Past Significant Services

Significant Services of Penzance, Newlyn and Penlee Lifeboats

Date    Service  Lifeboat
 Penzance Lifeboats  
26/01/1873   Norwegian Brig Otto Richard Lewis
17/05/1888   Brigantine Jeune Hortense Dora
14/03/1905   The Khyber Elizabeth and Blanche II
Thames Barge 'Baltic' Elizabeth and Blanche II
S.S.Tripolitania Janet Hoyle




 Newlyn Lifeboat  
SS Clan MacPherson Elizabeth and Blanche II
SS Northlands Elizabeth and Blanche II

 Penlee Lifeboats  
SS City of Westminster Brothers
11/01/1937   Motor trawler Vierge Marie of Ostend W and S
06/01/1944   SS Solstad of Norrkoping W and S
HMCS Teme W and S
HMS Warspite W and S
30/12/1961   Tanker Varicella of London Solomon Browne 
MV Jeanne Gougy Solomon Browne
MV Juan Ferrer Solomon Browne
Torrey Canyon Disaster Solomon Browne
MV Lovat Solomon Browne
FV Conqueror Solomon Browne
Fastnet Race Solomon Browne
Union Star (Penlee Disaster) Solomon Browne
French ferry 'Amorique' Guy and Clare Hunter
 Penlee (Newlyn) Lifeboats  
IOS Helicopter crash Mabel Alice
French Trawler St.Simeon Mabel Alice
Cargo Vessel Kapitan Dzuashevich ARJ & LG Uridge
Newlyn Crabber the 'Julian Paul' Mabel Alice
French trawler Gwel A Vo Mabel Alice
Cable guard ship Dolfyn Mabel Alice
Trevessa IV Ivan Ellen
Paddle boarder rescue - Joe Holtaway Ivan Ellen & Paul Alexander
Lady Alida Ivan Ellen



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Norwegian brig Otto - 26th January 1873


On 26 January 1873 at 3:00am in the morning the Norwegian brig Otto of Moss drove ashore at Eastern Green, Penzance. The night was very dark, the wind was blowing almost a gale from the southwest, and the weather was thick with heavy rain.

The Richard Lewis lifeboat and her courageous crew were drawn to Eastern Green by a team of horses, but launching the lifeboat proved to be very difficult - the carriage wheels got stuck in the shingle and for some time the boat could not be moved. The lifeboat crew dismounted and with the help of several strong and determined Penzance men they managed to launch the Richard Lewis - it took 3 or 4 gallant attempts, with the men up to their waists in heavy surf, but they achieved the impossible. The lifeboat was alongside the Otto in a matter of minutes, successfully rescuing her crew of eight from almost certain death.

The Norwegian Government acknowledged the gallant actions of the Richard Lewis crew and awarded the Silver Medal for Civic Deeds (Borgerdaad) to Nicholas B Downing, Captain W Howorth, and Mr William Blackmore, HM Coastguard, Penzance, together with an additional reward of £12 for the lifeboat crew.            





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Brigantine Jeune Hortense, of Nantes - 17th May 1888


On May 17, 1888, the French Brigantine, 'Jeune Hortense' was blown on to the sandy beach at Longrock during a storm while trying to repatriate the body of a local man who had died in France.

The Penzance lifeboat, 'Dora' was taken to the scene on her launching carriage before being rowed out to the brigantine and saving the lives of the 4 crew members (See image by Gibson).

The Jeune Hortense cargo included 450 live cows, together with the locals that had gathered on the beach the Dora managed to save the majority of them. Unfortunately the Jeune Hortense had been blown so far up the beach in the storm and on a high tide, it was impossible to re-float her, so was stripped bare on the spot.

It is believed that occasionally some remains are still visible following certain storm conditions as can be seen in the image to the left.





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Khyber - 14th March 1905





full story can be found here: Khyber story


The barque Khyber was a triple mast iron cargo ship of 2026 tons, built by WH Potter and Son, Liverpool. She Belonged to the Galgate Shipping Company also of  Liverpool. The Khyber left Melbourne, Australia, in October 1904 heading for Falmouth, England, with a cargo of wheat. She had a crew of 26 and was captained by Henry Rothery. On Tuesday14th March 1905 the Khyber was sighted passing Wolf Rock lighthouse, 8 miles off Lands End in Cornwall, on a heading to cross Mounts Bay towards the Lizard. The winds where strong and the seas very rough.

During the afternoon of the 14th the winds turned to a raging south westerly gale and at 8.30pm the Khyber's sails were severely damaged and the vessel had become unmanageable. She then started to drift towards the shore despite the desperate efforts made by the crew to prevent this. Their plight was a pitiable one as their lifeboats had been washed away and their signals of distress went unseen. By 10pm the Khyber was about four hundred yards from Porthgwarra having drifted right across Mounts Bay and both anchors were dropped. They did their job nobly and despite the terrible gale held firm until about seven o'clock the next morning when they started to drag. She was spotted, almost ashore, by a man proceeding to work at new coastguard houses being constructed at a site near Porthloe cove. The workman ran to Porthgwarra to summon help from the residents. By the time they arrived at the scene the sailing boats anchor cables had snapped and she had been driven stern first on to the rocks and within fifteen minutes had been completely broken up. The terrific violence of the waves can be judged from the pile of wreckage reduced to matchwood on the beach, this and a perfect field of floating grain were all that remained. Communications where very limited in 1905, a Mr Williams of Roskestal farm rode his horse to Sennen to alert the lifeboat crew but they were unable to launch because the sea had thrown boulders onto the launch slipway. The Penzance lifeboat 'Elizabeth and Blanche' was also summoned. She was a pulling (rowing) and sailing lifeboat and was towed to Gwennap Head by the steamer The Lady of the Isles as the storm was too great for the crew to make headway by rowing. However they still arrived to late to be of assistance after a very brave attempt.

Story thanks to Jonathan Edgar





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Thames Barge 'Baltic'- 1st November 1907



On 1st November 1907, in darkness and terrible weather, the Thames sailing barge 'Baltic' went aground on St. Clement's Isle just outside Mousehole harbour. The cries of the Baltic's crew could be heard on shore.

After a while, no lifeboat had arrived, despite it being summoned, so some Mousehole men decided to organise a rescue with the crabber ‘Lady White’ and all hands of the Baltic were saved.

The Penzance lifeboat Elizabeth & Blanche (2nd) had not been able to go to the aid of the stranded vessel, as the lifeboat became stuck on its carriage in the mud at low tide in Penzance harbour despite having 10 horses and countless helpers the carriage wouldn’t move for an hour until the tide came in.

As a result in 1908 the Penzance Branch Committee notified the public at their Branch AGM that they were to move the Elizabeth and Blanche (2nd) to Newlyn where it was kept under a tarpaulin beside the harbour and launched on shingle to avoid getting stuck in mud again.

This Plaque is on the end of the old Quay at Mousehole to commemorate the rescue.





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Tripolitania - 26th Dec 1912



full story can be found here: Tripolitania story


In a letter, dated September 1959, Coxswain Will NICHOLLS recalls the launch to s.s TRIPOLITANIA as follows: "My most arduous lifeboat service took place in 1912. On Boxing Day, at 8.00 am, the Coastguard called at my house in Penzance. He brought a message that a steamer was drifting disabled across the Bay. Neither the Sennen or Newlyn boats could go out, and so the message was passed to me. A strong gale (90 m.p.h) was raging; shop fronts at Penzance were blown in and boats overturned in the harbour, Penzance Pier Head being under water. At 8.30 the boat was in the water, all reefs taken in, and away. I have often thought of the appearance of the Bay when I rounded the pier head. The seas were pitiless, and the first one aboard completely filled the boat. I remember thinking that this was my last trip! I thrashed about 8 miles, opening up all the Western land, and then, seeing nothing of the ship, came about, and edged towards Porthleven, where the broken sea was worse. I was, from there, signalled by green rocket to 'recall'
The vessel, s.s. TRIPOLITANIA, had gone ashore on Loe Bar, near Porthleven; and to judge the height of the seas, she was thrown at dead low water to twenty feet above high water. She remained there for years until broken up for scrap. There were only two lifeboats afloat on that day, my own, and the Plymouth boat, which was blown ashore in Jennycliff Bay inside the breakwater. The stemhead of my boat split from the planking, and the lovely paintwork smashed in spots into the drab first coat. She looked like a spotted leopard. Two of my men died on the following Thursday from pneumonia, which shows the terrible conditions we had to face on that service."





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SS Clan MacPherson - 27th December 1908


On the 27th December 1908 it was blowing a very strong gale from the North, when the S.S. Clan MacPherson of Glasgow, in tow, came to anchor, wind-bound in Mount’s Bay. Early next morning the wind flew round strong to the South-East, and during the day increased to a gale. By the time the ship and tug got under way it was blowing half a gale and they made very slow progress. At 2.30pm they were close inshore off Mousehole Island when the tow rope parted.

Back in Newlyn the lifeboat crew, who’d been standing by since 2.00pm, immediately launched the Elizabeth and Blanche (II) lifeboat from the beach below the Fisherman’s Arms, but before they could reach the scene the tug connected a tow again.

The wind was then a full gale and with the flood setting in to Mount’s Bay both ship and tug were carried across the bay towards the eastern shore.

The lifeboat, under oar and storm sail, intercepted them and on the advice of Coxswain Alfred Vingoe they let go their anchors. Just then the Schooner Titania of Salcombe, under Master Joseph J. Brown, was seen running into the Bay before the gale.

The lifeboat went to the vessel and piloted her safely into Newlyn Harbour arriving at 4.30pm. In horrendous weather conditions, rain, hail and snow, the open lifeboat Elizabeth and Blanche manned by her courageous, hardy, and determined crew, then returned to the Clan MacPherson where they found that the master had decided to abandon ship - the lifeboat took all the crew onboard, 20 in total, and landed them safely in Newlyn, arriving at 7.00pm - two outstanding rescues in one day!

The Elizabeth and Blanche (II) lifeboat was a 38-foot wooden built Watson class Pull and Sail boat with 12 oars (6 per side). Due to the sturdy design and the larger beam (9'6") it allowed additional space for spare rowers, but this made the lifeboat over 5 tonnes in weight.





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SS Northlands - 28th February 1912



On February 28th 1912 the 'George, Mabel & Vera' a 90ft Steam Drifter capable of 10 knots, towed the Elizabeth & Blanche II to Lands End to attend SS NORTHLANDS, which had lost steering and was disabled off the Runnelstone. Several attempts were made to get the steering functional which took a considerable time, nearly 20 hours.

The 'George, Mabel & Vera' assisted the Elizabeth and Blanche II in the rescue and then towed the lifeboat back to Newlyn arriving the following day, 29th February.





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SS City of Westminster - 8th October 1923


The SS City of Westminster was a steam cargo vessel, built in 1916 and made of steel capable of 12knots max speed.

On 8th October 1923 the City of Westminster ran aground in thick fog on the 'Runnel stone'.

The Penlee Lifeboat 'Brothers' was called to the aid of the ship and rescued 35 of the ships crew. The remaining 13 were taken aboard the Sennen cove lifeboat.





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Motor trawler Vierge Marie of Ostend - 11th January 1937


At 7.40am on 11th January 1937, local police reported a wreck under Tregiffian Cliffs, near Tater Du Point. There was a strong SSW breeze blowing, heavy sea and thick foggy weather.

The W & S lifeboat launched from Penlee Point at 8.00am, steamed down the western shore, and found the motor trawler, 'VIÈRGE MARIE' of Ostend, ashore and being pounded heavily by the rough seas. The lifeboat crew located three men in the water and hauled them onboard. They were each given mouth to mouth resuscitation - sadly, only one of the men was revived, and he died later after being landed in Newlyn.

The trawler had been heading for Newlyn from the fishing grounds with a crew of 6. With no sign of the remaining crew being found, the W & S returned to Newlyn, landed the three fishermen, and returned to station at 9.30am.

Of the other three crew, two managed to scramble ashore - Skipper Emil Lus, and a deckhand, who were saved by a rocket apparatus crew when they were trying to climb the cliffs. The remaining crew member sadly drowned.

The skipper later said that the trawler had developed engine problems off Land's End and they could not avoid going ashore - a very tragic & sad story for all involved.





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SS Solstad of Norrkoping - 6th January 1944

At 5.25am on 6 January 1944, during World War 2, the Royal Naval Office at Penzance reported a convoy of merchant ships had been attacked about 5 miles south of Treen Coastguard Hut.

At 5.50am, in a moderate SW wind and rough seas, the W & S Lifeboat launched from Penlee Point, Mousehole.

At the given position they found two life rafts, one with two men, the other with ten men and two women, all survivors of the SS Solstad of Norrkoping, which had been bound with coal from Swansea to London.

They were all taken on board the W & S and landed in Newlyn at 9.00am. With enemy submarines still in the area the lifeboat then returned to sea and continued searching until 3.00pm without result.





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HMCS Teme (K458) - 29th March 1945


The frigate HMCS Teme, built in 1943 by Smith´s Dock Co Ltd, South Bank Middlesbrough, was on loan to the Royal Canadian Navy, when at 8.22am 29th March 1945 she was off Lands End and hit by a German torpedo fired from U-Boat U-315. The frigate lost 60 feet of her stern. The crew transferred from HMCS Teme to a Naval tug and HMCS Teme was put under tow by the tug headed for Falmouth. After the tow parted in deteriorating sea conditions the Navy requested assistance from the Penlee lifeboat W&S to pickup the 57 crew and land them ashore.

The landing of the crew didn't count as an official rescue for the W&S (as they were already rescued by the Tug), but it's Penlee's record for largest number of casualties landed in one single service.

57 people, where did they put them all? The coxswains comments on the service record state 'They were kept happy with biscuits and Rum'! HMCS Teme was brought back to Falmouth, but was declared a total loss due to the extensive damage suffered. She was sold to be broken up for scrap on 8th December 1945.





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HMS Warspite - 23rd April 1947


On the 23rd April 1947, the retired Naval ship, HMS Warspite whilst being towed by tugs from Portsmouth to the Clyde to be broken up reached Lands End where they turned back due to bad weather to shelter in Mounts Bay.

On the afternoon of the 23rd April she went aground on the Mount Malpas ledge during a strong SW gale. The tide floated the ship off and then she went ashore again near Cudden point.

The W&S went between the ship and the shore in a 40ft wide corridor with 30ft swells and rescued all 8 of the Warspite’s skeleton crew resulting in Coxswain Edwin F Madron receiving the RNLI silver medal and Mechanic Johnny Drew the Bronze medal.


Left to Right:
Edwin Madron (Cut out of photo), Abraham Madron, Joe Madron, Ben Jeffery, Clarry Williams, J.T.Trezise (Mayor of Penzance), Barrie Bennetts (Hon, Branch Sec), Jack Worth, Raymond Pomeroy (SNR), Luther Oliver, Jack Wallis, Charlie Edmonds, Johnny Drew and Frank Blewett






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Tanker Varicella of London - 30th December 1961


On 30th December 1961 the Penlee lifeboat, 'Solomon Browne' had launched to convey a man suffering with appendicitis on board the tanker Varicella to a waiting ambulance at Newlyn. 

On the lifeboats return to station, as she was about to be hauled up into the keelway of the slip a heavy swell carried the lifeboat broadside for about 10ft pulling the winch wire with her, striking two shore helpers on the legs, and causing them to fall onto the rocks before falling into the water. 

The other helpers quickly reached the two men and hauled them on to the rocks but it was found that Mr James Pentreath had died due to his fall. Mr Bob Blewett had a number of ribs broken.  Mr Blewett was taken to hospital where he made a good recovery.





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Jeanne Gougy - 3rd November 1962


On November 3rd 1962, the 273 ton French trawler JEANNE GOUGY, ran ashore and capsized on the Armed Knight off Land's End.

The crew were trapped in an air pocket in the wheelhouse for 6 hours until low tide when they were rescued by breeches buoy & helicopter.

Of the eighteen crew, twelve lost their lives.

A Westland Whirlwind of 22 Squadron, hovered above the stricken fishing vessel and Sergeant Eric Smith volunteered to be lowered down to rescue a trawlermen from inside the wheel house. The wheel house was continually being submerged by breaking waves.

Having been ordered to remain attached to the winch wire, he entered the vessel's wheel house, continually having to take a deep breath of air and hold his breath while the wheel house was submerged before the waves receded again.

Once inside the wheel house he found two survivors, which he rescued separately. A report of a possible third survivor required Eric Smith to enter the wheel house yet again and crawl along a passageway towards the radio room to look for the survivor. None was found, but before being able to return to the helicopter he had to disentangle the winch wire from the hub of the ship's wheel; the wheel house and passageway continually being engulfed by the sea. Sergeant Eric Smith was awarded a George Medal for his heroic actions.

The Penlee lifeboat, 'Solomon Browne' joined the Sennen Lifeboat in searching for survivors. The lifeboat's were instructed to stand by the wreck until the Coastguards had given up all hope of finding survivors.

No further survivors were found.


Crew members; Coxswain Jack WORTH, 2nd Coxswain Harry BLEWETT, Bowman Arnold GARTRELL, Mechanic Clarry WILLIAMS, Assistant Mechanic Owen LADNER, Crew - Jimmy MADRON, Marrack TORRIE and Nim BAWDEN.





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Juan Ferrer - 23rd October 1963

Photo: Nim Bawden


During the early hours of the 23rd October, 1963 during a south-westerly gale and poor visibility the MV JUAN FERRER, a 640 ton Spanish Coaster, under the command of Captain Luis RUIZ, ran aground on rocks near Tater Dhu, at Boscawen Point.

The coaster appeared to have struck the rocks head on as there was a big hole in her bows extending from the water line to her keel. Laden with general cargo, the JUAN FERRER had encountered fog at 11.20 p.m. on the 22nd October, and struck the rocks at 2.50 a.m the following morning. Her master managed to send out a very brief Mayday call shortly before 3 a.m "Aground in the vicinity of Land's End", before the JUAN FERRER turned over and her engine room filled with water.

In thick fog, the Solomon Browne lifeboat launched from Penlee Point and steamed to the search area. After hearing shouts of 'Help', they located Captain RUIZ clinging to the wreckage. He was suffering from exposure but the actions of the lifeboat crew saved his life - 11 of his crew drowned. Those found were repatriated, but a few days later another 4 were found. Until recently the 4 sailors lay buried in an unmarked grave in Penzance cemetery and in an unknown location to their families. During research for the latest Penlee history book, we uncovered the whereabouts of the grave and marked it with this publically funded memorial stone.

The crew that day; Coxswain Jack WORTH, Second Coxswain Tommy TREGENZA, Bowman Arnold GARTRELL, Mechanic Johnny DREW, Assistant Mechanic Owen LADNER, Crew - Wilfred COTTON, Malvin McCLARY and Nim BAWDEN.





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Torrey Canyon Disaster- 18th March 1967


On 18th March 1967 the 'Torrey Canyon' super-tanker struck Pollard's Rock between the Scilly Isles and Land's End. 120,000 tons of crude oil spilled into the sea.

The 'Solomon Browne' took over from the exhausted crew of the IOS Lifeboat the 'Guy and Clare hunter' who had been on scene for over 30 hours. The 'Solomon Browne' then stayed on scene paddling through thick oil and crew breathing the fumes for 33 hours before returning to station and then having to clean the lifeboat.

Whilst the 'Guy and Clare Hunter' was on watch, vapours started building up within the 'Torrey Canyon' and at noon on 19th of March, there was a terrific explosion in the engine room. 5 of the salvage team left on-board were injured with 2 being blown into the sea. Unfortunately one of them died.

Together the 'Guy and Clare Hunter' and the 'Solomon Browne' spent 88 hours standing by.





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MV Lovat - 25th January 1975


On 25th January 1975 in the hours of darkness the lifeboat launched into a west-north-westerly gale gusting to hurricane force 12. Their mission to get to the assistance of the crew of the motor vessel Lovat, 18½ miles south of Mousehole Island.

By the time the Solomon Browne got on scene, helicopters had rescued the only 2 survivors but sadly 11 lives were lost. The unhappy task of recovering the bodies fell to the lifeboat in darkness and in a hurricane force conditions.

The Bronze Medal awarded to Coxswain Trevelyan Richards in recognition of the courage, determination and skill displayed by him. The rest of the crew were awarded on vellum .

Left to right back row - Frank Wallis, Phil Wallis, Alan Tregenza, Nigel Brockman. Front Row - Clive Bennetts, Coxswain Trevelyan Richards, Dr Dennis Leslie and Del Johnson.





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FV Conqueror - 26th December 1977


The Conqueror was a modern freezer trawler built in 1965. She left her home port (Hull) to go mackerel fishing in Cornwall. In the early morning of Boxing Day 1977 she was off Mousehole with 250 tons of fish on board in bad weather, then ran aground on the rocks near Penzer Point.

Her crew had no significant  injuries, but the Solomon Browne had to evacuate them from the ship. Just a skeleton crew of four (Including the Master Charles Thresh) were left on board to assist salvage operations.

The lifeboat stood-by, on and off, for 2 days whist a Tug tried desperately to get her off the rocks and large pumps emptied her out of water. following a storm and after a  couple of days it was obvious that she was going nowhere as the engine room was full of water.

Stuck fast the rocks and holed mid-ships eventually one year later she finally slid back into the sea during a storm.





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Fastnet Race- 16th August 1979


The 1979 Fastnet race was the twenty-eighth Royal Ocean Racing Club's Fastnet race, a yachting race held generally every two years since 1925 on a 605-mile course from Cowes direct to the Fastnet Rock, Southern Ireland, and then to Plymouth via south of the Isles of Scilly.

In 1979, it was the climax of the five-race Admiral's Cup competition, as it had been since 1957. A worse-than-expected storm on the third day of the race wreaked havoc on over 306 yachts taking part in the biennial race, resulting in 18 fatalities (15 yachtsmen and 3 rescuers). Emergency services, naval forces, and civilian vessels from around the west side of the English Channel were summoned to aid what became the largest ever rescue operation in peace-time. This involved some 4,000 people including the entire Irish Naval Service's fleet, 6 RNLI lifeboats, numerous commercial vessels, Nimrod Aircraft and several helicopters.

The RNLI spent a combined 75 hours at sea. The Penlee Lifeboat 'Solomon Browne' launched on 16th August in a moderate SW wind and choppy seas to takeover the tow of the Yacht 'Gan' from the vessel 'Marianna V'. after 3.5 hours at sea they returned to Newlyn.

The image opposite is the Isle of Scilly Lifeboat 'Guy and Claire Hunter' under Cox Matt Lethbridge with a life raft on deck. One of the largest factors to increasing the difficulty of the rescue was the crews of the Fastnet racers 'Abandoned ship' and took to their life rafts. Common practice for open sea races now is to remain with your vessel until the very last moments before it sinks or breaks up. A yacht is easier to find than a floating life raft.

The crew of the Solomon Browne were presented certificates for their role in the rescue.





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Union Star (Penlee Disaster) - 19th December 1981

For information on the Union Star and the Penlee Disaster please go to the "Penlee Disaster" page of our "About us" section

Click here to open that page





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French ferry 'Amorique' - 2nd April 1983


On April 2, 1983, the French ferry 'Amorique' carrying 700 passengers for Ireland caught fire off the southwestern coast of England, killing one man and leaving dozens of others suffering from smoke inhalation. The fire broke out in a passenger cabin 40 miles northwest of Land's End. Royal Air Force Sea King helicopters airlifted six of the injured from the ship and lowered firefighters onto the vessel. Two lifeboats were launched, including our reserve lifeboat 'Guy and Clare Hunter'.

The 'Amorique' came into Mount's Bay and Penlee Lifeboat took off 38 passengers, all suffering from smoke inhalation - they were conveyed to Newlyn and on to West Cornwall Hospital by ambulance. On way their way back to station the crew of the 'Guy and Clare Hunter' then rescued two wind surfers who were in difficulties in the bay - the lifeboat was at sea for a total of 8 hours.





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IOS Helicopter crash - 16th July 1983


Photo: Carl Ford


Photo: BBC


Photo: Phil Monckton


In thick fog on 16th July 1983, a British Airways Sikorsky Helicopter crashed in the sea approximately 3km ENE of St Mary's airport when en-route from Penzance to the St Mary's. The St Mary's Arun class lifeboat, 'RNLB Robert Edgar' (ON 1073) was first on the scene, but not long after was joined by the then unnamed Penlee lifeboat 'Mabel Alice'.
The Mabel Alice was  launched mid-morning on 16th July to assist swimmers disorientated off Porthleven in the thick fog. On return to Newlyn to clean the lifeboat in preparation for the for naming ceremony on 18th July she was re-tasked to go to Isles of Scilly to assist St Mary's lifeboat in searching for survivors from crash.

Sadly only six of the twenty six on board survived. The survivors were: two children, both of whom were orphaned by the incident; the two pilots and the only two Scillonians on board.
A survivor told 'The Times' Newspaper (P28 20th July 1983 & P26 18th July 1983), "It was very quick. I bumped forwards and hit my head on the seat in front." Then asked another passenger, "What the hell is going on?" The response was one word, by which time the passengers were chest-deep in seawater. "I closed my mouth and took a deep breath and by then I was under water." The seat had twisted on impact, tightening the seatbelt. "I realised I had not got an awful lot of breath left." the survivor released the belt, opened the door and floated to the surface. On the surface, the survivor found the five other survivors. Shortly after, the two maroons signalling the launch of St Mary's Lifeboat could be heard. "We were just chatting about what would happen and I said the boat was on its way." Rescue helicopters from RNAS Culdrose could not see the survivors through the thick mist so it was down to the lifeboats to save them.After spending several hours assisting and searching the Penlee lifeboat 'Mabel Alice' was stood down.
On return to station, the Mabel Alice receiv
ed a call from HM Coastguard for "Penlee Lifeboat" but on responding Mabel Alice was told "No, the other Penlee Lifeboat". This turned out to be the relief Watson 'Guy & Clare Hunter' which had also been launched from Penlee slipway to the aid of a small pleasure boat lost in the fog.
A report investigating the incident was concluded twenty months later, in February 1985, finding the cause to be 'pilot error'. The official report concluded that the accident was caused by the pilot not observing and correcting an unintentional descent before the helicopter collided with the sea during an attempt to fly at 250 feet using visual clues in poor and deceptive visibility over a calm sea.

The report also added that there were other contributory factors, being:
inadequate flight instrument monitoring due to flying in visibility conditions unsuited to visual flight and lack of audio height warning equipment.

The disaster sparked a review of UK helicopter safety and was identified as the worst civilian helicopter disaster in the UK at the time -  eight recommendations for passenger helicopter flight came forward



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French Trawler St. Simeon - 15th February 1985

Photo of the Falmouth Lifeboat, 'Elizabeth Ann',
either on route to the trawler,or on her
way home (Mick French)



On 15th February 1985, with Coxswain Ken Thomas at the helm, the Mabel Alice lifeboat launched from Newlyn and went to the assistance of the French trawler 'St Simeon'.

The 'St Simeon' had sprung a leak and lost power about 13 miles south of the Lizard in an easterly gale - Force 10-11. In very rough seas and poor weather, later described as "violent and freezing conditions" and "the worst channel storm for years", the 'Mabel Alice' took over the tow from the Falmouth Lifeboat, 'Elizabeth Ann' which had been towing the 'St Simeon' upwind for 12 hours.

It was far too dangerous to run for Mounts Bay or Falmouth, so the Mabel Alice lifeboat made for Plymouth, towing the 'St Simeon' for 9 hours during height of storm. The tow was then handed over to the Plymouth lifeboat. Unfortunately the 'St Simeon' sank while nearing Plymouth.

The crew of five, who had taken to a life-raft, were rescued by the Plymouth Lifeboat 'Thomas Forehead and Mary Rowse 11'.

Coxswain Kenneth Thomas received the RNLI Thanks on Vellum. Certificates of Thanks awarded to Edwin Madron; Mike Inskip; Joey Jeffery; Martin Tregonning; and Robert Marks.

Coxswain Vivian Pentecost, Falmouth Lifeboat & Coxswain John Dare, Plymouth Lifeboat were also awarded the Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum.



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Cargo Vessel Kapitan Dzuashevich - 14th December 1993

Photo: Tim Stevens 


A large Ukrainian cargo vessel 'Kapitan Dzuashevich'  shifted cargo whilst at sea. The vessel was escorted under it's own power into the shelter of Mounts Bay to allow the crew to rebalance the cargo. When the lifeboat arrived at the vessel the list to Starboard was approx. 25 degrees, very nearly breaching the gunwale of the vessel.



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Newlyn Crabber the “Julian Paul” - 6th December 1994

 Painting by: Ralph Curnow

Photo: Tim Stevens


During the afternoon of 6th December 1994 the Mabel Alice was launched to the aid of the Newlyn Crabber the “Julian Paul”. Jointly with the Sennen Cove lifeboat, the Mabel Alice assisted in the rescue of five people and saving the vessel which had fouled her propeller to the west of Longships Lighthouse. The vessel was taken in tow in very rough seas and storm force winds gusting to 80 knots and eventually was brought into Newlyn at 1am the following day.

The RNLI Bronze Medal was awarded to both Coxswain/Mechanic Neil Brockman and Terry George of the Sennen Cove lifeboat in recognition of their fine seamanship,  leadership and meritorious conduct.

Certificates of Service awarded to Penlee crew: Mike Atkinson, Joey Jeffery, Rob Cooke, Graham Henderson, Paul Ashworth, Graham Bray and Sennen crew: John Pender, Chris Angove, Dan Shannon, Neil Willis and Martin Jones



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French Trawler 'Gwel A Vo' - 21st December 1999



On 21st December 1999, the Mabel Alice was called to French trawler 'Gwel A Vo' 35 miles off Newlyn in heavy seas and 4-5 metre swells.

The trawler had broken down and was awaiting tow, but needing attention to seriously injured crewman - three lifeboat crew transferred to trawler and succeeded in lowering the casualty to the lifeboat deck in very difficult conditions, since the trawler was drifting broadside to the weather without power. The Lifeboat had to be turned smartly downwind to avoid the casualty being washed off the deck. He was then recovered safely into wheelhouse. The lifeboat crew returned to the lifeboat and the casualty was taken to Newlyn after the 72hour service.

A letter of Thanks from Chairman of RNLI was presented to Coxswain Neil Brockman, and Letters of Thanks to Patrick Harvey, David Osborne, David Pascoe and the rest of the crew.



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Cable guard ship Dolfyn - 29th December 2000

Photo: Jack Guard


Late evening and heavy swell on the 29th December 2000 and Coxswain Neil Brockman was alerted to a ship that had run aground near Mousehole.

The ship was the 'Dolfyn', she was on cable guard duty, watching the transatlantic telecommunications cables from being trawled by foreign trawlers.

The Dolfyn on her way back to Newlyn ran aground just off Carn Topna beach, East of Mousehole. Coxswain Neil arrived on the scene just before 11.30pm and decided after watching the situation, that a lifeboat launch was required due to the heavy swell.

The Penlee lifeboat 'Mabel Alice' launched at 11.44pm and headed over to Mousehole. The Mabel Alice attached a tow and attempted to pull the Dolfyn free, without success. Because of the shallow water and rising swell, Neil took off an Injured crewman and the remainder of the crew, leaving the Dolfyn on the beach.

Neil Brockman received a letter of commendation from the Chief of Operations for his skill and seamanship, getting close to the shore and removing the crew in very shallow water with a heavy swell.



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Trevessa IV - 31st December 2009

Photos: Wayne Davey


Four crewmen were winched to safety after flames broke out on the Trevessa IV at sea on New Year's Eve 2009. The Trevessa, a 26-metre beamer from Newlyn, suffered a fire in the engine room. The vessel was approx. 30 miles south of the Isles of Scilly when the crew sent up the mayday alert at 4.37pm on Thursday 31st December. The crew managed to seal off the engine room, but had been forced to leave the wheelhouse because of the amount of smoke, and had deployed their life raft in case required.

Falmouth Coastguard requested a rescue helicopter from RNAS Culdrose and the St Mary's lifeboat. They also put out a request for help to shipping in the area and two vessels, the James RH Stevenson and the Billy Rowney responded.

The helicopter was en route to the Royal Cornwall Hospital with a man in his 50s who had suffered a cardiac arrest in Porthtowan when the trawler rescue call came in. The crew took the patient to hospital, before refuelling and flying to the rescue of the trawler crew.

The James RH Stevenson tried to haul their gear quickly to respond, but ended up damaging equipment, and were delayed. The Billy Rooney stood by the burning boat, to ensure other shipping activity steered clear. The helicopter crew managed to winch all four crew members to safety, and they were taken to the Royal Cornwall Hospital at Treliske, Truro, for smoke inhalation treatment.

On New Years Day, crew members were heading back out to the scene on the Penlee lifeboat, 'Ivan Ellen' to assess the damage, along with an engineer from Newlyn-based fishing company, Stevensons.

They managed to restart the Trevessa's engine and head back to Newlyn under her own steam. A round trip for the Ivan Ellen of approx 140miles.



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Paddle boarder rescue - Joe Holtaway - 25th November 2014


At 8:15pm on 25/11/2015, both Penlee lifeboats launched to assist the Police, a Search & Rescue helicopter from RNAS Culdrose and Coastguard teams from Penzance and St Ives in the search for missing local man, Joe Holtaway. In darkness with lowering temperatures, the Ivan Ellen and the Paul Alexander were very quickly on scene and the crew commenced an extended search of the shoreline and the many rocks surrounding St Michael’s Mount.

After a three hour search the lifeboat crew located Joe floating on his paddleboard a mile south of Marazion. Despite wearing a wetsuit, Joe was frozen rigid with the cold and was quickly taken on board the Ivan Ellen. The lifeboat crew rendered immediate first aid, giving oxygen, wrapping the casualty in blankets, and keeping him in conversation whilst the Ivan Ellen sped back to Newlyn. He was then conveyed to Treliske Hospital in Truro by ambulance suffering from hypothermia, and was later released.

After the incident, Joe described what happened on the Penlee Lifeboat Facebook page. He said ‘It was a beautiful evening in Marazion, I paddled out on my board in the sunset and drifted further, got colder than I could get myself back to shore from, ‘Six hours later the lifeboat took me on board’

Speaking following this rescue, Coxswain of Penlee RNLI Patch Harvey said, ‘Thankfully this story has a happy ending but it could have been very different. Joe paddled out on his board at about 5pm, just before darkness fell, but quickly became very cold, disorientated and confused. Despite the calm conditions, it is not advisable to enter the sea at this time of the year, at such a late hour, without any means of communication with the shore. It is very easy to lose your bearings when darkness falls and you are freezing cold. At any time of the year, its good practice to let someone know where you are going. On this occasion there was a happy ending but Joe was very lucky that the crew found him safe and well.’



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Lady Alida - 20th March 2017



On 20th March 2017 at 03:07 the ‘Lady Alida’, a 88m 3600-ton merchant ship, suffered engine failure 3 miles south of Gwennap Head with a crew of 7 aboard. The vessel, which sails under the flag of the Netherlands, was laden with sand and bound for Waterford, Southern Ireland. The lifeboat was alongside the 'Lady Alida' just 25 minutes after launching and immediately attached a tow rope.They started towing the vessel south to safer waters at 1 knot and were then joined by the Sennen Lifeboat 'City of London III' who also attached a tow rope. With both lifeboats taking the strain and towing, making a knot-and-a-half, the vessel was towed to deeper safer water. The initial plan was to tow her to Mount's Bay for safe anchorage but due to the strong SW wind Force 6-7 it was difficult for the lifeboat to turn the vessel. HM Coastguards at Falmouth agreed that the 'Lady Alida' could anchor in deeper waters south of Gwennap Head to await the assistance of a tug. Both Lifeboats returned to Newlyn where the crew just poured a cup of tea and a second launch request came through.

The 'Ivan Ellen' lifeboat relaunched at around 7am and made her way back to the 'Lady Alida' - the vessel currently dragging her anchor and the lifeboat then stood-by with a tow rope until the tug arrived. Following the arrival of the Tug, the tow was transferred to it and the lifeboats were released from the scene to return to Base.

In difficult weather conditions, both coxswains and crew demonstrated commendable seamanship in securing the tow. They were at sea for 11 hours keeping the Lady Alida in safer waters until a tug arrived.

The outstanding work, determination and professionalism of both crews has now been recognised by George Rawlinson, RNLI Operations Director, and a letter of congratulations has been received at Penlee & Sennen Lifeboat Stations.‘The size of the casualty vessel, poor weather conditions, and operating in close proximity to another lifeboat, made this a very challenging rescue. However, the professionalism and good teamwork displayed by both crews together with excellent boat handling by both coxswains, resulted in a successful outcome. My sincerest thanks to coxswain, crew and those who supported them at the station’

Penlee Crew - Coxswain Patch Harvey, Mechanic Tony Rendle, Ben Keogh, David Pascoe, Will Treneer, James Roberts & Tom Matson.