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Whitby's station history

The Whitby lifeboat station was one of the earliest to be established. This was in 1802 and it’s first lifeboat was one of 31ft built by Henry Greathead of South Shields, the builder of the first lifeboat, the original, built at South Shields in 1789. The station was taken over by the Institution in 1861. There have been four stations at Whitby, the Whitby old No 1 (west side), closed 1934, Upgang (1865-1919), Whitby No 2 (east side), closed 1954 and the present station Whitby (motor) opened in 1919.


A second lifeboat (No.2) was provided for the town and kept on the east side of the harbour.


Gold Medal awarded to Lieutenant J Lingard RN in connection with a shoreboat case, when seven lives were rescued from the brig Esther, which was wrecked in an easterly gale near Robin Hood's Bay on 28 April 1929.


Gold Medal was awarded to Lieutenant Richard Jones, Coastguard Officer, for the rescue of 10 lives from the brig Smalls by a shore boat on 18 January 1830 he was awarded an addition to the Gold Medal in the shape of a gold boat for the rescue by lines of four men from the sloop Northfield on 12 December 1830.


Gold Boat (2) awarded to Lieutenant Richard Jones, Coastguard Officer for dashing into the surf and swimming to the stranded sloop Northfield. He brought a rope ashore by means of which the Master and his crew of three were saved.


Silver Medal awarded to Lieutenant G S Brittain RN for launching the west side lifeboat to rescue nine crew from the brig Middlesbrough of Middlesbrough that was driven ashore half a mile north of Whitby in a heavy north-easterly gale on 21 December 1837. 


Gold Medal awarded to Lieutenant G S Brittain for launching the west side lifeboat and, with a ten man crew, rescued the crew of 10 from the rigging of the brig Jupiter of Whitby that ran aground between Whitby and Upgang in a violent northerly gale on 29 October 1838.


On 6 October the east side lifeboat capsized on Whitby Bar whilst going out to two yawls, with the loss of four of her crew of 13 they were M Pattinson, R Storr, R Walker and J Wilson.


Silver Medal awarded to John Storr, fisherman of Whitby, in consideration of his frequent services to save life from shipwrecks.


Silver Medals awarded to Henry Freeman and Thomas Robinson for the part they played when the west side lifeboat, which did not belong to the Institution, launched five times to vessels in distress in a fierce north-easterly gale and very heavy seas on 9 February 1861. On the fifth occasion two waves met underneath the lifeboat and capsized her, drowning 12 of the crew of 13.  C Collins, J Dixon, I Dobson, R Hartland, M Leadley, R Leadley, G Martin, J Philpot, J Storr, W Storr, W Tyreman and W Walker. Henry Freeman was the sole survivor on what had been his first day in the crew; saved because he was wearing a cork lifebelt of Captain Wards plan, which had been sent to Whitby several years before as a specimen of the belts used by the Institution. Valliant efforts were made to save the other crewmen, one of those most prominent was Thomas Robinson who managed to get on the bottom of the lifeboat and try, unsuccessfully, to cut it open with a hatchet. The station was subsequently taken over by the Institution from the Whitby Lifeboat Association. A monument stands in the entrance of St Mary's Parish Church. Lifeboat Lucy began service at a cost of £182. 


Silver Medal awarded to William T Quigley, Chief Officer of Coastguard, for climbing down a precipitous cliff on 23 February; a dark stormy night with ten other men and, using hawsers, took off the three man crew for the schooner William Barker that had been driven ashore and wrecked near the East Pier, Whitby.


At a cost of £870, The Robert Whitworth came into service.


It was decided that the existing arrangement, by which one man acted as coxswain of the two Whitby boats should cease and separate coxswains be appointed.


East side lifeboat capsized while on service to the schooner Agenoria of Whitby on 10 January. Three of the crew drowned. Committee voted £250 to a local fund for dependants of Richard Gatenby, John Thompson and Coxswain Samuel Lacey.


Silver Second-Service Clasp awarded to Coxswain Henry Freeman for launching the number one lifeboat Robert Whitworth on 28 October four times to vessels in distress. At about 1200 with an east-north-easterly hurricane blowing and extremely high seas the lifeboat went to assist the schooner Reaper that was drifting rapidly towards rocks and took off her four man crew. At 1330 the lifeboat assisted the fishing yawl Good Intent and saved her crew of eight. The number two lifeboat Harriott Forteath launched at 1515 to the Rye schooner Elizabeth Austin also stranded on the beach and immediately took off her crew of five. At 1630 the Great Yarmouth schooner John Snell was seen making for the beach with tremendous seas continually sweeping over her. After she struck, the number one lifeboat launched for the third time and saved her five man crew. Every one of these rescues was carried out under great difficulty with Henry Freeman as coxswain.


On 19 January a fierce storm drove a vessel onto the dangerous rocks at Robin Hoods Bay and, owing to the distance and raging sea, it was decided to go to the rescue overland. It seemed a hopeless task for deep snow drifts blocked the bleak country road to the bay. Assisted by a small army of helpers and horses the lifeboat Robert Whitworth was dragged six miles over a hill and moorland. The journey took two hours. The crew of the wreck were rescued.

Whilst the number one lifeboat was being exercised on 8 August, Second Coxswain James Pounder dropped dead.  The Committee of Management voted £50 to a local fund.

Robert and Mary Ellis (ON180) began service.


Silver Medal awarded to Coxswain Thomas Langlands for putting off in a coble and rescuing three men from the coble William and Tom that had foundered on Whitby Bar in a strong north-north-easterly breeze on 14 May. Coxswain Langlands, who was in his own coble, at once went to help and picked up one man, the other two had seized a line thrown from the pier and were driven by the sea close to it, but even though his coble had lost two of her oars Coxswain Langlands went in and picked them up.


The Second Robert and Mary Ellis (ON588) began service, costing £877.


Gold Medal awarded to Coxswain Thomas Langlands, and Silver Medal to Second Coxswain Richard Eglon, and George Peart for saving 35 lives when the hospital ship Rohilla on her way to Dunkirk to evacuate wounded, with 224 men and five nurses on board, ran onto a dangerous reef at Saltwick Nab and almost immediately broke in half in a terrific east-south-easterly gale at 0400 on 30 October.  Lifeboats from Scarborough, Teesmouth, Tynemouth, Upgang and Whitby nos.1 and 2 were involved in this rescue which resulted, on 1 November when the rescue finished, with 85 lives having been saved by lifeboats and the loss of 83 people. Whitby number two lifeboat with her coxswain and second coxswain showing undaunted enterprise and determination in the face of what to lesser men, would have been insurmountable difficulties, rescued 35 of these lives. Other survivors made their own way ashore assisted by a number of onlookers, prominent amongst them was Mr Peart, who rushed into the surf at great personal risk to drag them out. This was the most outstanding service of the war and one of the greatest in the whole history of the lifeboat service.


At a double ceremony on 28 June George Shee, Secretary of the Institution, dedicated the new boathouse to the memory of the late Lieut F H G Trumble R.N. who had been killed in action off Ostend on 10 May 1918 while serving on board H.M.S. Warwick. The cost of the lifeboathouse had been generously donated by his mother. 

Margaret Harker Smith (ON667) began service.


Coxswain Thomas Langlands retired after nearly 50 years service. He held the Institutions Gold and Silver Medals and took part in the rescue of over 200 lives.


Silver Medal awarded to John W Storry for the rescue of three of the five boy occupants of a small pleasure boat which overturned when trying to cross the Bar on 30 May. The capsize was seen by Mr Storry who jumped into the sea and brought the three boys, all unable to swim, to the pier where he supported them, in spite of a sprained arm until a coble came to pick them up. The other two boys were able to swim to safety.

James Harland, shore signalman, was helping at a Flag Day launch of the lifeboat on 16 October when he was accidentally run over by the carriage and killed. His dependants were pensioned.


A Centenary Vellum presented.


Coxswain David Harland received a severe blow in the face whilst launching for service on 16 May. He received a special weekly allowance. He died in 1955. His widow was pensioned.

Mary Ann Hepworth (ON808) began service.


Silver Medal awarded to Coxswain James Murfield and Bronze Medals to Acting Second Coxswain John Dryden and Mechanic James Philpot for the rescue of 18 crew from the minesweeper Cape Comorin that ran ashore under the cliffs on the south side of East Pier on a dark foggy night in very heavy swells on 12 November. At 0350 the lifeboat launched but when arriving on scene was unable to anchor, so maintained a position alongside with the engines, and took off 11 crew before a huge wave threw the lifeboat back. Two more attempt were necessary to take off the remaining seven men.


Silver Medal awarded to Motor Mechanic James Philpot and Bronze Medals to Coxswain James Murfield, Acting Second Coxswain John Dryden (posthumously), Acting Bowman Christopher Wale (posthumously), Assistant Mechanic William Dryden and crew members Matthew Winspear and John Walker for a service on 3 February, when the Belgian s.s. Charles was wrecked in a south-easterly gale on Salwick Nab. The lifeboat launched at 2120 in intense darkness but en route to the casualty was thrown on her beam end by a huge wave, throwing out two crewmen who were drowned, and badly injuring the coxswain. The lifeboat returned to station where a second crew was assembled including Mechanic Philpot who had been on the first launch, but they too were unsuccessful in finding the wreck in the total darkness. At 0730 the lifeboat launched a third time in an unsuccessful attempt to local a reported life raft, Mechanic Philpot was again on board. Crew members John Dryden and Christopher Wale were the first members of a lifeboat crew to be lost during the war. Their dependants were pensioned.


Silver Medal awarded to crew member John Harland and Bronze Medal awarded to Coxswain Harry Murfield for rescuing a man overboard from the fishing vessel Easter Morn that was buried by a large sea in a north-north-westerly gale on 23 February 1946. Coxswain Murfield took the lifeboat towards the man, and threw a lifebuoy on a line, but the man made no effort to reach for it. It was obvious that he was unconscious, then without hesitation Mr Harland jumped overboard in his oilskins and lifebelt, seized the man and grabbed the lifebuoy. They were both hauled back on board the lifeboat. HM the King awarded the Silver Medal for Gallantry for saving Life at Sea to Harland for this rescue. He also received from the Carnegie Hero Trust, as well as the Maud Smith Award for the Bravest Act of Lifesaving.


Mr John W Foster, who retired in 1948, after being Secretary of the Whitby station for 44 years, was appointed an Honorary Life Governor of the Institution on his retirement.


A Commemorative Vellum for 150 years awarded.


Bronze Medal awarded to Coxswain Eric Taylor for rescuing four men from the fishing boat Foxglove of Whitby on 15 April in a north-north-westerly gale and very rough sea. The lifeboat was at sea escorting small boats back to port when the Foxglove was hit by a heavy sea which caused her engine to fail and to be carried onto rocks. The coxswain took the lifeboat through a gap in the rocks but the first attempt to take off the crew was unsuccessful. At the next attempt all three men were rescued and safely landed ashore.


Coxswain David Harland died.  He had been seriously injured on service in 1938 that resulted in his retirement on health grounds in 1939.


Number two station closed and the last active pulling lifeboat remains in her house which was adapted as a lifeboat museum.  At one time rope ladders for use in cliff rescues were stored in the belfry of Whitby Church.


Mechanic W Dryden was awarded the Royal Humane Society's Testimonial for the rescue of a child who fell into the harbour on 17 July.

The Lifeboat Museum was opened on 26 July.


Inshore lifeboat station established in May with the placing on service of a D Class lifeboat.

The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum was accorded to Coxswain W Harland for the rescue of the crew of 14 of the coaster Fred Everard on 27 November 1965.


The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum was accorded to John Anderson and Peter Neville Thomas for the service on 18 August when the inshore lifeboat rescued three people and a dog from a speedboat that capsized about 150 yards from the lifeboat house.


Bronze Medal awarded to Coxswain William Harland for rescuing the crew of two of the fishing vessel Gannet which had broken down in a north-north-easterly gale with heavy rain squalls, poor visibility and a rough sea on the morning of 15 July.

The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum was accorded to David Frampton and Robert Allen who jumped from the lifeboat Mary Ann Hepworth into a rowing boat which was sinking near the Scar Rocks in a west by northerly gale and a choppy sea to rescue a young man on the evening of 17 August.


The White Rose of Yorkshire (ON1033) came into service, costing £81,000. The all weather lifeboat was placed in a mooring pen near the boathouse.


1975 Bronze Medal awarded to Helmsman Michael Coates and The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum accorded to crew member D Wharton for rescuing a man cut off by the tide on 25 July.  The man was clinging to a crumbling cliff face near Saltwick Nab - Whitby and was in danger of losing hold and being swept away by the heavy breaking sea. The lifeboat anchored off and Helmsman Coates swam to the foot of the cliff attached to a line and persuaded the man to slide into the sea. They were then both hauled on board. The Helmsman and crew were awarded the Ralph Glister Award.

Bronze Medal awarded to crew member Brian Hodgson for the rescue of two people overboard from a swamped speedboat in rough seas on 18 August. One man was seen in the water outside the line of breaking surf and a second man, a non swimmer, on the edge of the surf.  Helmsman Hodgson entered the water to help support the first man so the inshore lifeboat crew (David Wharton and Barry Mason) could go directly to the other person who was in the greater danger.  Having picked up this survivor just as he was about to be engulfed in the surf, the inshore lifeboat returned to recover the other survivor and Brian Hodgson. By this time they too, were right on the edge of the surf line. Both survivors were landed. Crew members David Wharton and Barry Mason were given Medal Service Certificates.


At 03.26 on 30th September the reserve Lifeboat, William and Mary Durham slipped her moorings in Whitby with Coxswain Robert Allen in command after a distress call from the Scarborough trawler Admiral Van Tromp. In darkness and thick fog the trawler was found aground under the cliffs in the vicinity of Whitby High Light, a heavy sea breaking over her.  
While moving in to her the lifeboat was pooped by breaking seas that the Coastguard estimated could have been twenty feet high. Coxswain Allen withdrew to wait for more water and the HM Coastguard tried to help from the shore but the weather conditions were such it would have been impossible for the crew of the Admiral Van Tromp to come on deck and handle the lines. At 04.14 the casualty reported the situation was getting desperate and they would have to leave the vessel.  
Coxswain Allen ordered that the lifeboats anchor should be laid and again with heavy breaking seas breaking over the lifeboat she got to about sixty foot from the Van Tromp. Three gun lines were fired and although one was thought to cross the deck no one could be seen on deck.  
The anchor came loose and the boat was driven back. She bounced on the bottom before Coxswain Allen could claw her back out to sea where on being recovered it was found the anchor flute had broken off. Coxswain Allen took the lifeboat alongside the fishing boats Jann Denise and Courage to borrow two anchors and two more gun lines.  
The larger anchor was bent on and laid and again the lifeboat was veered down to the casualty. There was still no sign of life on board. The lifeboat was maybe twenty five feet from the Van Tromp when two enormous seas broke over her sweeping three of the lifeboat crew off their feet and washing them aft. Raymond Dent managed to hook his arm around a stanchion but dislocated his shoulder and Howard Bedford was brought up standing by his lifeline, struck his head and lost consciousness. The injured men were sheltered in the well and Coxswain Allen ordered the anchor rope cut and put Raymond Dent aboard the Jann Denise to be taken ashore for treatment. Howard Bedford remained on board. 
One more attempt was made to get to the Admiral Van Tromp and again the lifeboat was swept by heavy seas and the handrails and the radio were damaged so she returned to deeper water to await daylight. 
At 06.30 Crewmen Michael Coates and Brian Hodgson were brought to make up the lifeboat crew aboard the trawler Jann Denise.  
The Whitby Inshore Lifeboat launched at 08.30 and made its way to Saltwick. 
There was still a heavy swell when a survivor was seen on a rock near The Black Nab. Helmsman Robinson drove the D class lifeboat in at full speed onto a ledge and the man was grabbed just as a large sea broke over the rock and washed the boat back into the sea. 
For this service a Silver Medal for Gallantry was awarded to Coxswain Robert Allen. The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on vellum were accorded to Second Coxswain/Motor Mechanic Peter N Thomson, Assistant Mechanic Dennis D Carrick and Crew Members Howard Bedford, Raymond Dent and Thomas Hansel. Medal Service Certificates were presented to Michael R Coates and Brian W Hodgson.
On the Inshore Lifeboat a Bronze Medal was awarded to Helmsman Richard M K Robinson and Crew Members David A Wharton and Tony Easton were accorded The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum. The Helmsman and crew were awarded the Ralph Glister Award.



The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum was accorded to Helmsman M Coates and crew members B Hodgson and J Easton in recognition of their skill, determination and seamanship when the inshore lifeboat gave help to a man who had been cut off by the tide on 5 June.


The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum was accorded to Coxswain Mechanic Peter Thomson in recognition of his determination and perseverance when the lifeboat gave assistance to the fishing vessel Rayella, which had broken down approximately four miles east of Whitby in a long and hazardous service lasting over nine hours in a strong north-north-westerly gale and a very rough sea on 8 April.


Bronze Medals were awarded to Coxswain Mechanic Peter Thomson and Helmsman Nicholas Botham in recognition of their courage and seamanship when one of the crew of the yacht Cymba was rescued and the body another was landed after the yacht had capsized near Whitby Rocks in a fresh northerly breeze and heavy breaking seas on 9 April. The casualty was being driven inland with the survivor in the water on the stern side, apparently attached in some way. Taking the lifeboat up to the casualty stern first through atrocious sea conditions the Coxswain managed to secure the survivor at the third approach and drag him alongside the lifeboat where he was lifted aboard to safety.


Bronze Medal was awarded to Helmsman John Pearson and The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum was accorded to his crew Nick Bentley and Glenn Goodberry (Ronald Rundle Goodberry) in recognition of their high standard of seamanship, boat handling skills and bravery on board the inshore lifeboat and a collective Framed Letter of Thanks signed by the Chairman, Michael Vernon was presented to Coxswain Mechanic Peter Thomson, Second Coxswain Assistant Mechanic Keith Stuart, crew members Michael Russell, Nicholas Botham, Adrian Blackburn and Howard Fields in recognition of the support they gave their fellow crew members in the D class lifeboat when she rescued a man in the water after his rigid inflatable boat had capsized. With only three foot of water under the Tyne, the D class inflatable lifeboat sped inshore and Helmsman Pearson had to take the lifeboat past the survivor to carry out a ‘snatch turn’ on the back of a sea to return for a head-to-sea approach. On the second attempt the man was hauled aboard lifeboat and taken straight out into the sea, leaving the water completely on several occasions, reaching the all weather lifeboat and successfully transferring the survivor.


A new Trent class lifeboat ON1212 George and Mary Webb was placed on service 10 April 1996. The lifeboat was funded by the Mary Webb Trust. The Tyne class lifeboat 1 City of Sheffield (ON113) has been withdrawn.


The new station D class lifeboat D-521 O E M Stone II was placed on service on Wednesday 23 July 1997.


The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum accorded to Second Coxswain Keith Elliott for a joint service with the Staithes and Runswick inshore lifeboat when an elderly man was rescued from a trimaran on 20 September 2000 at night in breaking seas.

A Framed Letter of Thanks signed by the Chairman of the Institution, Mr Peter Nicholson, presented to Coxswain Keith Stuart for saving three men and their fishing coble the Mary Ann, which was disabled but under tow by another coble on 30 October. When this tow parted the lifeboat took over. This service was undertaken in a Force 11 Violent Storm, with four metre breaking seas, poor visibility and only a quarter of a nautical mile off shore. The lifeboat’s radar had been disabled by the sea on leaving Whitby.


An anniversary Vellum commemorating completion of 200 years service was presented to the station. Voted on 28 November 2001 by the Committee of Management.


A Framed Letter of Thanks signed by the Chairman of the Institution, Mr Peter Nicholson, presented to Helmsman John Pearson in recognition of his initiative and actions in raising the alarm and landing the D class inshore lifeboat to save three men in a small boat on the afternoon of the 23 January 2003. The small boat was in danger in three metre breaking seas at the mouth of the harbour. Having rescued the three men he safely negotiated the entrance to the harbour, despite the dangers to the D class that the sea conditions had created.


The old lifeboat station reopened 19 September 2005 after nearly 50 years. The lifeboat house closed in 1957 and became a museum. It will be brought back into service for approximately a year while the town’s current lifeboat station is demolished and a replacement built.


Boathouse substructure and new berth completed in September at a cost of £1.200,000.


The new IB1 lifeboat D-674 OEM Stone III was placed on service on 15 May. This lifeboat was provided by the generous bequest of Miss Olive Emma May Stone. D-521 has been withdrawn to the Relief Fleet.

A new crew facility building completed in August at a cost of £575.000.


A framed Letter of Thanks signed by the Chairman of the Institution, Admiral Sir Jock Slater, was presented to the station in recognition of the initiative, teamwork and professionalism display by all those involved in first attempting to prevent a small craft leaving the harbour in totally inappropriate conditions, and then the subsequent rescue of two of the three occupants on 23 November 2007. The craft capsized and sadly, despite their being rescued, none of the three survived. 


Letter of appreciation to Helmsman Hugh Ramsden. Vellum Service Certificates for Crew members Jamie white and Stephen Boocock. Awarded for the part they played alongside RNLI lifeguards in the rescue of a kayaker from very rough seas at Sandsend on 30th August. Lifeguard Supervisor Shaun Messruther was accorded the Thanks of the Institution Inscribed on Vellum. Lifeguards Daniel Wordsworth and Calum Norman received a collective Framed Letter of Thanks.


Thirty six medals have been awarded, five gold, 14 Silver and 17 Bronze.  The last being awarded in 1993.