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RNLI offers reward for safe return of gold medal awarded to Penlee coxswain

Lifeboats News Release

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution is offering a reward of £1,000 for the safe return of the historic gold medal awarded posthumously to the coxswain of the Penlee lifeboat the Solomon Browne.


Trevelyan Richards Gold medal

The medal was discovered to be missing from the RNLI’s head office in Poole earlier this year and despite an extensive search and Police investigation, has not been found. Determined that it should be returned safely the charity is now launching a fresh appeal for any information, with the help a £1,000 reward, which has been donated by a long term RNLI supporter specifically for this purpose.

Paul Boissier, Chief Executive of the RNLI, says,

‘We are extremely concerned about the whereabouts of the medal and anxious to secure its safe return. It is an important and significant part of the RNLI’s heritage, but its primary value lies in its emotional significance, particularly to the families of the crew of the Solomon Browne and the local communities in Newlyn and Mousehole.

Thanks to the generosity of a dedicated RNLI supporter, we are now able to offer a reward of £1,000 for information that leads to the recovery of the medal. The medal is still out there somewhere, and someone must know something. We just hope that the reward will encourage anyone with any information to come forward.’

The charity is especially interested in hearing from the member of the public who contacted Dorset Police anonymously with information and are appealing for them to get back in touch. Anybody with any information about the medal’s location is urged to contact Dorset Police, quoting crime reference number I02 136, to contact the RNLI direct or anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or

The gold medal was awarded posthumously to William Trevelyan Richards, Coxswain of the Penlee Lifeboat Solomon Browne, which sank after going to the aid of the coaster Union Star on the night of 19 December 1981. All eight volunteer crew members were lost in the disaster, and the whole crew were awarded gallantry medals by the RNLI in recognition of their selfless bravery and sacrifice.

The medal was stored in a facility with multiple layers of security. A thorough search of the heritage collection and internal investigation was carried out and the RNLI have been working closely with the Police and those affected by the medal’s loss.

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 in the United Kingdom or +44 1202 663234 if calling from outside the UK.

Notes to editors

  • An image of an RNLI gold medal is attached
  • The gold gallantry medal, which is the highest award for bravery issued by the RNLI, is one of the most precious artefacts in the RNLI’s heritage collection
  • In its 192-year history, the RNLI has awarded 151 gold medals to its lifeboat crews. Only one – Trevelyan Richards – was awarded posthumously. The medal has been compared to the UK’s Victoria Cross in its significance and recognition.

RNLI media contacts

For more information please contact Amy Caldwell, RNLI Public Relations Manager, on 07920818807 or or the RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789.


William Trevelyan Richards, Coxswain of the Penlee Lifeboat

Key facts about the RNLI

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution is the charity that saves lives at sea. Our volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service in the United Kingdom and Ireland from 238 lifeboat stations, including four along the River Thames and inland lifeboat stations at Loch Ness, Lough Derg, Enniskillen, Carrybridge and Lough Ree. Additionally the RNLI has more than 1,000 lifeguards on over 240 beaches around the UK and operates a specialist flood rescue team, which can respond anywhere across the UK and Ireland when inland flooding puts lives at risk.

The RNLI relies on public donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. As a charity it is separate from, but works alongside, government-controlled and funded coastguard services. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824 our lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved at least 140,000 lives. Volunteers make up 95% of the charity, including 4,600 volunteer lifeboat crew members and 3,000 volunteer shore crew. Additionally, tens of thousands of other dedicated volunteers raise funds and awareness, give safety advice, and help in our museums, shops and offices.

Learn more about the RNLI

For more information please visit the RNLI website or Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. News releases, videos and photos are available on the News Centre.

Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 or by email.


The RNLI is a charity registered in England and Wales (209603) and Scotland (SC037736). Charity number 20003326 in the Republic of Ireland