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New inshore lifeboat for St Peter Port RNLI as RNLI marks 200th anniversary

Lifeboats News Release

As the RNLI marks its 200th anniversary, St Peter Port RNLI is thrilled to announce the name of its new Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat, due to arrive in the spring.

The new vessel will be named Harold Hobbs and is funded by generous donations from the residents of Guernsey. Harold’s story features in a special episode of Saving Lives at Sea with broadcaster Dermot O’Leary, on Tuesday 12 March on BBC Two.

Harold Hobbs was killed on 29 June 1940 while serving on the Guernsey lifeboat, the Alfred and Clara Heath. He was shot from a German aircraft at the start of the occupation of the Channel Islands. The Guernsey lifeboat was en-route to Jersey to pick up the Jersey lifeboat, the Howard D, because the authorities did not want it to fall into the hands of the enemy. Approaching St Aubin’s Bay the Germans started to fire at the lifeboat. The lifeboat was taken straight into the bay, and the crew dived under their seats for safety. When they took a head count, it was found that Harold Hobbs had suffered a direct shot.

Jason Hobbs is the current volunteer Lifeboat Operations Manager at St Peter Port RNLI. Harold was his great uncle, and Jason’s grandfather, great grandfather and great uncle were also active on the lifeboat.

Jason said: ‘It is an incredibly moving tribute to my great uncle’s memory that our new lifeboat will bear his name, honouring his incredible sacrifice and inspiring our generation to continue doing all we can to save lives at sea, like the generations before us did. The generosity of our donors never fails to inspire, and we are indebted to our local community for enabling us to have this state-of-the-art lifeboat, which will serve the waters of the Bailiwick for years to come. We’re eagerly awaiting her arrival in the spring.’

The new lifeboat is being built in the Inshore Lifeboat Centre on the Isle of Wight. The lifeboat has comprehensive navigational equipment essential for manoeuvring around the island’s navigational hazards and varying sea states, and enables the station to continue supporting Guernsey, and Sark and Herm. Once she arrives, the volunteer crew will undergo familiarisation training on the new inshore lifeboat, before she goes on operational service.

The story of Harold Hobbs is also set to feature in a special episode of popular TV show Saving Lives at Sea, on BBC Two on Tuesday 12March at 9pm. The episode, commissioned to mark the charity’s 200th anniversary and guest presented by long-time RNLI supporter Dermot O’Leary, will take a closer look at RNLI crews’ involvement in the Second World War.

Viewers will be immersed in this decisive period of history, with Dermot visiting lifeboat stations around the coast, including St Peter Port, uncovering the stories of the pivotal role that the RNLI and its crews played in some of the most important events of the time, including the evacuation of Dunkirk and the occupation of the Channel Islands.

Dermot said: ‘As an ambassador for the RNLI and a huge history fan, it was a privilege for me to uncover some of the untold stories that saw ordinary volunteers get involved in some of the most extraordinary events of the Second World War. The brave men and women we heard about left a real impression on me, as did the present-day volunteers I was able to meet along the way, who are still saving lives at sea today.’

Also on 4 March, a collection of stamps celebrating the RNLI’s contribution to the Bailiwick of Guernsey is being launched by Guernsey Post. The stamps feature a collection of images of Guernsey and Alderney lifeboats, depicting moments in history, right up to the current lifeboats today.

The first lifeboat station on Guernsey was established at St Sampson’s in 1803 and taken over by the Institution in 1861. Since then, its crews have launched the lifeboats 1,666 times and saved 612 lives. In total 25 medals of the Institution have been awarded in Guernsey for gallantry – two gold, eight silver and 15 bronze. One of the station’s most memorable rescues was on 13 December 1981 when the volunteer crew launched in hurricane conditions to save the crew and passengers of the 8,000 tone Ecuadorian cargo ship, Bonita. The late coxswain Michael Scales recounts the rescue in this episode of the RNLI’s 200 Voices podcast series.

A Service of Thanksgiving to mark 200 years of the RNLI will take place at Westminster Abbey in London on 4 March. It will be attended by representatives from RNLI lifesaving communities around the UK and Ireland, including Carl Bisson, Celia Allen, Jason Norman and Jeanette Ridley from St Peter Port RNLI.

Founded in a London tavern on 4 March 1824 following an appeal from Sir William Hillary, who lived on the Isle of Man and witnessed many shipwrecks, the RNLI has continued saving lives at sea throughout the tests of its history, including tragic disasters, funding challenges and two World Wars.

Two centuries have seen vast developments in the lifeboats and kit used by the charity’s lifesavers – from the early oar-powered vessels to today’s technology-packed boats, which are now built in-house by the charity; and from the rudimentary cork lifejackets of the 1850s to the full protective kit each crew member is now issued with.

The RNLI’s lifesaving reach and remit has also developed over the course of 200 years. Today, it operates 238 lifeboat stations around the UK and Ireland, including four on the River Thames, and has seasonal lifeguards on over 240 lifeguarded beaches around the UK. It designs and builds its own lifeboats and runs domestic and international water safety programmes.

While much has changed in 200 years, two things have remained the same – the charity’s dependence on volunteers, who give their time and commitment to save others, and the voluntary contributions from the public which have funded the service for the past two centuries.

Notes to Editors

  • Statistics from RNLI Operational Data from 4 March 1824 to 31 December 2023 inclusive. A life saved shows how many of the people helped by the RNLI would have lost their life had the RNLI not been there.

  • Click here to access the RNLI 200th anniversary media pack, which contains a selection of RNLI archive images from key points in the charity’s history, an RNLI history timeline, and a film of ‘200 years in 200 seconds’ – all of which can be downloaded.

  • Click here for a Channel Islands specific photo library

  • Guernsey Post have issued a press release on the stamp collection. For more information contact Emma on the details below

    RNLI media contacts

  • For further information contact Emma Haines, RNLI Regional Communications Manager on [email protected], Tom Dale, RNLI Regional Communications Manager, on [email protected], Amy Caldwell, RNLI Regional Communications Lead on [email protected], Archie Connolly RNLI Media Engagement Placement on [email protected] or the RNLI press office on 01202 336789 / [email protected].  

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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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.