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.

See the Footnotes below for more St Davids rescues.

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 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: SA62 6PY    View Location Map

RNLI website

RNLI on HistoryPoints.org

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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Footnotes: More St Davids rescues

1892 - Silver medal to coxswain David Hicks on his retirement for his gallant lifesaving services
1903 - Silver medal was awarded to Acting Coxswain William Narbett for rescuing six crew from the steamship Graffoe aground at Ramsey Island
1943 - Bronze medals to honorary secretary Dr Joseph Soar and crew member Gwilym Davies for rescuing a man trapped on the cliffs near Llanunwas
1943 - Bronze medal to coxswain William Watts Williams for aiding a tank landing craft over 10 hours
1978  - Bronze medal to coxswain William Morris for rescuing seven crew and saving the Royal Navy tender MFV 7
1982 - Bronze medal to coxswain Frederick John for rescuing three crew from a tug
1985 - Thanks of the Institution Inscribed on Vellum to coxswain/mechanic Frederick John for rescuing a fishing vessel’s two crew
1987 - Thanks of the Institution Inscribed on Vellum to coxswain/mechanic Frederick John for rescuing another fishing vessel’s two crew
1989 - Bronze medal to coxswain/mechanic David Chant for rescuing a fishing vessel’s four crew
1999 - Thanks of the Institution Inscribed on Vellum to coxswain Malcolm Gray for saving the tanker Blackfriars, which had been swept ashore after the anchor cable had broken. The lifeboat was at sea for over eight hours
2002 - Framed Letter of Thanks to helmsman Neil Thomas for rescuing three surfers off Newgale Beach
2005 - Thanks of the Institution Inscribed on Vellum to coxswain Malcolm Gray MBE for taking the lifeboat alongside a burning fishing vessel on a stormu night. The six crew members received Vellum service certificates and a Letter of Appreciation. Captain Michael Poole, Master of the Isle of Inishmore ferry, received a Letter of Appreciation for locating the fishing boat, illuminating the area and manoeuvring
2008 – Thanks on Vellum to Coxswain David John and Framed Letter of Thanks to second coxswain Clive Hayes for a 14-hour rescue mission to a trawler which had lost power 43km away from the lifeboat station. The lifeboat towed the boat to safety, in gale-force winds and heavy seas. The tow rope broke twice
2008 – Framed Letter of Thanks to helmsmen Simon Thornton and Nicholas Phillips and crew members Gareth Morris and Simon Twitchen after the rescue of three girls, aged 16, trapped on cliffs at Caerfai Bay. The inshore and all-weather boats were unable to approach the rocks so crew members swam through the heavy swell and breaking surf to reach the girls, then swam back to the boat with the girls