Our History

  • 2019

    The 150th Anniversary year of the Salcombe Lifeboat was celebrated with events throughout the year in the both the town and surrounding area. These culminated on the September 21st (Anniversary day) with the visit of HRH The Duke of Kent and the unveiling of two Sculptures, in Kingsbridge and Salcombe, one depicting the very first Salcombe Lifeboat and the other the current All Weather Lifeboat.

    It was also a year that saw Mr. Mark Dowie, Salcombe Lifeboat Operations Manager (a voluntary role) becoming the full time Chief Executive Officer of the RNLI. An honour for Mark but also for Salcombe.

    Mark’s departure saw respected lifeboat veteran, Andrew Arthur step into the role of Lifeboat Operations Manager, having started with the Salcombe lifeboats in 2003, brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the team.

  • 2018

    A new inshore lifeboat, the Atlantic 985, B-905 Gladys Hilda Mustoe was placed on service 12 January replacing the Joan Bate which joined the relief fleet.

  • 2016

    The Centenary of the Salcombe Lifeboat Disaster was commemorated on 27 October by a service led by the Bishop of Plymouth in Holy Trinity Church followed by a wreath-laying ceremony over the site of the disaster.

  • 2012

    A Framed Letter of Thanks was awarded to inshore lifeboat helmsman Sam Viles and Letters of Thanks to crew members Esther McLarty and Matt Davies for the skilful and daring rescue of a surfer in treacherous seas in Soar Mill Cove on 17 August.

  • 2010

    Crew members lain Dundas and Adam Lilley were awarded Certificates of Appreciation in recognition of their initiative and exceptional First Aid skills when they tended a seriously injured man on board the fishing vessel Sasha Emiel on 16 May 2010. A third crew  member, Cameron Sims-Sterling received a Letter of Appreciation for his part in the rescue.

  • 2010

    Chris Winzar appointed as the Coxswain of the Salcombe Lifeboat. (Originally Fleet Staff Coxswain).

  • 2008

    The new Tamar class lifeboat ON1289 The Baltic Exchange III was placed on service on 10 March. The lifeboat was funded by the Baltic Exchange and a generous donation received in memory of Marjorie D Heath from Marjorie’s Settlement Trust together with other gifts and legacies. The Baltic Exchange II withdrawn to the relief fleet and later sent to the Seychelles as a patrol boat to combat piracy.

  • 2008

    Letters of Thanks were awarded to Coxswain Marco Brimacombe and his crew (Richard Whitfield, Andrew Arthur, Simon Cater, James Fearn and Josh Dornom) for their part in the rescue of 20 crewmen from the freighter Ice Prince in hazardous conditions on the night of 13 January 2008. The coxswain of the Torbay Lifeboat, Mark Criddle, was awarded the Silver Medal.

  • 2004

    New slipway and extensive improvements were carried out to the ILB boathouse and ALB berth at a cost of £884,336.

  • 2003

    Salcombe’s first inshore lifeboat, the B class Atlantic 75, B-794 Joan Bate was placed on service in November. This lifeboat was funded by the generous bequest of Miss Joan Bate.

  • 2002

    Former Coxswain Frank Smith was awarded the MBE in the New Year’s Honours List. The medal was formally presented at Buckingham Palace.

  • 2001

    Marco Brimacombe appointed coxswain, replacing Frank Smith.

  • 1997

    A Framed Letter of Thanks signed by the Chairman was awarded to Coxswain/Mechanic Frank Smith when the relief lifeboat Mariners Friend launched on 4 November in a south easterly Force 7 Near Gale to the cargo vessel Ina which was aground near Bolt Head, with engine failure. The sea was up to three metres high with rain squalls, visibility was reduced to three cables. A line was passed which held the bow seaward whilst the anchor chain was recovered and in deteriorating conditions the Ina was slowly towed away from the rocks. 

  • 1992

    Salcombe Lifeboat Station substantially modernised with improved crew facilities and a new museum and shop.

  • 1992

    Bronze Medal awarded to Coxswain/Mechanic Frank Yeoman Smith in recognition of his courage, seamanship, leadership and determination when the lifeboat Baltic Exchange II took the 1,200 ton coaster Janet C in tow and held her off the rocks at Start Point for three hours until the arrival of a tug in the early hours of 8 January 1992. The coaster had suffered total power failure in south westerly gale force winds and heavy sea. A Framed Letter of Thanks signed by the Chairman was awarded to Staff Coxswain John Marjoram for the support he gave to Coxswain/Mechanic Smith, who was officially on leave but had made himself available for this service because of the prevailing conditions and his knowledge of the Start Point area.

  • 1992

    Bronze medal awarded to Coxswain Frank Smith, following the rescue of coaster “Janet C” 1159 GRT and her crew of 7. The “Baltic Exchange II” successfully towed “Janet C” clear of Start Point in force 8 onshore winds and violent seas.

  • 1988

    Frank Smith appointed coxswain, replacing Brian Cater.

  • 1988

    The Watson class lifeboat, The Baltic Exchange, was withdrawn from service and replaced by a Tyne class lifeboat ON1130 The Baltic Exchange II.

  • 1985

    Letter of Thanks presented to Coxswain Brian Cater for saving three men who had taken to their life-raft after the yacht Fidget sank in a gale on 11 August.

  • 1984

    Brian Cater appointed coxswain, replacing Graham Griffiths.

  • 1983

    A Framed Letter of Thanks signed by the Chairman was awarded to Coxswain Graham Griffiths, Motor Mechanic Frank Smith, Assistant Mechanic Brian Cater and crew members Stan Turns, Roger Evans, Mike Hicks and David Lamble in recognition of their fortitude and determination, following the capsize of the lifeboat The Baltic Exchange during a service to an upturned inflatable dinghy on 10 April.

  • 1979

    The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum accorded to Coxswain Graham Griffiths in recognition of his skill and determination when the lifeboat was manoeuvred close to dangerous rocks, stood by the coaster Heye P ashore off Prawle Point and illuminated the scene during the rescue of the coaster’s crew of three by helicopter on the night of 16 December. Vellum Service Certificates were awarded to the six crew members.

  • 1973

    In October 1973, Edwin Distin, survivor of the 1916 Salcombe Lifeboat Disaster and coxswain between 1917 and 1951, died aged 82. His ashes were taken on board the lifeboat Baltic Exchange and scattered over the sea where he had been washed ashore 57 years earlier.

  • 1973

    Graham Griffiths appointed coxswain, replacing Hubert W. Distin who died in December 1972

  • 1972

    The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum accorded to Coxswain Hubert W. Distin for rescuing, by breeches buoy, five crew of the Belgian fishing trawler Amelie Suzanne on 1 April in a strong westerly wind and poor visibility. Vellum Service Certificates were awarded to the six crew members.

  • 1969

    Centenary Vellum awarded to Salcombe Lifeboat Station

  • 1962

    Samuel and Marie Parkhouse withdrawn and replaced by another Watson class lifeboat ON964 The Baltic Exchange. The new lifeboat was funded by the Baltic Exchange of London.

  • 1962

    Herbert W. Distin, son of Edwin Distin, appointed coxswain, replacing Gerald R.A. Shepherd.

  • 1951

    Gerald R.A. Shepherd appointed coxswain, replacing Edwin Distin.

  • 1945

    The Samuel and Marie Parkhouse was the last lifeboat in the RNLI fleet to be called out on service during World War II. At one minute to midnight on 7 May 1945, she slipped her moorings to answer a call to help the Norwegian Mine Sweeper No. 382 that had hit a mine 15 miles off Berry Head. The war in Europe ended the next day. Sadly, no survivors were found from the minesweeper.

  • 1944

    Bronze Medal awarded to Coxswain Edwin W. Distin for the rescue in an easterly gale and very high seas of 11 people from the Admiralty Salvage craft LC18 in distress on The Skerries, east of Start Point, on 4 December 1943. The lifeboat launched at 22.15 and found the casualty to be very high out of the water and dragging across the bank, rolling heavily. Coxswain Distin took the lifeboat right alongside four times before the crew could be induced to jump aboard.

  • 1940

    Silver Medal awarded to Coxswain Edwin W. Distin and Bronze Medals to each of the other seven crew members for the rescue of 62 survivors of the Belgian Steamer Tajandoen which was sunk by enemy action on 7 December 1939. They had been picked up by the Belgian Steamer Louis Sheid which herself went ashore in Bigbury Bay and the lifeboat took them off. This was a service in which the coxswain showed magnificent seamanship both in crossing the bar in heavy seas and in getting alongside the steamer.

  • 1938

    Alfred and Clara Heath withdrawn to the relief fleet and replaced by Watson class motor lifeboat ON805 Samuel and Marie Parkhouse.

  • 1930

    Hope Cove Lifeboat Station closed and Alexandra lifeboat was relocated to Cromer No.2 station.

  • 1930

    Edwin Distin reappointed coxswain.

  • 1930

    Salcombe Lifeboat Station reopened with the former Torbay motor lifeboat ON672 Alfred and Clara Heath placed on service. Lifeboat kept on permanent mooring in the harbour

  • 1925

    Salcombe Lifeboat Station closed and Sarah Ann Holden withdrawn from service.

  • 1922

    Salcombe Lifeboat moved from South Sands to permanent mooring in harbour.

  • 1917

    Self-righting pulling and sailing lifeboat ON449 Sarah Ann Holden placed on service in April.

  • 1916

    On 27 October Salcombe lifeboat William and Emma capsized at Salcombe Harbour entrance drowning 13 of her crew of 15. The crew of the casualty, Plymouth schooner Western Lass, which had gone ashore to the east of Prawle Point in a furious gale was rescued by the coastguard but it was not possible to communicate with the lifeboat. One of the two survivors from the lifeboat, Edwin Distin became coxswain of the replacement boat Sarah Ann Holden which arrived in April 1917. A new crew of 13 was readily available in spite of the war. The names of those who died were Coxswain Samuel Distin, James Canham, Ashley Cook, James Cove, Jack Cudd, Frank Cudd, Albert Distin, Peter Foale (Snr), Peter Foale (Jnr), William Foale, William Lamble, Tom Putt, and Albert Wood.

  • 1911

    Samuel Distin appointed coxswain of Salcombe lifeboat, replacing his brother James Distin.

  • 1907

    Board of Trade Bronze Medals for Gallantry awarded to Hope Cove crew members Isaac Jarvis and Jack Argeat who rescued 117 people from Elder Dempster liner Jebba after they climbed down near vertical cliffs near Bolt Tail and rigged a bosun’s chair. A further 38 people were rescued by the Hope Cove Life Saving Apparatus Company.

  • 1904

    Lesty withdrawn from Salcombe and replaced by a Liverpool class lifeboat named ON524 William and Emma.

  • 1903

    Hope Cove lifeboat Alexandra replaced by another lifeboat of the same name, ON514 Alexandra.

  • 1900

    Hope Cove lifeboat Alexandra replaced by another lifeboat of the same name, ON331 Alexandra.

  • 1887

    Hope Cove lifeboat Alexandra replaced by another lifeboat of the same name, ON143 Alexandra.

  • 1887

    Rescue replaced by ON142 Lesty, a self-righting pulling and sailing lifeboat.

  • 1886

    James Distin appointed coxswain of Salcombe lifeboat.

  • 1878

    Lifeboat station established at Hope Cove, provided by The Freemasons of England. The first lifeboat stationed there was called Alexandra.

  • 1875

    A man by the name of Chaffers appointed coxswain, replacing William Quick.

  • 1874

    Silver Medal awarded to Joseph Urell, chief officer of Hope Cove coastguard for rescuing three men from the brig Theodore in Bigbury Bay on 14 February.

  • 1870

    Lifeboat house completed at South Sands, Salcombe at a cost of £285.

  • 1869

    Salcombe Lifeboat station established following the wreck of the clipper ship Gossamer of Liverpool in December of the previous year with the loss of 13 lives.

  • 1869

    The Earl of Devon presented the site for the boat-house at South Sands and the High Sherriff of Devon, Richard Durant Esq., provided the funds for both the lifeboat and the new building.

  • 1869

    The first boat was a ten-oared, self-righter named Rescue.

  • 1869

    William Quick appointed coxswain.

  • 1857

    Silver Medals awarded to coastguardsmen, William Wedge, James Turpin and David Warder for putting off in a small boat and rescuing two out of three people capsized from their boat on Bantham Bar on 27 August 1857.

  • 1838

    Letter of Thanks awarded to coastguard officer Lieutenant Haswell RN for rescuing three of the crew of the brig Barbara which was wrecked in Bigbury Bay in November.

Salcombe Lifeboat Museum and Shop

A pictorial history, together with a stunning display of models of Salcombe’s Lifeboats made by local professional craftsman Malcolm Darch, may be viewed in Salcombe Lifeboat Centre and he is also responsible for the majority of the historical research and information contained herein. Visit the Museum and shop at the Lifeboat Station in Union Street, Salcombe.