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Tuesday, January 21, 2020

RNLI Exhibition “Hope in the Great War”

In January’s edition of Sea Breezes, John Young in his ‘Maritime Log’ covered the launch of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s first ‘Shannon Class‘ lifeboat at St Ives in Cornwall.

I was interested to discover that the Shannon Class lifeboats - capable of operating at speeds of up to 25 knots - are the first all weather lifeboats in the history of the RNLI to be propelled by water jets rather than traditional propellers. This should allow the craft to operate with even greater manoeuvrability and the Shannon Class will also have faster launch capability than the Mersey and Tyne classes of lifeboat which it is replacing.

From my involvement with Sea Containers in the early 1990s, when we were intoducing fast ferries (InCat built fast wave piercing catamarans - SeaCats), I can recall the excitement around the waterjet propulsion systems and the general acclaim from the bridge teams around their responsiveness, although they brought different and new maintenance and operational challenges for the Engineering Officers.

The introduction of the Shannon class represents yet another chapter in the evolution of the RNLI’s life-saving efforts which date back almost 200 years to its establishment in 1824. The very nature of its work has ensured that the RNLI has a rich and fascinating history, and an exhibition covering its work during the Great War (1914-1918) is now on tour. Entitled ‘Hope in the Great War‘, the exhibition tells of the heroic efforts during the war when over 5,000 lives were saved by the RNLI - with lifeboats manned by much older crews than normal as the result of many of its younger crew members being on active duty at the frontline of the war.

The exhibition has already visited Fife, Glamorgan and Pembrokeshire. Its next port of call, from April to September, is Peel in the Isle of Man which is good fortune for me as a resident of the island. It is of course, entirely appropriate for the exhibition to visit the Isle of Man given the efforts of Sir William Hillary (a long term resident of the island) as the driving force in setting up the RNLI. On the 10th January this year, I attended the annual Memorial Service to Sir William at St George’s Church in Douglas. After the service, wreaths were laid at his graveside. He himself took part in several rescues of shipwrecked seamen. One of the best known, was that of the wreck of the St George, a packet steamer running between Liverpool and Douglas. In November 1830, she was driven ashore on St Mary’s Isle (also known as Conister Rock), a partially submerged reef in Douglas Bay just off the entrance to Douglas Harbour. A few years later on the orders of Sir William, a “Tower of Refuge” was built on the reef. Over the last 183 years passengers and crew on ships entering and leaving the port of Douglas see this Tower of Refuge - surely a lasting and fitting tribute to a great man.

I am looking forward to visiting the “Hope in the Great War“ exhibition and would encourage others to do so. Later this year it moves to Falmouth and will continue at other locations in 2017.

HAMISH ROSS, EDITOR

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