Mr Philip Nicholls was the intrepid Coxswain of various Penzance lifeboats. His association with the R.N.L.I. commenced in 1871. He was promoted to 2nd Coxswain in 1887 and Coxswain in 1897.
On numerous occasions he was instrumental in saving life, and on his retirement from the post of Coxswain, after a fine record, a public presentation was made to him at the Guildhall, Penzance, by the Mayor.
His retirement was recorded in the Cornishman newspaper dated Thursday 31st December, 1903 as follows:
A FINE RECORD OF SERVICES.
"All who are interested in the work of the Penzance lifeboat and indeed the public generally, will hear with regret of the resignation, through failing health, of the Superintendent coxswain, Mr Philip Nicholls. The resignation, however, will nowhere be felt more keenly than by the crew of the "Elizabeth and Blanche" of Penzance.
A meeting of the committee of the Penzance branch was held on Tuesday evening, presided over by Mr. W.F. Rowe, when Mr Nicholls's resignation was accepted with regret, and sympathy expressed with him.
The committee then appointed Mr George Chirgwin as superintendent coxswain. Mr Chirgwin should make an admirable successor to the post, having had seven years experience under Mr Nicholls.
Mr Charles Tredwin was appointed second coxswain; Mr William Edwards, bowman, in place of Mr. J. HILL, resigned. The other vacancies were filled by J. Blewett and E.Edwards.
On the motion of the Mayor; seconded by Mr. Howell Mabbot, it was decided to recognise Mr. Nicholls's valuable services in a special manner.
The following is the list of the services in which he took part:-
1879 - brig Ponthien, of Venice, saved 5 hands (day)
1881 - barquentine Neilly, of Bridgwater, saved 6 hands (day)
1881 - barque Pampero, of Swansea, saved 14 hands (night)
1885 - Fishing boat rendered assistance (day),
s.s Random sunk in mouth of Penzance harbour.
1886 - Ketch Alliance, of Penzance, saved 4 hands (night);
schooner Golden Light, of Penzance, saved 5 hands (night)
1888 - brigantine Jeanne Hortense, of Nancy, saved 4 hands (night);
schooner Livingstone, of Fleetwood, saved 5 hands (night)
1889 - trawler Bluebell, of Plymouth, saved 4 hands (night)
1897 - barque Lady Gladys, of Tousberg, landed 17 hands (day)
1898 - schooner Mary James, of Penzance, landed 10 hands (night);
brig Henry Harvey, of Hayle, saved 6 hands (night)
1900 - barque Antarctic, of Swansea, saved 9 hands (night)
1901 - rendered assistance during the day to the brig ST.JOSEPH, of Bordeaux, saved 5 hands.
1901 & 1902 - In answer to signal of distress went out twice to barque Canada, of Nova Scotia, captain refused assistance; out from 7 p.m, Dec 30, 1901, to 1st Jan 1902.
1902 - rendered assistance to schooner ST.IVES (day)"
In matters of lifeboat construction Philip Nicholls was an expert. He helped to design the Elizabeth and Blanche (2) and purchased her when she was sold out of the service of the R.N.L.I. for use as a pleasure craft.
After his retirement Philip Nicholls was approached by Captain George Everett Hitchens , of Newlyn, with a view to using the Elizabeth and Blanche for a circumnavigation of the world.(Empire Cruise 1925-1928).
The main purpose of this proposed 38,000 mile voyage, to extend over three years, was to establish the most suitable canned foods, 'dry tack' as mariners call them, for supply to ships, and to test the efficiency of wireless in ship's lifeboats. Navigating the four seas, visiting remote and historic spots, Captain Hitchens and his companions hoped to accomplish their objective in the sturdy retired lifeboat, Elizabeth and Blanche.
Captain Hitchens quietly set to work to identify a crew for this epic voyage. He was glad to find that the first men to volunteer to share this adventure were, Mr Phillip Nicholls, junior, the youngest son of Ex- Coxswain Nicholls, and Mr George Jenkin, of Newlyn, both of whom had been members of the crew of the Elizabeth and Blanche when she was in service in Mount's Bay. Also to volunteer were, Mr. Leonard Stewart, of Alverton, Penzance, engineer and the only unmarried member of the crew; and Mr Gilbert Moss, of Birmingham, wireless operator.
For some weeks the Elizabeth and Blanche lay at the back of Newlyn Art Gallery, undergoing extensive alterations, which were necessary before the a Empire Cruise could be undertaken.
Retired Coxswain Philip Nicholls died on 29th January 1927, aged 75 years.