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Dramatic history of lifeboat volunteers at RNLI Lyme Regis captured in new book

Lifeboats News Release

The life and times of the Lyme Regis lifeboat crew – and the lifeboats themselves – are documented in a new book from the RNLI due to be launched on the 22 July, the first day of this year’s Lifeboat Week in the town.

RNLI/Lyme Regis

Lyme Regis Lifeboat Station Histories book cover.

Written by the station’s Volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer Richard Horobin, a retired newspaper and BBC journalist, the fully illustrated book is part of the charity’s history book project.

It tells of how a makeshift lifeboat service started in the town in 1826, and how a Christmas tragedy led to Lyme Regis getting a ‘proper’ lifeboat, powered by sails and oars, 27 years later.

With help from local historians and lifeboat supporters, the author has brought to life a fascinating collection of stories about dedicated volunteers who have ran a lifeboat service in the town, despite all the odds, over a period of nearly 160 years. It describes how they would row the lifeboat for hours to reach a stricken vessel, with no twin 115 horsepower engines such as the ones that power today’s modern lifeboat.

Stories range from the crew member who was shipwrecked eight times as a mariner to the coxswain who served the lifeboat for 34 years and was famed for his strength, picking up a man with one arm and placing him on a table. He also salvaged a huge barrel of alcohol from a shipwreck and carried it single handed up a cliff! There was also a dramatic episode when a ship was torpedoed by a German submarine a short distance from Lyme Regis harbour.

In more recent times there was the tale of the amazing survival of a couple whose helicopter crashed into Lyme Bay in dense fog, followed by the tragedy of a severely disabled woman whose wheelchair fell into Lyme Regis harbour and the desperate attempts made to save her.

There are the lighter moments too, such as the crew Christmas Dinner when the annual awards are presented, including the Bent Propeller trophy! The story of Lifeboat Week, starting from the early 70s, includes the ditching of a Navy helicopter into the sea, which wasn’t part of the event, although the hundreds who witnessed were unaware of this.

The new book will be available to purchase from the RNLI Lyme Regis Lifeboat Shop on the Cobb and at other outlets in the town from 22 July. It is priced at £8.95 with all proceeds going to the RNLI, the charity that saves lives at sea.


RNLI notes to editors

The enclosed photo shows:

  • Lyme Regis Lifeboat Station Histories book cover.

Please credit RNLI/Lyme Regis.

RNLI media contacts

For more information please contact Jade Dyer, RNLI Communications Student Placement, on 01752 854485 or by emailing jade_dyer@rnli.org.uk.

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.

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