Bembridge Lifeboat Station

Isle of Wight

Established 1867

Note: Old Station photo courtesy of www.availablelight.cc.


The Royal National Life-boat Institution placed a lifeboat at Bembridge because of the removal of the Nab Light Vessel to a greater distance from the shore and as a result of the rescue of the crew of the Norwegian Barque Egbert by the fishermen of Bembridge in an ordinary open boat.

In July 1867 the Committee of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution decided to base a lifeboat at Bembridge using £524 donated to the RNLI by the citizens of Worcester.  The life-boat was named for its donors, the City of Worcester, was delivered in October of that year.  In November she was called out for the first time, in rough weather, to assist the brig Bessie, of Sunderland, seen to anchor dangerously nearby. (She was guided safely into Bembridge Harbour, the RNLI later awarding £7 4s 0d to the lifeboat crew). [The Life-boat, January 1868 (6/67)]

The first lifeboat was launched off a carriage with the aid of oil flares on dark nights, and messages had to be passed by foot messenger or a man on horseback.

The first Lifeboat house was constructed the same year, at a cost of £165.


A ‘Testimonial Inscribed on Vellum’ was presented by the RNLI to Coxswain Charles Searle in recognition of his gallantry and determination during services at the wreck of the brigantine John Douse on 11 November.’

It was reported that a vessel was ashore off Sandown. It was blowing a hurricane from the south with thick rain. The City of Worcester lifeboat was taken over land and arrived about midnight, and launched at about 0130. After having difficulty in locating the John Douse because of the intense darkness, the lifeboat succeeded in saving the master and the mate. A tremendous sea then swept the boat off before any others could be rescued. As the steer-oar touched the ground when the boat was in the hollow of the surf, Coxswain Searle deemed it inadvisable to approach the wreck again until daylight. The lifeboat remained near the vessel during the night. Coxswain Searle was washed over board in the night and was rescued with great difficulty due to darkness and heavy seas. At dawn the lifeboat was backed towards her, when it was discovered that a coastguard galley had by that time been launched and was rescuing the other four men.


New lifeboat launched by Duchess of Edinburgh, named Queen Victoria to mark Her Majesty’s Golden Jubilee.

James Arnold was killed when his cart used for collecting seaweed was thrown over by a rope used in launching the lifeboat; the horse was also killed.

The Brighstone lifeboat was launched on service on 9 March to the ship Sirenia that had run aground on the Atherfield Ledge but sadly she been capsized by a huge wave and her Coxswain (Moses Munt) & her Second Coxswain (Tom Cotton) were lost.  On hearing about the wreck, Coxswain Joey Attrill & Second Coxswain James Baker of the Bembridge lifeboat set off on foot and walked to Brighstone, some 15 miles, in heavy leather sea boots and offered themselves as volunteers to replace the men who had been drowned.   The lifeboat was again launched and rescued the crew of the ship.  Brook lifeboat had also launched and had also capsized with the sad loss of one crew member (Second Coxswain Reuben Cooper).


The Lifeboat rescued 14 men from the Naval Torpedo Boat No 059 grounded on the corner of Bembridge Ledge during a gale on 16 December. It is worth noting that the young naval officer in command was later well known as Admiral of the Fleet Earl Beatty who commanded the Cruiser Squadron at the Battle of Jutland.


A new lifeboat,also named Queen Victoria, was launched by HRH The Duchess of Edinburgh, who came over from Osborne in the royal yacht Alberta, and was accompanied by her husband HRH Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh.


Gas Service was provided for the first time


Harness and pushing poles were returned to London.


When the lifeboat was launched on service to the schooner Theodora on 19 March, she was thrown back broadside onto the rocks and slightly damaged. She was not refloated until the next tide.


Silver Medal awarded to Coxswain John Holbrook for the rescue of 110 men from HM Transport Empress Queen that was stranded on the Ledge carrying ammunition on 3 February.  The lifeboat made four trips and on the third she was driven on the rocks and damaged.


Silver Medal (Second-Service Clasp) awarded to Coxswain John Holbrook for the rescue of 13 people from the SS Wakulla of Los Angeles that was driven ashore on the West Wittering shoal on 28/29 August in a strong southerly gale and heavy seas.


Following the decision to place a motor lifeboat (ON676 RNLB Langham) at Bembridge, a concrete pier some 250 yards in length from the shore to the outer ridge of rocks had to be constructed with a boathouse on piles at the seaward end with a launching slipway directly into deep water.  The cost was approximately £5,000.  Once the Langham was in place, the RNLI decided that the locations at Brighstone, Atherfield & Ryde were no longer required so they were closed.   Brook was closed in 1937.


The boathouse was enlarged to accommodate a more powerful Lifeboat - a Watson Class twin screw motor lifeboat - RNLB Jesse Lumb (ON822).  Named and dedicated by the Rt Rev Lord Bishop of Salisbury, Dr Neville Lovett, D.D on 21st July 1939.  Funded from a legacy left to the RNLI by a Mr Lumb of London & Leicester.


Bronze Medal awarded to Coxswain Harry J Gawn for rescuing the crew of the Naval minesweeper Kingston Cairngorm that was flooding in a blizzard and heavy seas on Chichester Bar on 29/30 January 1940.  In an operation involving several approaches her crew of 21, including the Institution’s Chief Inspector who had been recalled to the Navy, was taken off and landed at Portsmouth.  The lifeboat had been at sea for fourteen hours with the coxswain at the wheel all throughout and with the weather so atrocious that at the end of the service the lifeboat’s deck was covered in ice. 

In the early days of the war it was necessary to warn the artillery batteries on the cliffs before the lifeboat was launched on service.  The lifeboat herself was provided with a couple of rifles to repel any attack by the enemy. 

An ex Honorary Secretary of the station, Captain Flack, was rescued from the Goodwin Sands by the RNLI.


D Class lifeboat (ON D-8) received in May.  The cost of the ILB was defrayed by a collection from HMS Mohawk ship’s company.


Centenary Vellum awarded to station.


A Framed Letters of Appreciation was sent to inshore lifeboat crew members Martin S Humphray and Barry L Dyer for the rescue of two men from two motor boats on 10 September.

Solent Class Lifeboat "Jack Shayler and the Lees" (ON - 1009) on station (until 1987).


BEM awarded to Coxswain Peter Smith in Her Majesty’s New Years Honours List.


Boathouse adapted in order to accommodate the new Tyne class lifeboat.  Major slipway repairs were also carried out.

RNLB Max Aiken III (ON 1126) placed on service on 9th August


Work completed on extending the slipway enabling the lifeboat to be recovered at low tides.


The North East corner of the boathouse suffered damage during the night of 28 January as a result of heavy seas.  Temporary repairs were swiftly carried out prior to the permanent replacement of missing cladding sheets.


A 'Framed Letter of Thanks' signed by the Chairman of the Institution was presented to Coxswain Archibald Henley in recognition of the contribution made by the Bembridge lifeboat Max Aitken III in the rescue of seventeen people from the yacht Donald Searl, which was in difficulties close to the Chichester Bar in atrocious conditions on 25 October.  For this service the Second-Service Clasp to the Silver Medal was awarded to Roderick James, Helmsman of the Hayling Island lifeboat, and a Silver Medal to Helmsman Frank Dunster of the rigid inflatable Hayling Rescue (see Hayling Island history).

Work was carried out on the re-cladding of the ALB boathouse. 

A major programme of repair works to the concrete of both the boathouse and slipway sub-structures was carried out.  Southern Water Services granted approval to connect the station to the sewerage system at Lane End.


The ‘Thanks of the Institution Inscribed on Vellum’ was accorded to Helmsman Alan Attrill in recognition of his skill and high standard of seamanship when, in a south-westerly near gale, confused seas and darkness on the night of the 11 August 1993, the D-class lifeboat rescued the crew of three from the stricken yacht Bari.  The yacht had run aground on Bembridge Ledge, was holed and taking water.

Framed Letters of Thanks signed from the Chairman of the Institution was awarded to Helmsman Alan Attrill and crew members Graeme White and Geoffrey Attrill in recognition of their courage and fine teamwork when the D-class lifeboat rescued the crew of three from the motor cruiser Jade on 2 May 1994.  The Jade was aground on the Bembridge Ledge in an easterly Force 5 wind and moderate seas.  The three survivors were rescued just as their vessel began to break up.

Work was carried out in the roof space of the ILB boathouse in order to provide the station with improved crew facilities.  Major slipway repair works were carried out together with the installation of a new Bigland boathouse winch.


A new D class lifeboat D503 Criddy & Tom, funded by donations in memory of Ian Cridland & Tom Williams who were murdered in Antigua in 1994, was placed on service on 20 June.


Steve Simmonds takes over from Martin Woodward as coxswain.


Bryan Jones takes over from Brian Frost as mechanic.


Former coxswain, Martin Woodward was appointed MBE by Her Majesty The Queen in this year’s New Year’s Honours.


The new class of lifeboat IB1, D649 Dorothy Beatrice May Gorman was placed on service on Wednesday 10 August.  This lifeboat was funded by a generous bequest from Mrs D Gorman.  D503 Criddy & Tom was placed in the Relief Fleet.


Bryan Jones takes over from Brian Fox as mechanic


At a meeting held on 1 April, the Trustee Committee of the RNLI resolve that a Tamar Class lifeboat, currently in build, be allocated to Bembridge Lifeboat Station.


The Sir Max Aiken III launched in the early hours of the 10th March 2008. The 11,000 tonne Swedish tanker Astral, got into difficulties near the Isle of Wight after Force 11 gale force winds dragged her from her anchorage. The tanker, carrying 9,000 tonnes of fuel oil to the Fawley refinery near Southampton, ended up drifting towards the Bembridge shore where she finally ran aground on a shoal and suffered severe damage to her steering.

On reaching the helpless tanker, the Max Aitken III and her crew stood by while towing lines were attached to Astral and tugs towed the ship to Fawley - a long and slow process in such severe weather conditions.





The RNLI put in motion plans to provide a new Tamar Class lifeboat, and build a new station fit for the 21st century, at the cost of £10M. The station launched an appeal to the public, to raise £1M towards that cost.

RNLB Max Aitken III was retired to the relief fleet on 9 February and temporarily replaced by a Mersey Class lifeboat - Peggy & Alex Caird (12-001), stationed just outside the harbour at the Point in Bembridge and launched across the beach by a semi-submersible Tallus T100 fully tracked tractor.  See "Temporary Lifeboat" for more photos.

Work commenced on the demolition of the old Offshore Boathouse and the construction of the one.




The Tamar class lifeboat ON1297 Alfred Albert Williams (16-17) arrived on station on 26th September and after crew training & familiarisation became operational on 20th October.

A new Tamar boathouse and walkway was completed in October at a cost of £7,850,000.

Her Majesty the Queen honoured LOM Graham Hall in her Birthday Honours list by making him a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).


RNIB Alfred Albert Williams was formally named by her Royal Highness, the Princes Royal on 10 August.

5 Nov - Captain Graham Hall MBE retires as the LOM after 25+ years; Lt Col Mike Samuelson RM(Rtd) appointed as his successor.


Work started on the re-furbishment of the Inshore Lifeboat boathouse.


Re-furbished Inshore boathouse completed & declared operational in early June.

In 2013 there were 36 shouts with 67 people being rescued or assisted (there were two cancelled launches on 18th August, one on Friday 23rd August & one on 23rd November.)


Inshore Boathouse formally opened by the Lord Lieutenant (Major General Martin White) on 29 March.

In 2014 there were 33 shouts (29 ALB & 4 ILB) with 62 people being rescued or assisted (there was a cancelled ALB launch on 4th December & a cancelled ILB launch on 18th July.  Additionally, the ILB provided a presence off St Helens Fort on Tuesday 12th August when c2,000 people "walked to the fort"!


D-778, Norman Harvey, replaced D-649 Dorothy Beatrice May Gorman in March.  She was funded by a generous bequest from Mrs Joan Harvey, a long standing member of the Seaview, Brading & St Helens Branch.   D-649 was withdrawn to the Relief Fleet.   Norman Harvey was formally named by Joan Harvey on 18 July.

In 2015, the crew were involved in 39 services (shouts) (30 ALB & 9 ILB) and rescued or assisted 86 people.   There were cancelled launches on 22nd April & 25th July.  Additionally, the ALB provided a presence at the America's Cup World Series event in Portsmouth on 24th, 25th & 26th July, at the Bembridge Village Regatta on 1st August & the Sandown Bay Regatta on 9th August.  The ILB provided a presence off St Helens Fort on Sunday evening 2nd August when c500 people "walked to the fort" & on Monday evening 3rd August when c2,000 people "walked".


In 2016, the crew were involved in 45 services (shouts) (33 ALB & 12 ILB) and have rescued or assisted 77 people. Additionally, RNLB Alfred Albert Williams (Tamar 16-17) provided an RNLI presence & spectator boat support at the Louis Vuitton America's Cup World Series event off Southsea on 22nd, 23rd & 24th July; and RNLB Norman Harvey (D-778) provided a presence off St Helens Fort on Sunday evening 21st August when c1,500 people walked to the Fort; she also supported IOW Day on Saturday 24th September.  The ALB crew were brought to immediate readiness on 12th May & 6th September but were subsequently stood down and not required to launch.


John Keyworth appointed as LOM on Mike Samuelson's retirement on 15 January.

Celebration of 150 years of life saving at Bembridge - 10th June (https://flic.kr/s/aHsm2gLRjw)

In 2017, the crew were involved in 52 services (shouts) (36 ALB & 16 ILB) and have rescued or assisted (or potentially assisted) 97 people, 3 dogs, an inflatable swan, 2 inflatable dinghies and a plastic traffic bollard! 

The ILB was placed on immediate readiness on Friday morning 14th April but stood down after about an hour and a half following the successful conclusion to an incident on Culver Down.  There were cancelled launches on 7th April, 22nd July, 29th July, 26th Aug, 31st Aug & 12th Oct.  Both boats launched on Sunday 23rd July to drop off Sir Ben Ainslie & Jono Macbeth at Seaview for the SVYC/RNLI Seaview Guild's Youth event.  The ILB provided a presence off St Helens Fort on Wednesday evening 23rd August for the annual "happening".  RNLB Alfred Albert Williams attended the naming ceremony for Selsey RNLI's new Shannon Class Lifeboat on Thr 21st Sep.  She also launched on 27th Sep with IMRF European Lifeboat Crew Exchange (Estonia, Portugal, France, Denmark, Iceland, the Netherlands and Germany).


Steve Simmonds retires after 15 years as Coxswain at midnight on Saturday 30th July.  Guy Willing takes over as Coxswain