The W and S, a Watson cabin type lifeboat, was the second motor lifeboat at Penlee and was stationed there between 1931 and 1960. She was built out of legacies received from the late Miss Winifred Alice Coode, and the late Miss Ellen Young, of Twickenham. Miss Winifred Coode had left her legacy for a boat to be built and launched in her name and Miss Ellen Young for a boat to be named Sidney Webb. The full names are inscribed on a plate inside the lifeboat, and it was named using the first initials of the two names. She was dedicated by the Vicar of Paul during a ceremony held on August 15th 1931.
The W and S is credited with saving 102 lives during her time at Penlee. Her first service took place only a few weeks after arriving on station, when she went to the assistance of the steamship Opal of Glasgow, bound from Antwerp to Cardiff. Her cargo of maize had shifted in heavy seas, causing a dangerous list. The crew took to the lifeboats, which were repeatedly swamped. One of the lifeboats, containing six men, capsized three times. The master of the OPAL was washed from the bridge, and together with the Chief Engineer was drowned. Both Penlee and Sennen Cove Lifeboats launched and made for the area. The W and S recovered the Captains body, and the OPAL herself floundered three miles Southwest of the Longships.
The W and S performed another gallant service on January 27th 1936 when she rescued the crew of the s.s, TAYCRAIG, of London. A report was received from the Coastguard giving warning that a ship was on fire near Gear Rock. The lifeboat made her way in a strong S.S.W gale and heavy rain to the TAYCRAIG, taking just 30 minutes. On arrival, with the aid of her searchlight, she discovered that the vessel was not on fire, but partially submerged. The crew of nine were on the fo'csle head and had set fire to a mattress to attract attention.
The TAYCRAIG had struck the rock in a heavy swell and was wedged by the stern. Coxswain Frank BLEWETT, to the right of the photograph, managed to bring his boat along the starboard side of the TAYCRAIG. The lifeboat was being flung about violently, so much so that the Master of the ship expected her to be thrown on his deck, but Coxswain BLEWETT kept her off with only minor damage. Choosing the right moment, seven crew jumped one by one into the lifeboat, one landed on the neck of the Bowman, a ninth fell into the sea, but was grabbed and dragged aboard.
The W and S returned to Penzance, arriving at 03.25. What made this rescue so remarkable was the fact that only one of the lifeboats two 40 h.p engines had been working. Coxswain Frank BLEWETT was awarded the R.N.L.I's Bronze medal for the bold skilful manner in which the rescue was performed.
In 1937 a radio transmitter and receiver was fitted into the W and S. Her mast was also replaced by a new 16ft signal mast. She was the first lifeboat at Penlee to be fitted with such equipment.
During the Second World War the station at Penlee performed a number of services to various vessels and casualties.
The first of these was on September 1st 1940, when the minesweeper, ROYALO, a former Grimsby trawler, blew up off Penzance harbour.
On 8th March 1941 the W and S brought ashore three wounded men from the s.s. MARGO, of Cardiff, which had anchored in the Bay, then put a doctor on board to attend to another severely wounded man.
On 18th December 1944, a German submarine U1209, a 500-ton Type V11C U-boat struck the Wolf Rock and sank. She carried a compliment of 51, and the Commanding Officer, Oberleutenant zur See HULSENBECK, died of a heart attack on board H.M.C.S "MONTREAL". The W and S and naval vessels went to the rescue; the latter picked up 42 survivors. At the time of her sinking, according to the survivors who were then prisoners, the U-boat was pursuing an aircraft carrier.
At 4.15 p.m on 21st March 1945, the Penzance Coastguards reported that one, and possibly two, vessels required help nine miles west of the Lizard. At 5.30 p.m, in thick fog, the Penlee Lifeboat found the American steamer JOHN R. PARK, of San Francisco, sinking after being torpedoed by U-boat 399. Naval ships were standing by and had already rescued the whole crew of 76. Some of these had returned to the steamer to recover kit. The W and S and the Lizard Lifeboat, DUKE OF YORK, stood by whilst this took place. U-399 was sunk five days later off Land's End by HMS DUCKWORTH.
She was found in a field near Falmouth and because of its outstanding history was worthy of being salvaged and given a new lease of life. She was to move to Harwich in August 2013 to start the restoration process. Having taken the W&S back to the original planking and considering its age it is in good condition.
When exposed like this you can see the excellent, in fact outstanding workmanship that went in at the time of building. It is a credit to the shipwrights of that time, plus of course the Mousehole boys who looked after her