Amazing photos of lifeboats and crew through history as RNLI marks 200th birthday

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is celebrating saving 146,277 lives as it marks its 200th anniversary.A service of thanksgiving is being held on Monday at Westminster Abbey with representatives from the charity from across the UK and Ireland attending.

Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its volunteer crews have launched the lifeboats 380,328 times, saving 144,277 lives.

The charity’s lifeguards – who became part of the RNLI’s lifesaving service in 2001 – have also responded to 303,030 incidents on some of the UK’s busiest beaches, saving 2,000 lives.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

In total, 146,277 lives have been saved by the RNLI – an average of two lives saved every day for 200 years.

The Scarborough lifeboat station will join the 200th anniversary celebrationsThe Scarborough lifeboat station will join the 200th anniversary celebrations
The Scarborough lifeboat station will join the 200th anniversary celebrations

The service was founded in a London tavern on March 4, 1824, following an appeal by Sir William Hillary who lived on the Isle of Man and had witnessed many shipwrecks.

The RNLI achieves 64% of its fundraising through legacies and 30% through donations with £221.6 million being raised in 2022 of which £177.4 million was spent on providing its services.

An RNLI spokesman said: “Two centuries have seen vast developments in the lifeboats and kit used by the charity’s lifesavers from the early oar-powered vessels to today’s technology-packed boats, which are now built in-house by the charity, and from the rudimentary cork lifejackets of the 1850s to the full protective kit each crew member is now issued with.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“The RNLI’s lifesaving reach and remit has also developed over the course of 200 years.

The St Anne's lifeboat lost most of her crew during a rescue in 1886The St Anne's lifeboat lost most of her crew during a rescue in 1886
The St Anne's lifeboat lost most of her crew during a rescue in 1886

“Today, it operates 238 lifeboat stations around the UK and Ireland, including four on the River Thames, and has seasonal lifeguards on over 240 lifeguarded beaches around the UK.

“It designs and builds its own lifeboats and runs domestic and international water safety programmes.

“While much has changed in 200 years, two things have remained the same – the charity’s dependence on volunteers, who give their time and commitment to save others, and the voluntary contributions from the public which have funded the service for the past two centuries.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Mark Dowie, RNLI chief executive, said: “For a charity to have survived 200 years based on the time and commitment of volunteers, and the sheer generosity of the public donating to fund it, is truly remarkable.

“It is through the courage and dedication of its incredible people that the RNLI has survived the tests of time, including tragic losses, funding challenges, two World Wars and, more recently, a global pandemic.

“Today, we mark the bicentenary of the RNLI, we remember the achievements and commitment of all those who have been part of the RNLI family over the past two centuries.

“We celebrate the world-class lifesaving service we provide today, based on our 200 years of learning, expertise and innovation, and we hope to inspire future generations of lifesavers and supporters who will take the RNLI into its next century and beyond.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Hayley Whiting, RNLI heritage archive and research manager, said: “The RNLI’s founder, Sir William Hillary, witnessed the treacherous nature of the sea first-hand when living on the Isle of Man and he wanted to take action.

“His first appeal to the nation in 1823 did not have the desired result but, thankfully, he persevered and gained the support of several philanthropic members of society, who put their names to the charity at a meeting in the City of London Tavern on 4 March 1824.

“Twelve resolutions were passed at that meeting, the core of which still stand as part of the RNLI’s Charter 200 years later.

“This shows how the RNLI’s values and purpose have remained unwavering for 200 years, despite the social and economic changes and challenges of the past two centuries.

“Hillary’s vision was ambitious and forward-thinking, and no doubt he would be extremely proud to see the charity he founded still going strong today, and to see how much it has achieved.”