History of the Wells Lifeboat

DSC_9960Detailed history of the Wells Lifeboat

1830 The first lifeboat placed at Wells was of the Greathead North Country type. It came from Cromer when a new boat was received there and was provided by the Norfolk Shipwreck Association. This boat served at Wells until 1852.

1869 The RNLI took over operation of the lifeboat in Wells. A Lifeboat house was constructed at the west end of the quay at a cost of £300.

1880 On 29 October the Wells Lifeboat Eliza Adams capsized when returning to shore after a service launch. Eleven out of her crew of 13 were drowned, leaving 10 widows and 27 children. The Institution voted £1000 towards a fund raised locally for the dependants and paid the funeral expenses of the men.

1895 New Lifeboat house and slipway constructed on Wells Beach.

1896 The RNLI sells the original lifeboat house to Wells Urban District Council for £75. One of the few examples of this distinctive RNLI design to survive without major alterations, it is now the Wells Harbour Office and has being restored and refurbished to a high standard for the use of visiting sailors.

1936 Wells became the last station in Britain to use horses to launch a lifeboat.The station gets its first motor lifeboat the Surf-class Royal Silver Jubilee 1910-1935 and launching tractor.

1942 Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum awarded to Coxswain T Neilsen for his gallantry in going aboard a crashed Lancaster bomber on 14 July to search for survivors. One airman was rescued but there was no sign of any other member of the crew as the coxswain hoisted himself on to the edge of the wing and walked along the fuselage. Its top had been blown away and he climbed inside. At any moment the aircraft might have turned and sank and the coxswain would have been trapped inside her.

1946 On the night of 5 January, seven German prisoners of war impatient to get home stole a lorry and drove to the lifeboat house, broke open a window and tried to start the engine of the lifeboat but gave up the attempt. The men were arrested when they returned to the lorry.

1955 Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum awarded to Coxswain W Cox for the rescue of five of the crew from the SS Zor of Instanbul on 18 May. The wind was northerly, strong to gale with squalls of sleet and hail. The Zor was loaded with timber and as each successive sea hit her the baulks of wood fell from her deck into the sea.

1962 US Air Force entertained the crew of Wells Lifeboat to a dinner in gratitude for the part played in the search for American airmen. A plaque was also presented and fixed in the boathouse.

1963 Bronze medal awarded to Second Coxswain F Taylor for the rescue of two people from the cabin cruiser Seamu on 18/19 May in a strong west-north westerly breeze and rough sea.
D-Class lifeboat sent to station in June.

1964 Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum awarded to Coxswain D J Cox for the determination and courage he displayed in attempting to carry out a service to the yacht Kiskadee on 29/30 August. The yacht was aground on a sandbank about half a mile west of Blakeney Point, lying beam on to a confused sea that was washing over her. There was heavy breaking surf and it was a very dark night and, although four attempts were made, the lifeboat was unable to reach the yacht and she stood by while a shore boat took the Kiskadee in tow.
On 28 December the lifeboat was launched to stand by the oil rig Sea Gem and was on service for 21 hours in very severe weather conditions. There was a northerly wind of gale force, a very heavy swell and sleet and rain were falling intermittently during the whole service, which was recognised by the Committee of Management by the granting of additional monetary awards to the coxswain and crew.
1969Century Vellum awarded to station.

1978 The Inshore Lifeboat Shed was destroyed by gales which battered the east coast during January. A new shed was built as an extension of the main boathouse to house the ILB.
1979 Silver medal awarded to Coxswain David Cox in recognition of his courage, determination and seamanship when the lifeboat under his command stood by the Rumanian cargo vessel Savinesti which had broken down and lost both her anchors north of the South Race Buoy in an east-north-easterly hurricane, extremely poor visibility due to heavy snow, sub-zero temperatures and a very rough sea on 15 February.

1981 Bronze medal awarded to Coxswain David Cox in recognition of the courage determination and seamanship displayed by him when the lifeboat under his command rescued the crew of four of the motor fishing vessel Sarah-K which was in difficulties with her engine room flooded off Woolpack Buoy in a strong north westerly gale with rough short seas on 20 November.

1984 A new crewroom was built above the inshore lifeboat, along with access stairs which also provided easier boarding to the all-weather lifeboat.

1990 The new Mersey-class lifeboat Doris M Mann of Ampthill arrived on station. The boathouse was extensively modified to accommodate the larger vessel… although crew members on the bow still have to duck as the lifeboat is launched.

1996 Framed letter of appreciation signed by the Chairman of the Institution was awarded to the all-weather lifeboat crew and shore helpers for the service to the fishing vessel Remus with a crew of two which was reported in difficulties on the west bar. The lifeboat proceeded in rough seas and Force 7/8 winds. An attempt to float a line to Remus was unsuccessful. The coxswain decided to drop anchor and called for the station tractor to be brought to the waters edge where Remus had now grounded. A rocket line was fired and hauled in by the shore helpers. Two crew members in the shore party boarded the Remus and secured a tow which was passed by use of the rocket line and illumination from a helicopter. The fishing vessel was taken in tow and the coxswain headed to the west to a gap through the west bar, which was safely negotiated into deeper waters. This service was carried out in darkness, shallow waters and near Gale Force winds on 17 November.

Medal Record
Three medals have been awarded to the station, one Silver and two Bronze.

Some more recent service
2 October 2011
07:08 ILB Yarmouth Coastguard contacted the Station LOM at 07:00 reporting that Skegness ALB had in tow the disabled yacht Windward and was making towards Wells harbour. The Coxswain had requested the ILB attend to continue the tow of the casualty into the harbour on the first of the flood tide to allow the ALB to return to station. The crew were paged at 07:08 and launched at 07:21 as the Skegness ALB and casualty arrived off the Leading Buoy. The tow was transferred at 07:32 and both vessels made for the Outer Harbour pontoons where the Windward was moored safely alongside at 07:56. The ILB was re-housed, re-fuelled and ready for service at 08:13. Wind: SW 2. Sea: Calm

2 October 2011
12:53 ILB Yarmouth Coastguard had received a report from the owner of a 6-metre power boat stating that the vessel had suffered gearbox failure and was adrift off Cley beach. The crew were paged at 12:40 with the station’s ILB launching at 12:53. As the ILB proceeded to the casualty’s position, Sheringham lifeboat reported that they had the casualty vessel in sight and it was now in fact now approaching Weybourne. Yarmouth Coastguard requested the Sheringham lifeboat to take the vessel under tow to Blakeney harbour fairway buoy and then to transfer the casualty to Wells ILB to continue inbound to Morston due to the dropping tide. The tow was transferred at 13:43 but arriving at Morston creek it was found there was insufficient water to enter the channel and it was therefore agreed to leave the casualty on a mooring from where the two occupants would walk ashore once the tide had ebbed further and recover their boat on the next flood tide. Departing at 14:21 the ILB returned to station on the last of the tide was re-housed, re-fuelled and ready for service at 15:10. Wind: SW 2. Sea: Calm

2 October 2011
13:34 ALB Yarmouth Coastguard paged for an immediate launch of the station’s ALB at 13:34 after a child had been reported missing on Wells beach on a strong ebbing tide. With a few Shorehelpers on-hand involved in an ILB service that was in progress, the station’s Softrak launching vehicle was deployed to carry out a shoreline search. As the ALB crew were mustering, Yarmouth Coastguard informed the station that the child had been found safe and well. All units were stood down at 13:40. Wind: SW 2. Sea: Calm.

12 October 2011
17:28 ILB The local Coastwatch reported to Yarmouth Coastguard that they had visual a small vessel in the surf line to the east of Wells harbour entrance. At the time it was not clear whether there were persons onboard due to the worsening visibility in rain squalls and fading light. The Lifeboat Operations Manager was contacted and the decision to launch the ILB was made with the crew being paged at 17:28. Launching at 17:37, the ILB proceeded seaward and arrived at the grounded vessel at 17:44 where one crewmember was placed ashore to ascertain the situation. It became apparent thawt the vessel had parted its mooring and that there had not been any persons aboard. Once re-floated, the vessel was taken under tow and safely moored on the Outer Harbour pontoons at 18:15. The ILB returned to station at 18:20 was re-housed, re-fuelled and ready for service at 18:42. It is not known where the vessel originated as there were no records of it being based in Wells harbour and in all probability it came from a harbour to the west. Wind: NE 3. Sea: Slight.

3 December 2011
14:02 ILB Yarmouth Coastguard received a 999 call from a member of the public reporting two windsurfers in difficulties on Wells harbour bar who were being swept seaward on the ebb tide. The crew were paged at 14:02 with the ILB launching from the boathouse at 14:11. As the boat left, two persons were seen in the water approximately four hundred yards northwest of the boathouse and within a short distance from the beach. As the ILB approached, the two persons had managed to make their way to shore. Following confirmation from the first informant that these were the two reported casualties and ascertaining no medical treatment was required the ILB returned to station and was ready again for service at 14:27. Wind: SW 3-4. Sea: Slight.

30 October 2011
09:31 ILB Yarmouth Coastguard received a report via VHF radio from the owner of the 5.5m RIB Warrior stating the vessel had suffered engine failure on returning to Blakeney harbour after a sight seeing trip to the Sheringham Shoal wind farm construction site. The vessel was adrift and unable to anchor approximately 1.5 miles north of Blakeney fairway buoy. The station LOM was contacted at 09:29 with the crew being paged at 09:31.

Launching at 09:39 the ILB proceeded to the casualty’s position but en-route the Sheringham lifeboat, on a training exercise, reported at 09:56 that they were alongside the Warrior and would tow her towards Blakeney fairway buoy and transfer the tow to the Wells boat. At 10:17, on the completion of the transfer, the ILB began the passage to Morston creek, making only slow progress against a strong ebb tide within the harbour. The casualty was eventually moored safely alongside at 11:25 to await recovery onto its trailer on the next tide. The ILB returned to station at 12:00 was re-housed, re-fuelled and ready for service at 12:30. Wind: SW 3-4. Sea: Slight.

12 January 2012
04:17 ALB At 04:14 on the 12th of January 2012, Yarmouth Coastguard contacted Wells Lifeboat Station regarding a 12 metre fishing boat with machinery failure and 2 persons onboard east of the harbour. The MFV Boy Neil was rolling heavily in a WSW wind forecast to freshen to 5-6 in the next couple of hours and the decision was made to launch the All Weather Lifeboat. The crew were paged at 04:17 with the lifeboat leaving the boathouse at 04:35 for a low water launch in Holkham Bay.

Launching at 05:00, the lifeboat proceeded toward the casualty vessel while in the interim the wind farm support vessel Zephyr, on its way into Wells, stood by the casualty awaiting the arrival of the lifeboat. The lifeboat arrived on scene at 05:10 and after establishing the tow line made passage to the harbour entrance. As there was insufficient water to enter Wells Harbour it was not until 07:05 that the lifeboat and casualty in tow proceeded inwards. At 08:00 the casualty was safely moored on a buoy in the outer harbour.

With the 2 crew from the Boy Neil onboard, the ALB left the scene and returned to the beach south of the boathouse for recovery. The lifeboat was re-housed, re-fuelled and ready for service at 09:30. Wind: WSW 5/6. Sea: Moderate.

25 February 2012
11:25 ILB Yarmouth Coastguard paged at 11:22 for an ILB launch to assist with a transfer to shore of two wind farm personnel, one of whom had chronic toothache, the other an abscess. The two persons were aboard the support vessel Island Tiger which had earlier taken them off the accommodation ship moored in the wind farm construction site. Due to the low state of the tide, the windfarm vessel could not enter the harbour and no other vessel was able to get to sea. The crew were paged at 11:25 and the ILB launched at 1142 to make its way to the fairway buoy for a timed rendezvous with the Island Tiger. At 11:58, with the two persons onboard, the ILB proceeded to the Outer Harbour pontoons where both men were transferred to a waiting vehicle to take them for emergency dental treatment. The ILB returned to station was re-housed, re-fuelled and ready for service at 12:25. Wind: W 3-4. Sea: Slight.

25 February 2012
14:26 ILB Yarmouth Coastguard requested a launch of the ILB at 14:26 following a report from the harbour master that the support vessel MPI Delcinea was inbound from the Sheringham Shoal wind farm with a 20 year old women onboard requiring specialist hospital treatment for an eye injury. Due to the state of the tide, the MPI Delcinea could not access the harbour. At 14:35 the ILB and Softrak launching vehicle left the boathouse and proceeded toward the low water launch site. Launching at 14:53, the ILB then rendezvoused with the MPI Delcinea at 14:55 to transfer the casualty. At 15:00, the casualty was placed into the Softrak and brought back to the boathouse where she was handed into the care of the local Coastguard unit. The Softrak then returned to Holkham Bay to recover the ILB. Arriving back at station at 15:50 the ILB and Softrak were re-housed, re-fuelled and again for service at 16:10. Wind: W 3-4. Sea: Slight.

25 February 2012
20:20 ILB Yarmouth Coastguard requested an ILB launch at 20:20 following a report of a despondent male thought to be missing in the Burnham Overy harbour area. The crew were paged at 20:23. As the ILB was launching, Yarmouth Coastguard was informed that the missing person had been located by the police and the boat was stood down at 20:32 and re-housed and ready for service by 20:40. Wind: W 3. Sea: Slight.