St Davids lifeboat station

link_to_french_translationSt Davids lifeboat station

The first of many RNLI bravery awards for St Davids preceded the founding of the St Davids lifeboat in 1869. Two years earlier, local man Thomas M Rees received a silver medal for descending cliffs in darkness to rescue four men whose schooner had been wrecked in a storm.

The first lifeboat, Augusta, given by the Earl of Dartmouth, was kept in the city centre until a boathouse and slipway were provided at Porthstinan later in 1869. Today’s boathouse and slipway are located in the same place, although they were rebuilt in 1911 for the arrival of the station’s first motor lifeboat.

In 1910 three of the lifeboat crew, including coxswain John Stephens, drowned when the boat was wrecked on a reef, following the rescue of three men from a ketch in Ramsey Sound. The other 12 crew and the ketch survivors clung to the reef for 14 hours until local boats came to the rescue. Sydney Mortimer, one of the rescuers, received a silver medal and, aged only 18, was appointed the new coxswain. A memorial is located in the centre of St Davids.

In 1954 the lifeboat rescued 35 men from the rear half of the oil tanker World Concord, which had broken in two during a storm with winds gusting at over 160kph (100mph). For this rescue a silver medal was awarded to coxswain William Watts Williams, bronze to mechanic George Jordan and assistant mechanic Gwilym J Davies, and Thanks of the Institution Inscribed on Vellum to second coxswain David Lewis, acting bowman William Rowlands, emergency mechanic Howell H Roberts and crew members William Morris and Richard Chisholm.

The front of the tanker drifted towards Ireland. Seven men were rescued from it by the Rosslare Harbour lifeboat. The tanker’s sections remained afloat and were towed to Belgium to be joined together again, the first time this had ever been achieved.

In 1956 the lifeboat rescued the eight crew from the French trawler Notre Dame de Fatima, but crew member Ieuan Bateman was lost overboard. A memorial to him is located in the centre of St Davids. The French Government posthumously awarded him the lifesaving silver medal and the French Lifeboat Society awarded him the bronze medal. Coxswain David Lewis received a bronze medal for the rescue.

Since 1998 the all-weather lifeboat has been supplemented by a D-class inshore lifeboat, partly in response to the removal of rescue helicopter cover with the closure of RAF Brawdy. The present inshore lifeboat is the Myrtle and Trevor Gurr, which arrived at station in 2008. In April 2013, the lifeboat's new Tamar-class lifeboat Norah Wortley entered service.

The lifeboat service in the UK is provided not by government but by the RNLI, a charity which relies on donations from the public. Since it was established in 1824, the RNLI is estimated to have saved c.140,000 lives. It employs some crew members but most, 40,000 in total, are volunteers who leave their work, families or beds whenever their lifeboat is needed.

Where is this HiPoint?

Postcode: SA62 6PY

RNLI website

RNLI on HistoryPoints.org

FOOTNOTES: More St Davids rescues

Other SHIPWRECK HiPoints in this region:
Lifeboat memorial, St Davids – three lost in Ramsey Sound in 1910 after rescuing a ketch’s crew
Angle lifeboat – rescued everyone off a Scottish wreck in 1894 but whisky galore washed ashore

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