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|Royal National Lifeboat Institution|
|Formation||4 March 1824|
|Purpose/focus||The RNLI is the charity that saves lives at sea|
|Region served||United Kingdom
Isle of Man
|Chief Executive||Rear Admiral Paul Boissier|
|Budget||£147.7 million (approximately £405,000 per day)|
The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is a charity that saves lives at sea around the coasts of Great Britain, Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, as well as on selected inland waterways.
The RNLI was founded on 4 March 1824 as the National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck, with Royal Patronage from King George IV of Great Britain and Ireland. It was given the prefix "Royal" and its current name in 1854 by Queen Victoria of Great Britain and Ireland. It has official charity status in both the United Kingdom and Ireland.
The RNLI operates 444 lifeboats (332 are on station, 112 are in the relief fleet), from 236 lifeboat stations around the coasts of Great Britain, Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. The RNLI's lifeboats rescued an average of 22 people a day in 2011. RNLI lifeboats launched 8,321 times in 2012, rescuing 7,912 people. The RNLI's lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved more than 140,000 lives since 1824. RNLI lifeguards placed on selected beaches around England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Channel Islands attended to 14,519 incidents in 2011. The RNLI's Operations Department defines "rescues" and "lives saved" differently.
In 2012, the RNLI Lifeguards service was expanded to cover more than 180 beaches. RNLI lifeguards are paid by the appropriate town or city council, while the RNLI provides their equipment and training. In contrast, most lifeboat crew members are unpaid volunteers. The RNLI is funded by voluntary donations and legacies (together with tax reclaims). In 2011, the RNLI's income was £162.9M, while its expenditure was £140.6M.
Sir William Hillary came to live on the Isle of Man in 1808. Being aware of the treacherous nature of the Irish Sea, with many ships being wrecked around the Manx coast, he drew up plans for a national lifeboat service manned by trained crews. Initially he received little response from the Admiralty. However, on appealing to the more philanthropic members of London society, the plans were adopted and, with the help of two Members of Parliament (Thomas Wilson and George Hibbert), the National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck was founded in 1824.
Thirty years later the title changed to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and the first of the new lifeboats to be built was stationed at Douglas in recognition of the work of Sir William.
At the age of 60, Sir William took part in the rescue, in 1830, of the packet St George, which had foundered on Conister Rock at the entrance to Douglas Harbour. He commanded the lifeboat and was washed overboard with others of the lifeboat crew, yet finally everyone aboard the St George was rescued with no loss of life. It was this incident which prompted Sir William to set up a scheme to build The Tower of Refuge on Conister Rock – a project completed in 1832 which stands to this day at the entrance to Douglas Harbour.
In its first year, the RNLI added 13 boats to the existing 39 independent lifeboats. By 1908 there were 280 RNLI lifeboats and 17 independents.
Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboats and lifeguards have saved over 139,000 lives (as of May 2011).
The RNLI operates two classes of inshore lifeboats, inflatable boats and RIBs of 25–40 knots, and five classes of all-weather motor life boats, with another (Shannon-class) currently in development, with speeds ranging from 17 to 25 knots. It maintains 330 lifeboats based at 236 lifeboat stations. It also has four hovercraft that were introduced in 2002, allowing rescue on mud flats and in river estuaries inaccessible to conventional boats. The crews of the lifeboats are almost entirely volunteers. The 4,600 boat crew members, including over 300 women, are alerted by pagers and attend the lifeboat station when alerted.
Throughout Great Britain and Ireland, ships in distress, or the public reporting an accident, must contact the emergency services:
The Coastguard co-ordinates air-sea rescue and may call on the RNLI (or other independent lifeboats) or their own land-based rescue personnel or rescue helicopters to take part. Air-Sea rescue helicopters are provided by CHC Helicopter, the R.A.F., the Royal Navy, the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (HM Coastguard), and the Irish Air Corps.
The biggest rescue in the RNLI's history was on 17 March 1907 when the 12,000 tonne liner SS Suevic hit the Maenheere Reef near Lizard Point in Cornwall. In a strong gale and dense fog, RNLI lifeboat volunteers rescued 456 passengers, including 70 babies. Crews from The Lizard, Cadgwith, Coverack and Porthleven rowed out repeatedly for 16 hours to rescue all of the people on board. Six silver RNLI medals were later awarded, two to Suevic crew members.
Nineteen lifeboats of the RNLI sailed to Dunkirk between 27 May and the early hours of 4 June 1940 to assist with the Dunkirk evacuation. Those from the lifeboat stations at Ramsgate and Margate were taken directly to France with their usual volunteer crews, but the others sailed to Dover where they were requisitioned by the Royal Navy, which provided the crews. Some of the RNLI crews remained behind in Dover and set up a workshop to repair and fuel the little ships. One lifeboat—The Viscountess Wakefield—was lost after it was run onto the beach at Dunkirk. The Jane Holland was holed when a Motor Torpedo Boat rammed her and her engine failed after being machine gunned by an aircraft. She was abandoned but later found adrift, towed back to Dover and repaired. She returned to service on 5 April 1941.
The lifeboats included:
The RNLI has two main categories of lifeboat:
Over the years, many members of boat and launching crews have been killed during, or died as a result of, lifeboat operations.
Lifeboat crew members have been awarded medals for their bravery. The RNLI awards three classes of medal; Gold, Silver and Bronze. To date the number of medals awarded are:
One of the most notable recipients is Henry Blogg, of the Cromer lifeboat crew, who was awarded the RNLI gold medal three times (and the silver four times). He also received the George Cross and the British Empire Medal. He is known as "The Greatest of all Lifeboatmen".
The youngest recipient of an RNLI medal was eleven-year-old Frederick Carter who, along with sixteen-year-old Frank Perry, was awarded a Silver Medal for a rescue at Weymouth in 1890.
The Thanks of the Institution Inscribed on Vellum is also given for notable acts.
Grace Darling was 22 years old when she risked her life in an open boat to help the survivors of the wrecked SS Forfarshire on 7 September 1838. With her father, she rowed for over a mile through raging seas to reach them.
And inscription on vellum for services to RNLI.
The headquarters of the RNLI are in Poole, Dorset. The RNLI site is located adjacent to the Holes Bay in Poole Harbour. It includes RNLI HQ, lifeboat maintenance and repair facilities, the Lifeboat Support Centre and RNLI College (the training centre). The support centre and college were opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 2004. Specialist training facilities include a wave and capsize pool, a fire simulator, a bridge simulator and an engineering workshop.
A new headquarters for the RNLI Ireland was officially opened at Airside in Swords, north County Dublin, in June 2006 by Her Excellency President Mary McAleese. The Chairman of the Executive Committee of the RNLI, Admiral Sir Jock Slater, R.N., a former British First Sea Lord, was in attendance at this ceremony.
The RNLI maintains a number of museums recording the history and activity of the Institution along with preserved lifeboats.
Additionally, the Lifeboat Enthusiasts' Society (a branch of the RNLI) and an independent organisation, the Historic Lifeboat Owners Association, promote the study and preservation of lifeboats.
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