for over 25 years, joining the crew at the age of 17. Will’s father Dai Chant was the 13th Coxswain of St Davids Lifeboat. His great-great uncle, Henry Rowlands, was also involved with the charity, and tragically lost his life on the RNLI Lifeboat “Gem” in the 1910 disaster. Continuing the family connection, Will’s brother Mike is full-time mechanic at the station.