Mumbles Lifeboat - The Charity that Saves Lives at Sea Royal National Lifeboat Institution
Lifeboat - Mumbles Lifeboat

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In September 1835, JH Vivian, the local MP, liased with the Institution for the provision of a lifeboat in Mumbles. This lifeboat was controlled and funded by Swansea Harbour Trustees. It was taken over and funded by the Institution in 1863. Lifeboats have always been stationed at Mumbles but the station was known as Swansea until 1904. The branch continued to be called Swansea, Mumbles and Port Eynon until 1910.


In the early days the lifeboat was kept close to the cliffs in Mumbles and was launched and re-housed along a stone slipway, which still exists today.

After the First World War, a boathouse with slipway was erected alongside Mumbles pier to make the launching of the lifeboat a more simple process. For 4 years 1814 – 1818 the wooden slipway (which is used today) had no boathouse, merely the lifeboat retained at the top of the slip ready for launch.

On 27 January 1883 four of her crew lost their lives when the lifeboat whilst on service got thrown violently against the side of the German barque Admiral Prinz Adalbert. The coxswain Jenkin Jenkins lost two of his sons who were on board that day.

It was 1866 before The Mumbles had a permanent lifeboat station although moves to found one began in 1832 when Silvanus Padley, son of the clerk of the Swansea Harbour Trustees, led a rescue of the crew of the Ilfracombe Packet which went aground near the harbour entrance. The trustees decided to obtain plans and costs for a lifeboat which could be used in similar circumstances.

It wasn't until 1835 when the MP for Swansea, John H. Vivian, approached the Lifeboat Institution to supply a lifeboat which would be maintained by the Harbour Trust, but placed at The Mumbles. On the 17th of October a 26 foot, six oared lifeboat was ordered from Taylor of Blackwall and would have been delivered soon after its completion in December 1835.

The boat was initially kept at The Mumbles but saw no service, then in the summer of 1841 she was repaired and moved to Swansea and then converted to pull 12 oars in 1850. In 1855 she was deemed to be unserviceable "she has never been thought a good boat for which reason the Trustees have refused to spend much money on her". At this time the Trustees ordered a new boat to be built by Forrestt & Co of Limehouse, she carried a crew of thirteen pulling ten oars. This boat made only one known service to the brig Success which had stranded in gales on Neath Bar.

Although the lifeboats had made only one rescue, local pilots and others had performed rescues on their own initiative and had been rewarded by the Lifeboat Institution.

In March 1863 a group of men formed the Swansea Branch of the R.N.L.I. and the Harbour Trust boat was replaced with and identical pattern which was named Martha and Anne after the daughters of Michael Steel of Oxford who's legacy had paid for her.

Because of the lack of service at Swansea where a story in the town was that a large glass case was to be built "to stow away the lifeboat in front of the Town Hall". The editor of the local paper, "The Cambrian" commented that "Not Swansea but The Mumbles should be the lifeboat's station, and not the pilots, but the coastguard or the hardy fishermen of the village should be her crew".

In 1866 the Martha & Anne was moved to The Mumbles where she was housed on the shore under the shadow of Mumbles Hill and was launched and re-housed along a stone slipway by means of block and tackle.

Subsequent lifeboats at the station have been:

Wolverhampton 1866 to 1883

Where she was lost, with four crew, on service to the barque Admiral Prinz Adalbert of Danzig on the 27th of January which was the inspiration for Clement Scott's stirring poem "The Women of Mumbles Head".

Wolverhampton (O.N.229) 1883 to 1898

The replacement for her namesake was larger and so the existing boathouse was demolished to make way for a larger one which still stands in front of the inshore lifeboat house.

No.5 Reserve (O.N.173) 1898 to 1900

A reserve lifeboat brought to the station when the Wolverhampton's planking was deemed to be decaying.

James Stevens No.12 1900 to 1903

Capsized with the loss of six crew while standing by the re-float of the Waterford steamer Christina which went aground when attempting to enter Port Talbot harbour.

No.4 Reserve, Richard and No.3A Reserve, Quiver (O.N.265) 1903 to 1905.

Charlie Medland (O.N.535) 1905 to 1924

43 foot Watson class sailing lifeboat, she was kept on a mooring at The Mumbles and the stripped out No.4 Reserve, Richard was used as a boarding boat to her.

The Edward, Prince of Wales (O.N.678) 1924 to 1947

Lost with all hands while on service to the liberty ship Samtamper wrecked at Sker Point. She was a 45 foot Watson class powered by a single 80 horse power petrol engine, built by J.S.White of Cowes at a cost of £12,800. The loss of coxswain William Gammon and his crew is remembered in "The Lifeboat Window" at All Saints Church in the village.

William Gammon - Manchester and District (O.N.849) 1947 to 1974.

At a cost of nearly £17,000 built by Groves and Gutteridge of Cowes, she was a Watson cabin class powered by twin diesel engines capable of 9 knots. After a long and memorable career with coxswains William Garner (1947-55) and Derek Scott, she was retired to the reserve fleet and has subsequently been purchased by Swansea Maritime Museum where she lays in pride of place.

Pentland - Civil Service No.31 1974 to 1985

Watson class boat, which was converted to self-righting.

The Ethel Anne Measures 1985 to the present day.

A 47 foot Tyne class lifeboat capable of 18 knots and a radius of action of 120 nautical miles. Since her dedication by the Duke of Kent on the 3rd of July 1985 she has undergone many refits and now boasts state of the art navigational, radio and radar equipment.

Noteworthy Dates

1835 Silver medal awarded to William Evans for rescuing two of the three crew from the sloop John which went aground at Neath on 26th October 1835.

1838 Silver medal awarded to John Reeve, master of schooner Wave, for rescuing the three crew from the sloop Feronia which was wrecked on the Mixon on 24th July 1838.

1839 Silver medals awarded to Captain Thomas Jones, Captain John Howell, Captain Charles Sutton, Captain Joseph Foley, Arthur Rees and Lewis Jenkins for rescuing five men from the brig Thomas Piele which was wrecked near Port Talbot on 20th January 1839.

1840 Second service clasp to silver medal awarded to Captain Joseph Foley for rescuing two of the three men from the Mary bound from Cork to Portsmouth, which was wrecked near Port Talbot on 20th January 1840.

1874 On 12th August The Board of Trade forwarded binoculars which had been received by them through the Foreign Office from H.M. The Emperor of Germany for presentation to the coxswain of the lifeboat in recognition of the services rendered by the boat when the German ship Triton of Eckernford was wrecked on the Mixon Sands on the 29th August 1987. The German Consul General was also instructed to pay £4 to the crew of the lifeboat.

1883 On the 27th of January, when trying to rescue the crew of the German barque "Admiral Prinz Adalbert" from the windward side, the lifeboat was thrown violently against her and swept over successive ridges of rocks by heavy seas. Four of the crew, John and William Jenkins, William Mack and William Rogers lost their lives, and the remainder were seriously injured, Coxswain Jenkin Jenkins lost two out of the four of his sons and his son-in-law (William Mack) who were in the boat and a third son received a broken leg. The Institution granted £800 towards the fund raised for the widows and orphans. The Silver Medal was awarded to the coxswain. The carpenter of the German barque also lost his life.

1884 New lifeboat house constructed at a cost of £350.

1888 Slipway constructed at a cost of £110.

1896 Compensation paid for the damage to oyster beds over which the lifeboat had to be taken for a low water launch on 27th July.

1897 Mumbles Railway and Pier Company constructed a mooring slipway free of charge to the Institution.

1900 – 2000

On 1 February 1903 the lifeboat was capsized on service to SS Christina of Waterford at the entrance to Port Talbot harbour. This capsize resulted in a loss of 6 out 14 of her crew. In 1941, a Bronze Medal was awarded to Coxswain William J Gammon and to Mechanic Robert T Williams for the rescue of 10 crew of the steamer Cornish Rose of Liverpool.

1944 saw the presentation of a Gold medal to Coxswain Gammon, Mechanic W G Davies and Bowman Thomas J Ace for the rescue of 42 crew from the Canadian frigate Chebouque.

Yet again, tragedy struck the station when on April 23, 1947; the Edward Prince of Wales was capsized and wrecked in heavy seas with total loss of her eight crew. She had gone to help the SS Samtampa with a crew of 39 off Sker Point. The death toll that night was no less than 47. As a mark of respect following the loss during the Samtampa disaster the new lifeboat was named after the Coxswain; the William Gammon serviced the coast until 1974 and was then donated to Swansea Museum.

In 1964 a Silver medal was awarded to Coxswain Lionel Derek Scott and the Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum to eight other crew for the rescue of the crew from the Dutch vessel Kilo. 1965 saw the introduction of an inshore, D-class lifeboat at the station. Operational in summer months only with the cost defrayed by the Rotary Club of Swansea. In 1968 coxswain Lionel Derek Scott was awarded Bronze medal with an addition monetary award to him and his crew for the rescue of seven crew from the sand dredger Steepholm which grounded on the Tuskar Rock, Porthcawl.

1971 brought about more awards for the station when Helmsman Alan Richards Jones and crewmembers Peter Allan Algie and Anthony David Lewis for the rescue of three men from a cabin cruiser on 3 October 1971.

In 1981 the Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum was awarded to coxswain Lionel Derek Scott BEM when he put out his rowing boat to the aid of two men who had capsized in dinghy approximately three-quarters of a mile out to sea in choppy seas and freezing conditions on 22 December.

1902 Additional rocket distress signal post erected near the coastguard look-out on Mumbles Head.

1903 On the 1st of February the lifeboat, which had put out with the intention of helping the SS Christina of Waterford, which had grounded at Port Talbot on the previous evening, found that her help was not wanted, and made for Port Talbot harbour. The lifeboat capsized off the entrance with the loss of six out of fourteen of her crew. The Institution granted £1,200 towards the fund raised locally for the dependants. One of the rescued, Tom Michael, was a survivor of the 1883 accident. Those lost were Coxswain Thomas Rogers, Second Coxswain Daniel Claypit, D.J.Morgan, George Michael, James Gammon and Robert Smith. The lifeboat was damaged beyond repair.

1916 New slipway and approach gangway constructed.

1922 Alterations and extension of slipway carried out at a cost of £1,800.

1935 Centenary Vellum presented.

1941 Bronze Medal awarded to Coxswain William Gammon and to Mechanic Robert T Williams for the rescue of the crew of ten of the steam ship Cornish Rose of Liverpool which was dragging her anchors in Swansea Bay on the 20th January 1941. It was pitch dark, which was exacerbated by mist and rain squalls. A whole south gale was blowing and there was a heavy breaking sea. The vessel was very close to the shore and rolling heavily and the ordinary perils of the sea were greatly increased by the coastal defences consisting of iron rails driven into the foreshore and sticking out of it. It was a bold and skilful rescue.

1944 Gold medal awarded to Coxswain William Gammon and a Bronze Medals to Mechanic WG Davies and Bowman Thomas J Ace for the rescue of the crew of 42 of a Canadian frigate Cherboque smothered in heavy seas on Port Talbot bar on the 11th of October 1944. Twelve times in the darkness and in heavy squalls of hail, the coxswain circled round though the surf and brought the lifeboat along side the frigate for her men to jump. The rescued Canadians spoke afterwards of the work of their rescuers as "magnificent" and "almost miraculous". Two of the lifeboat men were over seventy years old while another two were in their sixties, the average age of the crew was 55. The Maud Smith award for the bravest act of life-saving in 1944 was awarded to Coxswain WJ Gammon for his service.

1947 On the 23rd of April the Edward Prince of Wales was capsized and wrecked with the loss of her crew of eight after she had gone to the aid of the SS Samtamper with a crew of 39 off Sker Point. The Institution made a grant of £500 to the local fund and pays service scale pensions to the dependants. The death toll that night was 47. The names of those lifeboat men lost were Coxswain William J Gammon, Second Coxswain William Noel, Mechanics William G Davies and E Griffin, WRS Thomas, WL Howell, WR Thomas and R Smith.

1948 The Royal Humane Society awarded a Bronze Medal and thanks certificate to Mechanic RJ Gammon for his efforts on the 18th of November when a frogman engaged on renovation work lost his life.

1964 Silver Medal awarded to Coxswain Lionel Derek Scott and the Yhanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum to eight other members of the crew of the lifeboat:- Second Coxswain W Davies, Mechanic J Gammon, Assistant Mechanic W Tucker, Signalman J Bailey, K Kostroman, G Parsons, H Randall and J Witford, for the rescue of the crew of the Dutch motor vessel Kilo from their burning ship in a violent storm on the night of 17th of November 1963.

1965 Inshore lifeboat station established in May with a D class lifeboat. Operational summer months only. The cost defrayed by the Rotary Club of Swansea.

1968 Bronze Medal to Coxswain Lionel Derek Scott and an additional monetary award to him and each of the lifeboat crew for the rescue of seven crew members of the sand dredger Steepholm which grounded on Tusker Rock in a fresh west-south-westerly wind with a moderate to rough sea. Six of the Steepholm crew were rescued from life-rafts after which the lifeboat returned to the casualty for the master. As he jumped aboard the lifeboat , the vessel was caught by heavy sea and he fell between the Steepholm and the lifeboat. Fortunately the Second Coxswain and another member of the crew were able to grab him before he fell into the water and he was pulled aboard unhurt.

1971 Silver Second Service Clasp awarded to Coxswain Lionel Derek Scott BEM, in recognition of his courage when he put out in a small outboard motor dinghy and rescued a man after his canoe capsized in a fresh easterly wind and a very confused sea off Mumbles Head on 12th April 1971.

1971 The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum awarded to helmsman Alan "Tudy" Jones, crew members Peter Algie and Anthony Lewis for the rescue of three men from a cabin cruiser on 3rd October.

1972 A framed letter of Appreciation signed by the Chairman of the Institution Commander FRH Swann, was presented to crew member W "Ginger" Clements in recognition of his action when he leapt aboard the yacht Karfinn to secure a tow-line. During the service by the lifeboat on 19th December in an east-south-easterly gale and rough sea with skill and determination managed to prevent the yacht from sheering uncontrollably during the tow back to Swansea.

1980 Coxswain Lionel Derek Scott was presented with an engraved statuette of a lifeboatman by Mr. Raymond Baxter, Chairman of the RNLI Public Relations Committee at the International Boat Show, Earls Court, on 9th January, in recognition of his radio and television broadcasts and numerous public talks.

1981 The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum accorded to Coxswain Lionel Derek Scott BEM in recognition of his skill and determination when he put out in his rowing boat, and with great physical effort rescued the crew of two of a dinghy which had capsized approximately tree quarters of a mile off Southend beach in a gentle breeze and a choppy sea with freezing temperature on 22nd December.

1982 The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum accorded to Helmsman Anthony David Lewis in recognition of the calmness and determination he displayed when on the 21st August he swam from the lifeboat to an unoccupied cabin cruiser which was burning fiercely and drifting towards a crowded Mumbles Pier. Having secured a line to the craft he returned to the lifeboat and towed her to deeper water where sank.

1985 150th Anniversary Vellum Presented to the Station.1985 saw the new Tyne class lifeboat ‘Ethel Anne Measures’ into service at Mumbles. The Tyne class boat, powered by two Detroit Tank Engines could reach speeds of 18 Knots and revolutionised fast slipway boats.

1994 New inshore boathouse constructed on the existing site of the old D class boathouse. As well as housing the inshore lifeboat it includes an inflatable boarding boat, changing/drying room, toilet, crew room, kitchen and office.

1994 New D class lifeboat placed on service. A new D-class boathouse was erected in place of the existing house, soon after, new D-class D463 ‘Nellie Grace Hughes’ was placed on service. The old inshore boathouse is still used by Mumbles Rowing Club and Mumbles Pier and can be seen opposite the new Station.

2004 New D class lifeboat (IL1), 'Peterborough Beer Festival II' is placed on service.

2006 ALB 'Ethel Anne Measures' leaves the station and is replaced by 'Babs and Agnes Robertson'.

The Present

The Mumbles Lifeboat Station continues to serve the area with an All Weather Lifeboat (ALB) and an Inshore Lifeboat (ILB).

In 2004 Peterborough Beer Festival II was placed on service at the Station. Produced by Avon Inflatables of Llanelli this new generation D-Class Inshore Lifeboat (designated IB1) embraces modern technology and new materials to improve response times as well as crew comfort and safety. (For more information about IB1 click here ). The ILB continues to be the workhorse of the Station and accounts for some two thirds of our calls.

Peterborough Beer Festival II was donated to the RNLI by CAMRA (The Campaign for Real Ale) through donations received at the Peterborough Beer Festival. This was CAMRA’s second donation of a Lifeboat to the RNLI; their first, Peterborough Beer Festival 1 is serving the North East of England at Redcar.

On Raft race day in July 2006, after 21 years service, our ALB, Ethel Anne Measures left the Station and was replaced by another Tyne Class Lifeboat Babs and Agnes Robertson. Babs and Agnes came to us from Peterhead and will see us through to 2011 when we expect to receive a new Tamar Class ALB – see The Future below.

In 2006 and 2007 we were the third busiest Station in Wales. In both years we helped the most number of people for an individual Station in Wales.

The Future at Mumbles Station

In 2002 a Coastal Review conducted by senior RNLI officials determined that The Mumbles Lifeboat Station be earmarked for a new Tamar Class Fast Slipway Boat (FSB2). The recommendations of the delegation, which included the building of a new boathouse and slipway, were endorsed by the Trustees of the RNLI.

The RNLI are absolutely committed to ensuring the charities money is spent wisely. The specific conditions of the sea bed at Mumbles risked increasing the cost of the project and so delays resulted whilst further studies were commissioned. Armed with new and clarifying information a further Coastal Review was conducted in 2007 and the same conclusions were made. The Trustees of the RNLI have committed funds to build a new slipway and boathouse to receive a Tamar Class Lifeboat in 2011.

The Tamar is bigger and faster than the Tyne and includes the computerised Systems and Information Management System (SIMS) that enables crew to control many of the lifeboat's functions remotely from the safety of their seats. Other features include advanced seats that reduce the impact on the crew as the lifeboat crashes through waves, and a powered Y boat stored behind a transom door to allow immediate deployment.

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The Mumbles Lifeboat Station is part of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution Registered Charity No. 209603.