The RNLI celebrates the 60th anniversary of its inshore lifeboats

Lifeboats News Release

Walmer RNLI remembers the arrival of its first inshore rescue boat.

RNLI/Christopher Winslade

Introduced in 1963, the inshore lifeboat continues to be an invaluable asset in the RNLI’s fleet as new figures show the inshore lifeboats have saved nearly 31,000 lives across 60 years.

These lifeboats have enabled volunteer crews to carry out their lifesaving work closer to shore, often in areas inaccessible to other larger 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.

Walmer RNLI has had 11 inshore rescue boats (IRBs) and D Class inshore lifeboats (ILBs) since the arrival of IRB No 14 in April 1964 It has, with some boats from the relief fleet, gone on to launch 760 times to date. Our current D Class lifeboat Duggie Rodbard II is the second bearing that name. After the passing of Duggie Rodbard, his lifelong friend John Farley suggested that a lifeboat be sponsored in his name. Subsequent to contacting the RNLI, they were offered five stations. Mr Farley, accompanied by his wife and Mrs Val Rodbard undertook to visit them. Such was the welcome they received at Walmer, their first stop, they looked no further. Mr Farley sponsored the original boat and at the end of its service life in 2016, Mrs Rodbard undertook to sponsor its successor.

Following the withdrawal from service of the Rother Class all-weather lifeboat Hampshire Rose in 1990, a B Class Atlantic 21 relief lifeboat was also stationed at Walmer, later to be replaced by the newly built James Burgess which arrived on station in 1992. In 2006, a new Atlantic 85, Donald McLauchlan, named after a former naval officer and lifelong RNLI supporter was also placed on service. Walmer lifeboat station made history in December of that year by becoming the first RNLI station in Britain to receive two new lifeboats on the same day with the original Duggie Rodbard, D-663 and B-808 Donald McLauchlan introduced on service.

There have been three generations of B class lifeboat. The first one was the Atlantic 21, the first to join the RNLI fleet. It served from 1972 until 2008. The Atlantic 21 was then replaced by the Atlantic 75, which was in service from 1993 until 2022. It has now been replaced by the Atlantic 85, which was introduced to the fleet in 2005. 85 represents its length – nearly 8.5m. The lifeboat is both day and night capable and can operate in weather up to a Beaufort Force 7. When it comes to responding to a lifesaving task, the Atlantic 85 lifeboat is one of the fastest in the fleet; her top speed is 35 knots powered by two 115hp 4-stroke engines.

With a top speed of 25 knots, the D class lifeboat can operate in both day and night with an endurance of 3 hours at sea. Although the smallest lifeboat, the D class saves more lives than any other class of lifeboat. The latest generation of D class lifeboats, known as the IB1 type, was introduced in 2003 with improved speed, manoeuvrability, and equipment.

In June 1970, in challenging sea conditions and darkness crew launched to conduct a shoreline search for two missing people, who, it was considered may be taking shelter in a cave. On attempting to beach the lifeboat, a large wave broke over the stern resulting in all three crew being pitched into the water. All three crew managed to haul the boat on to an area of shingle under the cliffs with the sea breaking on all sides. Two held the boat while the third searched the cave.

The two casualties were found asleep and were eventually coaxed on to the lifeboat. After two attempts at relaunching the crew were able to get afloat and the casualties were transferred to the waiting Walmer lifeboat two miles offshore. For their skill, courage and determination, Helm Cyril Williams and crew Les Coe and Charles Taylor were each awarded the RNLI’s Thanks on Vellum and were later presented with the Ralph Glister Award for the best service made by any IRB throughout 1970.

Current Walmer helm Dan Sinclair also recalls a particularly difficult rescue undertaken by both ILBs on Mother’s Day two years ago:

‘Three people had been cut off by a rising tide at St Margaret’s Bay near Dover. After launching, the engine on the D Class was found not to be performing at full capacity, some on-board maintenance was necessary and a top speed of only 13 knots was possible.’

‘When reaching the scene, the casualties were located a couple of metres above the water. In challenging sea conditions with heavy swells and rocks just below the surface crew battled to keep the boat head to sea to prevent the lifeboat being smashed against the rocks. With waves crashing over the bow of the boat the casualties were safely transferred to the waiting Atlantic.’

On returning to station he said that this had been one of the most physically and mentally challenging rescues he had ever been involved in and praised crew of both boats for their performance in challenging conditions.

In the wake of the rescue, five crew members were awarded the Chief Executive’s Commendation while two other crew were presented with Letters of Thanks from the station’s Operations Team.

Denis Brophy, volunteer Lifeboat Operations Manager at Walmer said:

‘The Atlantic 85 and D Class lifeboats are the workhorses of the RNLI. They are very capable boats to work with. Whether you’re heading to the scene of an incident, conducting a careful search or carrying out an actual rescue, they have all the power and kit you could want.’

‘The lifeboat is a part of our community and suits the demands of the rescues we attend making, with its unique features and capabilities, a huge difference to the efficiency and effectiveness of our 24/7 search and rescue service. Both lifeboats 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

Notes to editors

Walmer lifeboat station was established in 1856.

It currently operates two inshore lifeboats – a B Class Atlantic 85 Donald McLauchlan and a smaller D Class Duggie Rodbard II.

Crews have received 28 Awards for Gallantry

To find out more about Walmer lifeboat station go to

Photo 1 The first IRB during trials at Walmer in 1963

Photo 2 ILB D - 254 assisting relief Walmer lifeboat Mabel E Holland with a stranded catamaran

Photo 3 Walmer's current D Class D - 794 Duggie Rodbard II

Photo 4 Crew aboard D - 254

RNLI media contacts

  • Chris Winslade, Lifeboat Press Officer, Walmer Lifeboat Station on 01304 374475 or 07906 623037 [email protected]
  • For enquiries outside normal business hours, contact the RNLI duty press officer on 01202 336789 or [email protected]

RNLI/Christopher Winslade

RNLI/Steve Duncombe

RNLI/Christopher Winslade

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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