Holyhead lifeboat station

link_to_french_translationHolyhead lifeboat station, Prince of Wales Road

The first Holyhead lifeboat entered service in 1828. The station was taken over by the RNLI in 1855. A lifeboat house was built c.1858 and now houses Holyhead Maritime Museum.

At times during its first century the station had two, or even three, lifeboats. The sea route to Dublin made Holyhead a busy port, and Holyhead lifeboat also covered the busy shipping lane in and out of Liverpool. By 1928 the station had amassed three gold medals, 29 silver medals and 15 Thanks of the Institution Inscribed on Vellum. Another mark of the station’s importance was the loss of seven lifeboat crew during rescues in 1865, 1892, 1901 and 1905.

In 1890 the station received a steam lifeboat, one of only six ever to serve the RNLI. In 1908 it went to the aid of SS Harold, anchored perilously near rocks between North Stack and South Stack. It took two hours of manoeuvring in the gale and rough sea to get the lifeboat close enough to the ship for the nine crewmen to be hauled aboard. During the process the lifeboat risked being smashed to pieces against the ship, which sank about 500 metres north-east of South Stake. For this rescue, Coxswain William Owen received a gold medal and the 10 other crew received silver medals.

A motor lifeboat replaced the steam boat in 1928. A new boathouse and slipway were built on Salt Island in 1949.

In December 1966 Holyhead lifeboat was involved in the difficult rescue of five crewmen from the steamer Nafsiporos. For this rescue the RNLI awarded in 1967: a gold medal to the inspector of lifeboats, Lieut Commander HH Harvey; silver medals to coxswain Thomas Alcock and motor mechanic Eric Jones; and bronze medals to second coxswain William Jones, acting bowman Francis Ward, acting assistant mechanic Jack Sharpe, and crew members John Hughes, David Drinkwater and Brian Stewart.

An inshore lifeboat station was established at Holyhead, with a D-class lifeboat, in 1967. The boathouse was extended in 1987 for the D-class boat and its launching trolley. The present inshore boat, D-507 Spirit of Bedworth and Nuneaton, started service in 1996. The current all-weather boat, Severn-class ON-1272 Christopher Pearce, arrived at the station in 2003.

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.

Postcode: LL65 1YA View Location Map

Other SHIPWRECK HiPoints in this region:
HMHS Anglia memorial – anchor of hospital ship torpedoed in First World War
Ynys Llanddwyn - the island's pilots rescued 36 sailors from three wrecks in one week in 1852

RNLI website

RNLI on HistoryPoints.org

FOOTNOTES: More Holyhead rescues

  • 1835 - Gold Medal to Rev James Williams for rescuing a ship’s crew by riding his horse into the surf and throwing a line to the ship.
  • 1835 - Gold medal to captain William Owen and silver medal to coxswain Richard Morris, for rescuing the crew of the ship Plutarch.
  • 1943 - Bronze medals to coxswain Richard Jones and motor mechanic John Jones for rescuing 47 men from the steamer Castilian.
  • 1949 - Bronze medal to coxswain Richard Jones for rescuing the seven crew of the steamer Mayflower.
  • 1954 - The Sugar Manufacturers’ Association (of Jamaica) Ltd gave the crew a case of rum for the longest continuous rescue mission, which had lasted 24 hours.
  • 1971 - Bronze medals to mechanic D Forrest and crew members Gareth Ogwen-Jones and John Hughes for rescuing from a yacht four men, three of whom were unconscious from carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • 1977 - Silver medal to coxswain William Jones, and Thanks of the Institution Inscribed on Vellum to each of the six crew, for rescuing four people from a yacht in a violent storm in 1976.
  • 1978 - Bronze medal to coxswain William Jones for rescuing one person from a yacht in a gale and rough seas in 1977.
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