Southend Lifeboat station
was established by the Institution in 1879 to assist vessels and crews that run aground on Nore and Leigh Middle Sands and other outlying banks at the entrance to the Thames. There were two stations between 1885 and 1891.
The offshore lifeboat station is situated on the seaward end of Southend Pier which is 1¼ miles long. The inshore station, which is temporarily situated at the shore end of the pier, houses the Inshore D-class and Hovercraft.
The outstanding figure in the history of the station was Sidney H B Page. He was a member of the crew from 1911 until 1933, was bowman from February to December 1933, second coxswain from January to June 1934 and coxswain from July 1934 to December 1955. From 1911 until 1955 the Southend lifeboat rescued 431 lives. Sidney Page won the Silver Medal the Bronze Medal twice and the Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum four times. When he retired in 1955 he became honorary boathouse attendant. He died in 1962 aged 71.
Thirteen medals have been awarded - four Silver, nine Bronze, the last being voted in 2000.
In 1932 the German Government thanked the lifeboat crew in respect of their service to a German aircraft on 29/30 October 1932.
The following list outlines some of the station's history. Where possible links and photos are provided for greater detail.
Silver Medal awarded to Chief Officer, Mr George Culmer, Coastguard, for rescuing two people from the vessel Friendship that had run ashore in a heavy southerly gale off Shoeburyness on 17 February 1826. With two men of his boats crew they launched over the sands through heavy surf with the tide half ebb to recover the casualties who were exhausted to the point of insensitivity.
Silver Medal awarded to Lieut Sidney King RN for the rescue of the master and one seaman from the Barge John when both her anchor cables parted in heavy weather near Hope Buoy on 29 October 1838.
Davits erected on pier for lifeboat and also two small winches to hoist and lower the lifeboat.
Silver Medal awarded to William Bradley, Light Keeper at Southend pierhead, for rescuing a man from the capsized steam tug Jubilee on the night of 2 November 1887. Mr Bradley was called from his bed and without waiting to dress lowered his boat, rowed to the casualty who was clinging to the upturned boat, and brought him to safety.
Decided to supply a second lifeboat and erect a lifeboat house. Land drained at a cost of £25 by Messrs Baker & Wiseman. Estimate for construction of lifeboat house by Mr J Walker £419. The sum of £42 paid for fencing ground at lifeboat house and erecting gates.
Decided that number two lifeboat be moored inside the head of the pier during the winter months. Number one station lifeboat removed.
New lifeboat and slipway constructed end of pier at a cost of £15,750.
Bronze Medal awarded to Coxswain Sidney Page when he went to the help of five vessels in trouble in a very bad storm on 2 June 1938 and from three of them rescued seven lives. Shortly after midnight the lifeboat went to the assistance of the yacht Wimpie that was dragging her anchor and took off two men and landed them on the pier steps. Receiving another call the lifeboat went to Shoebury Sands where three men were taken from the rigging of the barge Glen Rosa. The barge Maid of Munster refused help so the lifeboat went on to take off two men and a dog from the barge Audrey adrift off the Nore Lightship with her rudder gone and her sails in ribbons. The fifth vessel was found sunk. Second-Service Clasp to a Bronze Medal awarded to Coxswain Page for a service two miles east of Southend pier very skilfully carried out in the worst of weather, in the dark, and in exceptionally difficult and severe conditions to three barges on 26 November 1938. The first barge Lord Roberts refused help so the lifeboat then went to assist the Rochester T.F.C. and in two passes took off her master and mate, before returning to the Lord Roberts; help was again refused. Two passes were made to take off two men from the barge Glenmore. By this time the Lord Roberts had sunk and her two man crew had to be rescued from the rigging. Coxswain Page was only the second man in the past 30 years to win two medals in one year.
The Greater London was one of the 19 lifeboats of the Institution that went to Dunkirk at the end of May to help to bring off the British Expeditionary Force. She was not manned by her own crew but was taken over by the Navy and manned by naval ratings. The work of rescue at Dunkirk came to an end on Tuesday, 4 June and in the last hours of the evacuation the Greater London saved the destroyer, HMS Kellett at 1.30 on the morning of that day. HMS Kellett was trying to embark 200 French soldiers from the Mole, but some obstruction under water prevented her from coming alongside. The harbour was then being cleared of what remained in it, and the blocked ships were to be sunk at its entrance. If she were not to be trapped, the destroyer must leave at once. Her bows were touching the beach and her Commander tried to put her astern, but again something under water was in the way. One of her screws caught on it and try as he would he could not move her. There seemed no-one left to help him, when he saw a lifeboat pass by, full of soldiers. He hailed her and the lifeboat hauled the destroyer off the beach. By their timely pluck, at the last moment, this lifeboat saved the destroyer and her crew from capture. She was the Greater London of Southend-on-Sea.
Silver Medal was awarded to Coxswain Page and Bronze Medals crew members Frank Jurgenson, William Deer, Herbert Myall, Samuel Thomas and Reginald Sanders for an outstanding war service when the lifeboat went out eight times in a gale that lasted for two days and a night to distressed barges on 6 December 1940 and rescued 12 men. For the first four of these launches she had only six men instead of her usual crew of eight, and two of the services carried out by six men were exceptionally difficult and dangerous.
On 28 September the Greater London lifeboat was launched to search, unsuccessfully, for the body of Mr Geoffrey de Havilland who lost his life whilst flying an experimental high speed aircraft.
The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum was accorded to Coxswain Sidney Page and Second Coxswain Joseph Polkinghorn, Reserve Mechanic Lionel Neville, Assistant Mechanic Reginald Sanders, Signalman Samuel Thomas and crew members Edward Polkinghorn, Oliver Cotgrove, Thomas Thornton, Stanley Scrase, Cyril Day and Walter Wynn in recognition of their meritorious conduct and seamanship in the lifeboat which was launched four times in 12 hours and rescued seven people from the barges Maid of Munster, Asphodel and Adriatic, which were in distress of Southend-on-Sea in a full south west gale with a very rough sea on 23 April 1947.
12th January 1950 is a date that will forever link this station with one of most unfortunate tragedies in the Thames estuary. The submarine "Truculent" spent the day undergoing sea trials following a refit at Chatham dockyard.
At the end of the exercises the intention was to moor up at Sheerness before proceeding up river the next day. So that evening Truculent made her way west from the Red Sands Towers. The Officer of the Watch noted that the outbound and inbound traffic was quite heavy, it was only after Truculents's escort- the destroyer "Cowdray", had peeled off to return to Chatham that the watch noted an unusual array of lights ahead, just off the port bow.
Confirmation of the unusual light pattern was made by a more senior officer. It was decided that because of the shallow water on the starboard side, of what was determined to be a stationary vessel, the Truculent would steer to port and avoid the hazard. These lights were later discovered to have no real meaning this far down the river.
Unfortunately the hazard was the 643 ton tanker "Divina" making her way from Purfleet and it was steaming straight for the Truculent. Even though both vessels could see the impending disaster it was too late to do anything about it.
Subsequent investigations have noted how calm and professionally the crew aboard Truculent responded to the event. Procedures for evacuation were "textbook" in there execution. It was deemed that being in such busy waters and with the level of carbon dioxide rising to danger levels in the sub' to evacuate promptly. This was felt to be a fair assessment under the circumstances.
The SOS had gone out after 5 survivors had been picked out of the water by the Dutch boat "Almdijk". The Southend lifeboat was the first vessel to respond to the distress call and spent over 20 hours searching for survivors but the cold waters led to great loss with only 10 men surviving.
On the night of 31 January-1 February, the sea invaded large areas of land in many parts of the East Coast. Southend-on-Sea lifeboat was called out several times and was at sea for a total of 26 hours 35 minutes.
The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum was accorded to Coxswain Sidney Page for the rescue of the crew of three of the motor barge Fence on 21 October. The barge had grounded on the West Barrow Sand and was eventually taken in tow by the lifeboat the next day.
A collective Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum accorded to Coxswain P Gilson and his crew for rescuing a seaman who was trapped in a cabin on board the Dutch vessel Temar after catching fire near the number two Sea Reach buoy on 8 December. The lifeboat also brought ashore six more survivors from the Temar.
D class lifeboat sent to station in May.
1The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum was accorded to Robert Chalk, Gordon Easton and D Morgan for the rescue of the crew of two of a cabin cruiser inside the Mulberry by the inshore lifeboat on 16 March.
In view of the withdrawal of the helicopters from Manston, a second D class lifeboat was sent to the station in April 1969.
Framed Letters of Thanks, signed by the Chairman, awarded to Robert Chalk and Colin Sedgwick for the service on 9 November 1969 when in a west-south-westerly gale with a very rough sea the inshore lifeboat saved a mans life by towing his boat to shore and subsequently landed three people from a second boat which had gone aground at Canvey Point.
Framed Letters of Thanks signed by the Chairman of the Institution Admiral Sir Wilfred Woods GBE, KCB, DSO, DL, awarded to number one ILB Helmsman, Duncan Clark, and crew members Clifton Warry and Harry Pavitt, number two ILB Helmsman, Dennis Webb and crew member Stephen Cox, the crews of both the inshore lifeboats, for their part in aiding a capsized yachtsmen at the Thorpe Bay Yacht Club regatta, held on 7 August. Some 126 yachts were suddenly hit by a heavy squall and thunderstorm, with the wind rising to Force 8 and dense rain reducing the visibility, 90 yachts capsized. Both ILBs launched immediately and with the crews handling their crafts with great skill and efficiency, they helped rescue 26 people.
Framed Letters of Thanks, signed by the Chairman of the Institution, awarded to Motor Mechanic Robert Chalk for jumping into the sea on the east side of the main pier after seeing a woman in difficulties in the water on 25 November. Mr Chalk was also awarded a testimonial on Vellum by the Royal Humane Society.
Conventional lifeboat "Greater London II " withdrawn on 28 March. Atlantic 21 class lifeboat sent to station.
The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum accorded to Helmsman Robert T Fossett in recognition of his skill and determination when the inshore lifeboat saved two boats, rescued six people and gave help to three other vessels that were in difficulties in the Sea Reach area in a strong southerly gale and a rough sea on 6 June 1977.
A Centenary Vellum awarded to station.
On 27 February the Atlantic 21 launched to pick up a man whose dinghy had capsized in strong south easterly wind and a rough sea. The man who had been clinging to his upturned dinghy, had been rescued by a 16-year old boy named Carl Palmby who had gone to his aid in his sailing boat. For his skill and determination Carl was accorded the Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum.
In January 1999, Carl sadly passed away prematurely, following serious illness. His family insisted that proceeds from the funeral be donated to the Southend - RNLI. These monies were used to furnish the crew changing facilities in the new boathouse where a brass plaque in his name hangs today.
On 21st March 1981, the Atlantic 21 assisted the tug "Lady F" and helmsman Paul Gilson and crew members Glyn Gilson and Paul Manners were awarded framed letters of thanks signed by the Chairman.
Framed Letters of Thanks signed by the Chairman of the Institution awarded to Helmsman Paul Gilson and crew members Glyn Gilson and Paul Manners in recognition of their seamanship and determination when assistance was given by the Atlantic 21 lifeboat to the tug Laity F on 21 March.
Bronze Medal of the Institution awarded to Helmsman Robert T Fossett and Framed Letter of Thanks signed by the Chairman of the Institution, the Duke of Atholl awarded to crew members Simon Spratt and Mark Fossett in recognition of their courage, perseverance and seamanship when the relief Atlantic 21 lifeboat rescued the crew of two of the fishing vessel Mary which had broken down in a west-south-westerly gale and heavy breaking seas on 2 May 1982.
Certificate of Commendation awarded by the Royal Humane Society to Helmsman Paul Gilson and crew member Michael Whistler for administering artificial respiration and mouth to mouth resuscitation to a man who had jumped from the pier into the sea and was rescued by the D class inflatable lifeboat on 23 November. Robert Fossett received a certificate for assisting ashore once the man had been landed. The Chief of Operations also sent a letter of appreciation to each man.
HRH Princess Anne attended the naming ceremony at Southend on 2 May to name the new Atlantic 21 lifeboat Percy Garon II.
Boathouse was considered unsafe and demolished after the 180ft Coaster Kings Abbey sliced through a section of the pier on 30 June. The point of impact was adjacent to the boathouse in which the Atlantic 21 was housed. A new boathouse was constructed to accommodate the Atlantic 21 lifeboat later that year. It was situated adjacent to the D class accommodation on the Prince George extension of the pier.
Local Council provided a mains water connection to the boathouse and work was also carried out inside the boathouse in order to provide boat and crew washing facilities.
An extension to the Atlantic 21 boathouse was constructed in order to provide permanent accommodation for the stations second D class lifeboat. The extension was divided into two halves, with the remaining half being used as a purpose built souvenir sales outlet.
Framed Letters of Thanks signed by the Chairman of the Institution, Michael Vernon, were awarded to Helmsman Robert Fossett and crew members Mark Fossett and Roy Kidwell for the service on 21 October 1989, when the Percy Garon II launched in response to a Mayday message from the Sand Barge Margaret G with a crew of two on board. The barge was sinking in the vicinity of the South Shoebury Buoy in the Thames Estuary, in a strong gale and steel heavy seas. Whilst assisting the barge the lifeboats starboard engine stalled and when returning to station the port engine failed. Numerous attempts were made to restart the engines but without success. This was a harrowing experience in which the crew remained very calm despite the stressful weather conditions.
The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum was accorded to Helmsman Paul Gilson and Framed Letters of Thanks signed by the Chairman of the Institution, Michael Vernon, awarded to crew members John Foster and Clifton Warry in recognition of the skill and determination they displayed when the D class lifeboat went to the assistance of the Southend-on-Sea Atlantic 21 lifeboat Percy Garon II in a south-south-westerly violent storm, steep heavy seas and total darkness in the early hours of the morning of 21 October 1989. The Percy Garon II was on service when both engines failed and was drifting in dangerous waters at Shoebury Sands.
A commemorative plaque was unveiled on 24 January by Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal to mark the opening of the new Atlantic 21 boathouse, built on the pier head after the 1986 collision. The total cost of the boathouse and launching facilities, some £115,000, was met from the funds of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.
The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum was accorded to Helmsman Paul Gilson in recognition of the skill and fine seamanship displayed by him when the Atlantic 21 class lifeboat Percy Garon II rescued the crew of two from the yacht First Knight on 23 August 1991. The yacht had suffered steering failure 19 miles east-north-east of Southend Pier in storm force winds, very rough seas and rain squalls. Framed Letters of Thanks signed by the Chairman of the Institution, Michael Vernon, awarded to crew member Clifton Warry for his efforts on board the yacht and to crew member Duncan Clark for his support during this service.
New D class lifeboat D527 placed on service on 27 October.
A Framed Letter of Thanks signed by the Chairman, Mr David Acland, was presented to the station for the actions of the crews of all three lifeboats after a sailing dinghy race was hit by rapidly deteriorating weather on the afternoon of 3 January. All the race participants were capsized or sunk and the weather dispersed the dinghies over a wide area.
Bronze Medal awarded to Helmsman John Foster and the Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum accorded to crew members Michael Whistler and Ian Rees in recognition of their skill and courage when, in poor visibility, deteriorating weather conditions, and heavy seas they rescued three people from the angling boat Lady Jane in the stations Atlantic 21 inshore lifeboat on 24 October 1999. The Walter and Elizabeth Groombridge Award for 1999 was given for this rescue, as being the most meritorious performed by an Atlantic class lifeboat. Further honour was bestowed upon them by Southend Borough Council when they awarded them the Mitchell Cup.
A new boathouse completed in July at a cost of £696,186.
A Framed Letter of Thanks signed by the Chairman of the Institution Mr Peter Nicholson awarded to Helmsman John Foster for his leadership and fine seamanship when the Atlantic class inshore lifeboat rescued the crew of three and saved the angling boat Sea Breeze early in the morning of 12 November 2000. This service was conducted in darkness, rough seas and gale force winds close to the sea wall near the Westcliff Leisure Centre.
New station B class lifeboat B776 Vic & Billie Whiffen was placed on service on 8 December.
A Framed Letter of Thanks signed by the Chairman of the Institution Mr Peter Nicholson awarded to Helmsman Stewart Olley (B776) and Helmsman Michael Whistler (D527) for their determination and skilful seamanship when the two lifeboats saved the crew of three and the angling boat Badger in rough seas and a west-south-westerly Force 9/10 Strong Gale on 9 March 2002.
The Service above in 2002, is recognized by the Southend Borough Council who present Michael Whistler and Tony Bonham with the Mitchell Certificate
Hovercraft H004 Vera Ravine was placed on service on 10 July. The new boathouse for the hovercraft completed in September at a cost of £86,046
New D class D633 in replacement of D487 named 'Pride of London Foresters' placed on service in February 2005.
Colin Sedgwick, Lifeboat Operations Manager, honoured for 40 years Service to the organisation with the RNLI's highest accolade, the Gold Badge. Started as a member of the crew in 1965, serving on the Inshore Lifeboat, the Offshore Greater London 2 and the Percy Garon 1. Promoted to Helmsman in 1968, then moved on to DLA (District Launching Authority) in 1978. He has held his present position, now known as Lifeboat Operations Manager, formerly Honorary Secretary since 1982
The new station D class lifeboat D682 The Essex Freemason was placed on service on 5 November. This lifeboat was generously funded by The Essex Freemasons. Lifeboat D-527 has been withdrawn.
Letter of Thanks presented to Helmsman Tim Sedgwick and crewmen Terry Halls and Tom Kemp for their part in the rescue of 4 people from a sinking yacht. More details to follow.
New Inshore slipway built as part of Inshore redevelopment work. Hovercraft launch greatly enhanced.