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25 years of saving lives for Harwich RNLI’s Albert Brown

Lifeboats News Release

On 2 October it will be 25 years since Harwich RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat Albert Brown was declared operational, making it the first Severn class lifeboat to go into service for the RNLI.


Albert Brown (17-03) underway

This continued a tradition of firsts, going back to 1890 when the RNLI’s first steam powered lifeboat, Duke of Northumberland was stationed at Harwich.

The Severn class was a new generation of self-righting all-weather lifeboat, capable of 25 knots (29mph) and packed with the latest technology. At 17 metres and 42 tonnes it would be the largest lifeboat in the fleet and an ideal replacement for the 13.4 metre Waveney class lifeboats which had served Harwich since 1967, the last being the John Fison.

With 25 years responding to distress calls there is a wealth of stories. One notable service came on 6 September 2000 when one of the longest services in recent RNLI history was undertaken to rescue the yacht I like It and its two occupants, which was in difficulty some 50 miles out to sea after losing its rudder.

Setting out in a north westerly force six producing a moderate to rough sea, which worsened to a force nine with a four metre swell, the Albert Brown’s volunteer crew had not expected to be afloat for more than 20 hours and pay a visit to Zeebrugge. A service successfully completed in atrocious conditions, for which Second Coxswain Paul Smith (later to become Coxswain) would be presented with the thanks of the institution on vellum.

Originally going into service with a 25 year operational life, it is now time to look to the next 25 years. For this the RNLI are exploring the option presented by experts of a life extension programme, which will see the existing fleet being stripped down to their hulls and rebuilt from the ground up with the latest technology and safety equipment, making them fit for another 25 years of lifesaving.

The initial phase will see six of the Severn class lifeboats being upgraded at a considerable saving compared to developing a completely new lifeboat, making it less costly than the smaller Shannon class all-weather lifeboat to produce. Aberdeen RNLI are due to receive the first of the new generation Severn Class lifeboats by the end of 2021.

Lifeboat Operations Manager Peter Bull, said: ‘I am proud to lead a station with such a rich history, including such notable firsts for the RNLI as having the first operational steam powered lifeboat in 1890, or the first Severn Class lifeboat in 1996, and in recent months the first full-time female coxswain with the appointment of Di Bush.’

‘None of this would be possible without the generosity of the public, which I find truly humbling.’

Anyone wishing to donate to Harwich RNLI, ensuring the volunteers can respond to calls of distress at sea, can do so via the charity boxes, the RNLI shop attached to the lifeboat station, or at:

RNLI media contacts

For more information, please contact:

Richard Wigley, RNLI Harwich volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer on 07903424698 or [email protected],

Clare Hopps, Regional Media Officer on 07824518641 or [email protected] or contact the RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789.


First RNLI steam powered lifeboat - Duke of Northumberland (taken after leaving Harwich for New Brighton)

Key facts about the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

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Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or by email.