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Veteran of saving lives at sea assisted by Harwich RNLI volunteers

Lifeboats News Release

Veteran ex RNLI lifeboat Sarah Ann Austin which had saved 32 lives between 1937 and 1965 was itself in need of assistance from one of the RNLI’s modern inshore lifeboats when if suffered a mechanical failure off Harwich on Tuesday evening.

RNLI/Robertsons Boatyard, Woodbridge

Sarah Ann Austin as she looks today
At 6pm on Tuesday 21 June, the pagers of the Harwich RNLI volunteers sounded for the 45th time of 2022, requesting them to launch the charity’s Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat Tierney, Harvey and Sonny Reid. The UK Coastguard had received reports of a vessel anchored at the South Shelf Buoy, just off Harwich Green, after a mechanical failure.

Arriving on scene the volunteers were surprised to discover it was the ex RNLI Liverpool class lifeboat Sarah Ann Austin, formally named by the Duke of Kent in a ceremony at Blackpool Beach in 1937, where she served until 1961 before entering the relief fleet.

One of the veteran lifeboat’s most memorable services was in 1939 when she took part in a service involving six lifeboats that was to earn her Coxswain R. Parr the Silver Medal, and Mechanic Thomas Rimmer the Bronze Medal, after the pilot boat Charles Livingstone of Liverpool went aground at Ainsdale on 26th November. During the service two lifeboat men were washed overboard, but recovered, and six of the pilots crew were rescued.

Recently purchased by Robertsons Boatyard of Woodbridge with the intention of offering bespoke group outings along the River Deben, the former lifeboat had been attending the Suffolk Festival of the Sea, a perfect opportunity for the crew to discover and resolve any issues before excepting passengers aboard.

The volunteers of Harwich RNLI were able to establish a tow and proceed to Levington Marina, where the Sarah Ann Austin was placed on a floating mooring, and its crew of three were then transferred to shore aboard the Atlantic 85, bringing to a close the 282 service for the Tierney, Harvey, and Sonny Reid since entering service with Harwich RNLI in 2018.

While offering bespoke tours for up to 12 people, the new owners of the Sarah Ann Austin, also plan to use her to help raise funds for the RNLI, and in doing so this veteran of lifesaving will continue to save lives at sea by supporting the work of the current generation of lifeboats and their volunteer crews.

If you would like to help make a real difference by saving lives with Harwich RNLI, please email [email protected]. No experience is needed as full comprehensive training will be given.’

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 clare_hop[email protected] or contact the RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789.

RNLI/Beken of Cowes

Sarah Ann Austin as an operational lifeboat

RNLI/Matt Eminson

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.