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Torbay's Station history

A station was established at Brixham in 1866.  The Torquay Station was established in 1876 and was closed in 1923 when a motor lifeboat was placed at Brixham.  In 1924 the Brixham station was renamed Torbay.

A fleet of merchant ships were caught in Torbay when the wind moved suddenly to south-south-east blowing a hurricane, accompanied by heavy sleet, on 10/11 January 1866, causing the loss of 40 out of 60-70 ships that were sheltering there and the tragic loss of nearly 100 lives.  As a result of this the RNLI established a lifeboat station in Torbay.



Lifeboat house constructed at a cost of £175.


Lifeboat house was sold for £50 to ground landlords who intended to give it to the Council for a fire station.


Vellum voted to Rev R F Elrington on resigning after 24 years as honorary secretary.


Grant of £200 to Robert Northway for injury to left arm on service 8 December 1907.  His arm was considered useless.


Electric light service provided for Brixham lifeboat house.


Second Coxswain William Pillar was awarded the Albert Medal by His Majesty King George V for the rescue of 71 survivors of HMS Formidable during a hurricane in the Channel on New Year's Day 1915, and to achieve this he gybed his fishing smack Provident three times to establish contact with the pinnace in which the men were displaying signals of distress.


On 28 January the lifeboat capsized whilst out on service to a condemned German destroyer in a whole easterly gale.  The lifeboat was struck on the starboard bilge by an exceptionally heavy sea but quickly recovered herself and all the crew scrambled back into her without loss of life.


Brixham lifeboat station renamed Torbay.



New Torbay lifeboat house erected near corner of the breakwater at a cost of £396 following and application from local residents.


Torquay lifeboat house constructed at a cost of £336.


On 14 October the Torquay lifeboat was returning from Brixham after a service to the fishing boat Black Cat whilst a gale was at its height when the lifeboat was caught by heavy squall and capsized.  All the crew regained the lifeboat.


Torquay lifeboat house threatened by encroachment of the sea.


Torquay lifeboat house lengthened to take a new lifeboat.


A launcher broke an ankle at a service launch.


Water and gas supplied to Torquay lifeboat house.


Station closed on 31 March.  The lifeboat house was demolished in September 1975.


Berth and dredging completed in January at a cost of £609,450.


The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum awarded to Helmsman Nigel Crang in recognition of his skill and seamanship when the inshore lifeboat safely rescued a mature couple from the rocks at Corbyn’s Head after their yacht had been driven ashore on the afternoon of 1 May 2011.  His two crew members, John Heale and Will Bower were each awarded a Framed Letter of Thanks signed by the Chairman of the Institution, Admiral Lord Boyce, for their contribution to the service.

Coxswains Year Honorary Secretaries Year 
William Henry Browne 5/1876-7/1900 R G Cove 1876-1889
John Gill 7/1900-9/1916 J G Nevin 1889-1904
Thomas Martin
10/1916-3/1923 Thornton Slade 1904-1915
    Henry G Slade 1915-1928



Bronze Medal awarded to Coxswain W A Mogridge for a service on 30 December 1935.  A wireless message was intercepted from an American steamer that a vessel, the trawler Satanicle, was in distress 15 miles east of Start Point.  A whole south south westerly gale was blowing with a heavy confused sea and an abnormally strong tide was running.  A message was sent to the American vessel asking her to use her searchlight as a guide to the lifeboat.  Three members of the crew of the Satanicle had been rescued by another vessel and, with great difficulty the last member of the crew, the skipper was rescued by the lifeboat.


Bronze Medal Clasp awarded to Coxswain W A Mogridge for the gallant and dangerous service to the steamer English Trader which ran ashore on Checkstone Ledge at the entrance to Dartmouth Harbour to 23 January 1937.  The lifeboat had stood by all night, the wind had increased to a gale from the south south east, the heavy swell had lifted the English Trader, swung round her stern and was pounding her bows heavily on the rocks: seas 15 feet high were breaking over the steamer and the Captain thought she could last no longer.  The lifeboat closed at once and the work of the 52 men aboard was extremely hazardous.


Silver Medal awarded to Coxswain W A Mogridge, for the rescue of the crew of two of the open motor crabber Channel Pride which was overtaken by a sudden gale off Coombe Point, Dartmouth, on 9 December 1938.  A gorse fire was started on the cliff top to guide the lifeboat to the position of the crabber which had no lights near the Redlap Cliffs.  It was a hazardous rescue carried out with great daring.


Silver Medal Clasp awarded to Coxswain W A Morgridge and Bronze Medals awarded to Second Coxswain W Pillar, Mechanic R T Harris and Bowman F Sanders for the rescue on 16 December 1939 of seven people from the schooner Henrietta which had been carried out by the strong spring tides and an east north easterly gale to the edge of the dangerous reef the Skerries south of Dartmouth.

Crew member F R Tucker, was out on service on 29 January and was subjected to extreme exposure.  He died in March 1940.


Silver Medal awarded to Coxswain F C Sanders and the Bronze Second-Service Clasp to Mechanic R T Harris for the rescue of 19 men from the Tug Empire Alfred and Yard Craft No 345 on 17 December 1944.


Bronze Medal awarded to Coxswain H O Thomas for the rescue of 11 people from the Tug Trieste on 30 January 1952.  A whole gale was blowing from south south west with frequent squalls of rain and sleet and a heavy sea running.  The tug was found off the mouth of the River Exe about a mile from Start Point riding to a sea anchor; she was yawing violently and five men were below the prostrate with seasickness.


Before the alarm rocket, an ancient hand bell used to be rung to summon the lifeboat crew.  This bell was originally used by the fish salesmen in Brixham fish market to summon would be buyers ready for auction.  The fishermen understood that a furious ringing of the hand bell meant that they were required for the lifeboat service.


On 25 July the new lifeboat Princess Alexandra of Kent was named by HRH Princess Alexandra; the daughter of HRH Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent, the President of the Institution.  At the ceremony a glass tankard; inscribed with the signatures of the lifeboat crew, was presented to Princess Alexandra by the daughter of the Honorary Secretary.


Silver Medal awarded to Coxswain H O Thomas, Bronze Third-Service Clasp to Motor Mechanic R T Harris and Vellum thanks to Second Coxswain A Bartlett, Bowman J Fry, Assistant mechanic J W Harris and crew members D W O Thomas, K H Thomas, P V Easton; for the service on 7 December 1959, when a man was rescued from a lighter which had broken adrift from a Dutch tug.


D class lifeboat sent to station in April.


Silver Medal awarded to Coxswain Harold Coyde and a Bronze Fourth-Service Clasp to Motor Mechanic R T Harris for attempting to rescue two men from the motor vessel Northwind which went aground on 22 December 1964 in an easterly gale and heavy confused sea.  The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum was accorded to the other eight members of the crew.


A Centenary Vellum was presented to the Torbay station by Lady Egremont, President of the Ladies Lifeboat Guild at a ceremony held at the inner harbour Brixham, to mark the hundredth anniversary of the founding of the Torbay station previously known as Brixham.


In July the Hatch type boat 18.03 was sent to station for evaluation trials.


D class lifeboat withdrawn in October and 18.03 became the station inshore lifeboat.


Silver Medal awarded to Motor Mechanic Barry Pike in recognition of his courage and determination when on 5 October 1973 he leapt from the inshore lifeboat into a very rough sea in an attempt to rescue a woman and, although ashore completely exhausted, he re-entered the sea several times to bring the woman's body ashore.  Coxswain Kenneth Gibbs, who was the Helmsman of the ILB on this occasion and was accorded the Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum.  The Ralph Glister award for the most meritorious service performed by the crew of an ILB was awarded to Motor Mechanic Barry Pike for this service.

Bronze Medal awarded to Coxswain Kenneth Gibbs in recognition of his courage and excellent seamanship when the lifeboat rescued the crew of one of the fishing boat Petit Michel in difficulties 38 miles south-east-by-east of Torbay on 16/17 December 1973 in a west-north-westerly gale and a very rough sea.


Hatch type boat 18.03 withdrawn and replaced by an 18ft McLachlan lifeboat.


Bronze Medal awarded to crew member John Dew in recognition of his courage and determination when he swam ashore from the lifeboat with a line and then swam alongside six adults, eight children and a dog making seven trips in all to escort them to the lifeboat after being stranded on a beach when their speedboat was wrecked on 23 August 1976.


Gold Medal awarded to Acting Coxswain Keith William Bower, Bronze Medals to Mechanic Stephen James Bower, Assistant Mechanic William John Hunkin, crew members Michael Mills, Nicholas Davies, Richard Brown, and Bronze Second-Service Clasp to crew member John Dew for a service on 6 December 1976, when the lifeboat Edward Bridges (Civil Service No 37) rescued the crew of 10 of the motor vessel Lyrma of Panama.  The Lyrma was in distress seven and a half miles east south east of Start Point in a southerly storm and very high seas.


Bronze Medal awarded to Coxswain George Edward Dyer in recognition of his courage and skill when the lifeboat rescued the crew of three of the pilot cutter Leslie H, which had a steering failure one mile south-east of Berry Head in an east south easterly storm and a very rough sea on 19 February 1978.  The lifeboat was hit by a freak wave of 30 to 35 feet during this service which nearly capsized her.  One of her crew members was washed out of the lifeboat and was recovered.  The lifeboat crew each received a framed medal service certificate.


Bronze Medal awarded to Coxswain Arthur Curnow in recognition of his courage, skill and seamanship when the lifeboat rescued the crew of six of the trawler Fairway which had broken down and was drifting in Lyme Bay in a south easterly storm and heavy seas on 2 December 1978.

A Framed Letter of Thanks signed by the Chairman of the Institution awarded to Coxswain Arthur Curnow, Acting Assistant Mechanic Brian Caunter and crew member Michael Kingston for the rescue of three men stranded on rocks on 14 August.


An 18ft McLachlan lifeboat withdrawn and replaced by D class lifeboat on 19 January.


On 29 April Torbay Lifeboat Station was granted the Honorary Freedom of the Borough of Torbay.


The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum was accorded to Coxswain Curnow in recognition of the skill and high standard of seamanship displayed by him when the lifeboat took off an injured crew member by stretcher from the fishing vessel Carhelmar, whose beam trawl had fouled the seabed, 14.5 miles east of Berry Head in a south westerly gale gusting to Force 9, very high seas and darkness on the night of 22 January.

Work carried out on boathouse in order to accommodate the D class lifeboat and crew facilities.


Her Majesty The Queen has honoured Mr Aruthur Curnow, lately Coxswain, with a BEM in her Birthday Honours

A collective Framed Letter of Thanks signed by the Chairman of the Institution was awarded to Coxswain David Hurford, Second Coxswain Richard Morphett, Emergency Mechanic Stephen Bower, crew members Dr Raymond Foster, Cyril Yeoman, Nigel Crang and Mr Ernest Fradd in recognition of their fine display of teamwork when the lifeboat Edward Bridges (Civil Service No 37) rescued the sole occupant of the fishing vessel Julie Ann, which sank at New Ridge on 15 March.


Gold Medal plaque situated in the wheelhouse of the lifeboat Edward Bridges (Civil Service No 37) was removed when the lifeboat was taken out of service and placed in the boathouse on 29 June.  This plaque was in recognition of the gold medal awarded to Keith Bower for the service on 6 December 1976 when the lifeboat rescued the crew of 10 of the motor vessel Lyrma.


A Framed Letter of Thanks signed by the Chairman of the Institution awarded to crew member Nigel Crang in recognition of his courage when from the inshore lifeboat he entered the water and swam, in breaking seas, inside a cave at Hollicombe Head to rescue two people cut off by the tide on 8 August 1994.


New D class lifeboat placed on service on 26 September.


A Framed Letter of Thanks signed by the Chairman of the Institution was awarded to Coxswain David Hurford for his leadership, initiative and superb seamanship when the lifeboat Marie Winstone launched on 1 January to the 17,134 GRT tanker Santa Anna which had dragged her anchor and was aground on Thatcher Rock, to the north of the lifeboat station in a southerly Force 8-9 Gale with moderate visibility and frequent heavy rain squalls.  Darkness had fallen and driving rain and spray from 16 feet seas reduced visibility even further and the lifeboat's deck lights failed.  As the lifeboat could not tow a vessel of this size it was decided to pass a line to the Santa Anna and then transfer it to the more powerful trawler Marbella which was approaching together with two pilot vessels.  The lifeboat passed a towline to a pilot which had a wire from the Marbella on board.  As both vessels had heavy towing gear attached the towlines were successfully joined together.  The Coastguard tug Far Minara arrived and the Marbella's towline was let go.  The lifeboat was taken close up to the tanker to pass the tow from the tug which could not get close in the shallow water and the Santa Anna was towed clear of the rocks and taken to safe anchorage.


The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum was awarded to Helmsman Nigel Crang and crew member Simon James and a Letter of Thanks signed by the Chairman of the Institution was presented to crew member Nick O’Brien for the rescue of three teenage boys cut off by the tide in a cove at Roundham Head on 19 April.  The Deputy Divisional Inspector’s report stated that the rescue was conducted on the very edge of D-class operating conditions, in rough seas and heavy swell.


The new station Severn class lifeboat ON1255 Alec and Christina Dykes was placed on service on 31 October.  ON1076 Marie Winstone was stood down from service.


Following the visit on 24 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 there be no change to the lifeboat cover provided at Torbay Lifeboat Station.


The new class of lifeboat IB1, D651 William John Hirst was placed on service on Tuesday 4 October.  D504 has been withdrawn.


Internal alterations completed in May at a cost of £69,000.


Berth and dredging project completed in January at a cost of £609,450.

Silver Medal awarded to Coxswain Mark Criddle, and the Thanks of the Institution on Vellum was accorded to all of his crew; Second Coxswain Roger Good, Deputy Second Coxswain John Ashford, Mechanic Mathew Tyler, Second Mechanic Nigel Coulton, Crew Members Darryll Farley and Dr Alexander Rowe in recognition of their courage, skill and determination when the lifeboat saved the lives of eight of the crew of the freighter Ice Prince on the night of 13 January 2008.  The disabled freighter had a list of 45º, was pitching and rolling severely in south westerly force 9 winds and four metre seas.  The lifeboat made approximately 50 approaches to the freighter to save the men, one at a time.  Captain Kevin Balls and the crew of coastguard rescue helicopter India Juliet were accorded a collective Thanks on Vellum for saving the lives of the other 12 crew members.

The Marine Society awarded Coxswain Criddle the Emile Robin Award for the most outstanding sea rescue for this service. He also received the James Michael Bower Endowment Fund award.

The GMTV/Daily Mirror Pride of Britain award in the category Emergency Services was given to Coxswain Criddle and his crew for this service.


A Framed Letter of Thanks signed by the Chairman of the Institution was awarded to Coxswain Mark Criddle for his sound leadership, decision making and execution of the service and Crew Member Ryan Bradfield for his courage and bravery when lifeboat Alec and Christina Dykes launched on 29 January to the assistance of a man in the water near Princess Pier.  Weather conditions were poor with force seven winds, rough seas and a one meter swell.

The lifeboat spotted the man in the water whereby his face was repeatedly being submerged by the waves.  The sea was confused and choppy due to the reflected waves from the promenade wall, causing the lifeboat to roll and pitch. Crew Member Ryan Bradfield entered the sea from the port side, attached to a safety line and swam the five or so metres to the casualty. Taking hold of the casualty, Crew Member Bradfield signalled to the crew to haul them both towards the lifeboat. The casualty appeared lifeless and was unable to assist in his recovery.

The crew affected a lift using the A-frame and helicopter lifting strop and the casualty was quickly recovered and carried into the wheelhouse. Dr Alexander Rowe immediately started resuscitation and ventilatory support with the help of Crew Member Michelle Fox. The lifeboat arrived at the harbour at approximately 2036 and a waiting paramedic crew boarded and continued to treat the casualty with the assistance of Dr Rowe and Crew Member Fox. The casualty was transferred to the ambulance approximately ten minutes later and was taken to Torbay hospital where, sadly, it was confirmed that he had lost his life.


The men of Torbay have been awarded 26 medals, one Gold, six Silver and 19 Bronze.  The last was voted in 2008.


Letters of Thanks from Italian Government for rescue of three from ss Libert in February 1926
Letter of Thanks from Netherlands Government for service to motor vessel Zeehond in January 1936.
The French Government in 1936 awarded Silver Medals to the Coxswain and Second Coxswain, and Bronze Medals to the crew for the service to motor trawler Satanicle on 30 December 1935.

Letter of Thanks from Belgian Marine Department for the rescue of two from motor fishing boat De Moeuv in October 1944.

The Queen of the Netherlands awarded the Silver Medal of Humane Assistance to Coxswain H O Thomas and the Bronze Medal of the Humane Assistance to each of the crew members following the rescue of a man from a lighter which broke adrift from a Dutch tug on 7 December 1959.