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RNLI celebrates the 60 year anniversary of the inshore lifeboat

Lifeboats News Release

Introduced in 1963, the inshore lifeboat continues to be an invaluable asset in the Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s (RNLI) fleet as new figures show the charity’s Inshore lifeboats have saved 30,778* lives across 60 years.

First D Class at Happisburgh 1965 D 72

RNLI/Philip Smith

First D Class at Happisburgh 1965 D 72

The inshore lifeboat has enabled the charity’s volunteer crews to carry out their lifesaving work closer to shore, in areas inaccessible to other lifeboats in the fleet. Designed to be quick and manoeuvrable, inshore lifeboats can operate in shallower water, near cliffs and rocks meaning crews can get as close as possible to those in trouble.

Happisburgh RNLI station has had their D class lifeboat saving lives at sea since June 1965 when the first of six D class boats arrived at the station. They have gone on to launch 304 times, save 40 lives and aid 190 people plus many dogs.

In 1965 the lifeboats only had numbers (not names): D 72 1965 to 1972, D 213 1973 to 1986, D327 1987 to 1995. Then from 1995 the inshore lifeboats were given names in addition to the number: D 468 Colin Martin 1995 to 2003, D 607 Spirit of Berkhamsted 2003 to 2017, D 813 Russell Pickering 2017 to today.

In the early years the D class was on service from Easter to the end of September and during daylight hours only, as equipment progressed they are now 24/7 all year round.

Rachael Kirkham, Volunteer Lifeboat Operations Manager at Happisburgh, said:

Happisburgh Russell Pickering D 813 and Howard Bell B 899 have enabled our volunteer crew to reach areas close to shore, cliffs and rocks to rescue people in trouble. These fast and highly manoeuvrable lifesaving craft answered the need for a quicker and more agile response to rescues in areas of water that were more challenging to the larger and slower all-weather lifeboats.

‘Russell Pickering and Howard Bell are a part of our community and suit the demands of the rescues we attend, making use of their unique features and capabilities which have made a huge difference to the efficiency and effectiveness of our 24/7 search and rescue service.

'All our D class boats have aided many people in difficult situations, whether that’s people being cut off by the tide, boats in trouble or water users in need of our help.'

On 11 September 1996 Colin Martin D 468 was called to Sea Palling where a tug had capsized while working on the new reefs with two men on board. The crew recovered one crewman and returned him to the beach and into the care of the Ambulance Service before returning to the tug to rejoin the large search effort; sadly the second crewman was never found.

On 18 August 2007 Spirit of Berkhamsted D 607 was called to Sea Palling to nine missing divers. The RNLI volunteer crew recovered seven divers with Sheringham lifeboat recovering the other two divers.

The 30 October 2015 saw Spirit of Berkhamsted D 607 taking part in a large search for 20 missing walkers on a coastal walk; all were found safe and well.

And on 23 July 2016, Spirit of Berkhamsted D 607 with the station's then Atlantic lifeboat Joan Mary B 778 were called to reef one, Sea Palling to people in trouble in the water. The lifeboats arrived nine minutes after being called to find two people who had both stopped breathing. Both crews carried out CPR on them and managed to get one back who was flown to hospital by air. Despite the efforts of all the lifeboat crew, air and land ambulances they were unable to revive the other person.

Chris Risby Helm at Happisburgh RNLI lifeboat station:

‘Our last call out on 20 June was to four people in the water at Sea Palling. The D class was able to run up the beach and enable all the crew to give Casualty Care to all the casualties.

'The D class is the best boat in the fleet in my opinion. She is an understated pocket rocket.’

The RNLI builds and maintains most of its inshore lifeboats in-house at their Inshore Lifeboat Centre in Cowes on the Isle of Wight. This allows the charity to have greater control over costs and quality ensuring they produce the best lifesaving asset for their crews and spend their supporters’ donations in the most efficient and effective way.

RNLI Media contacts

· Happisburgh Lifeboat Station Volunteer Press Officer Philip Smith:

Mobile: 07766007936 email: [email protected]


D 213 at Happisburgh 1973 to 1986

RNLI/Philip Smith

D 213 at Happisburgh 1973 to 1986
D 327 at Happisburgh 1987 to 1995

RNLI/Philip Smith

D 327 at Happisburgh 1987 to 1995
D 468 Colin Martin 1995 to 2003

RNLI/Philip Smith

D 468 Colin Martin 1995 to 2003
D 607 Spirit of Berkhamsted at Happisburgh 2003 to 2017 (longest serving D Class 14 years)

RNLI/Philip Smith

D 607 Spirit of Berkhamsted at Happisburgh 2003 to 2017 (longest serving D Class 14 years)
D 813 Russell Pickering at Happisburgh 2017 to date

RNLI/Philip Smith

D 813 Russell Pickering at Happisburgh 2017 to date

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.

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 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or by email.