ST DAVIDS LIFEBOAT
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St Davids Lifeboat Station (based in St Justinian, St Davids, Pembrokeshire, Wales) is a Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) station. It was opened in 1869 and to date has been involved in saving over 360 lives at sea in more than 420 launches. The station operates both an all-weather and an inshore lifeboat.
ST JUSTINIANS LIFEBOAT STATION
The area of St Davids Peninsula juts out into the Irish Sea and was and still is a noted navigation land mark. Ships from all over the world pass close to the shore as well as m any local vessels and fishing boats. Fishguard Life Boat to the North and St Davids Life Boat are the closest Welsh Lifeboats to southern Ireland and as such bear a huge responsibility for the saving of lives in the Irish Sea and St Georges Channel. In addition to sea traffic St Davids and Strumble Heads are import waypoints or navigation marks for trans-Atlantic aircraft and at times the lifeboats have been called upon for search and rescue in connection with these.
In all nearly 450 lives have been saved by the St Davids Lifeboats Save & Exit
These pages give a brief insight to the organisation and heroism of the St Davids Life Boat. Fuller details can be obtained from ” The Story Of the St Davids Lifeboats” by Dr G W Middleton obtainable from local stores and with the proceeds donated to the RNLI.
CHRONICAL OF LIFEBOATS
THE AUGUSTA (1869 TO 1885)
The station was established by the RNLI in 1869 following appeals from local residents after a number of shipwrecks nearby. The Institution had already awarded a silver medal to local man Thomas M Rees for risking his life in an incident in 1867. The station, consisting of a boathouse and slipway at Porthstinan (St Justinians), was provided with the 32-foot Augusta, donated by the Earl of Dartmouth. Augusta remained in service until 1885, saving 23 lives.
THE GEM (1885-1910)
From 1885 to 1910 16 lives were saved by the crew of the station’s new lifeboat, Gem. The lifeboat was wrecked on The Bitches reef during a rescue on 13 October 1910, and three crewmen drowned: Coxswain John Stephens, and lifeboatmen Henry Rowlands and James Price. Papers concerning the loss are held at Pembrokeshire Record Office (Ref:DX/93/11).A temporary lifeboat, Charlotte, was stationed at Porthclais for two years; meanwhile, a new station and slipway were constructed to accommodate the station’s first motor-powered lifeboat, General Farrell.
THE GENERAL FARRELL (1911-1936)
General Farrell remained on station until 1936, her crew saving 17 lives in the intervening years. She was replaced by Swn-y-Mor which saw one of the busiest periods in the station’s history, her crews saving 108 lives in her 26 years of service which was marked in 1956 by the loss of lifeboatman Ieuan Bateman. A couple of years earlier the tanker World Concord broke in two in hurricane-force winds; a combined effort by St Davids and Rosslare Harbour lifeboats rescued 42 people from the tanker.
THE SWN-Y-MOR (1936 TO 1963)
Swn-y-Mor had been donated by the Civil Service Lifeboat Fund, and the same institution donated the next lifeboat, Joseph Soar, in 1963. Already fitted with some innovative equipment, she was converted for self-righting in 1974, and during her tenure the crew saved 45 lives.As of 2015, Swn-y-Mor was still operating as a private yacht, rigged as gaff ketch motor sailer.
THE JOSEPH SOAR (1963-1985)
From 1985 to 1988 the station’s all-weather lifeboat was Ruby & Arthur Reed, formerly on station at Cromer where she had already been involved in saving 58 lives and enabled a further 9 lives to be saved at St Davids. She was replaced by Garside, a new Tyne class lifeboat which, until superseded in 2013 by Tamar class lifeboat Norah Wortley, had been launched more than 160 times.
THE RUBY AND ARTHUR REED (1985-1988)
The Joseph Soar was moved from St Davids up to Dunbar in south-east Scotland and replaced by the second-hand vessel Ruby and Arthur Reed in 1985. She had already been launched numerous times and saved 58 lives in the process. She was in service at St Davids for only 3 years and launched 10 times saving 9 lives.
After the withdrawal of the RAF Rescue Service helicopter from nearby RAF Brawdy, St Davids trialled an inshore lifeboat in 1997, and the following year took possession of a permanent addition to the station of a D-class ILB, Dewi Sant (Saint David). This was replaced in 2008 by Myrtle & Trevor Gurr. The lifeboat station and slipways were modernised extensively in the 1990s. In April 2013 St. David’s New Tamar-class lifeboat was placed on station, temporarily moored afloat pending construction of the new boathouse and slipway. In certain weather conditions, the Tamar had to be removed to a safe anchorage and for this reason the Tyne class Garside remained on station in the 1910s boathouse, with St Davids in the unusual situation of operating two ALBs at the same time.With completion of the new boathouse, Garside was withdrawn from service and launched down the slipway of the old boathouse for the last time on October 21, 2016 on her way back to the RNLI depot at Poole for decommissioning.
The station employs two full-time members, Coxswain and Mechanic. The remaining crew, who all live within about 3 miles of the station, are volunteers and are contacted by pager when needed. Neighbouring lifeboat stations are Fishguard to the north, Little and Broad Haven to the south and Rosslare Harbour in Ireland to the west.
NORAH WORTLEY (2013-PRESENT)
In 2014 construction started on a new larger lifeboat house and slipway capable of accommodating the Tamar-class, with improved access for bringing in equipment and evacuating casualties and more extensive modern facilities; the cost is in the region of £9.5 million. The new facility is a short distance from the existing boathouse which remained in service until the new boathouse was completed. The Norah Wortley was launched from the new station for the first time on 21 October 2016. The new station was official opened on the 14th March 2017.