"The RNLI has a long and proud history. Since it was founded in 1824, as the National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck, there have been countless examples of courage, selflessness and dedication – qualities still shown by the volunteer crew members, shore helpers and fundraisers of the RNLI today."
Ben Fogle, seafarer, TV presenter and passionate supporter of the RNLI, looks at what it takes to be a lifeboat hero, one of the brave men and women volunteers of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.
They are the core of one of Britain’s most remarkable charities, founded in 1824 in response to the terrible waste of life that was occurring almost daily around the coast of Britain and Ireland. From that day to this, its mostly unpaid volunteers have performed countless acts of heroism, putting their lives on the line to save others. In all, they’ve saved nearly 140,000 lives.
Ben Fogle gets hands-on with the lifeboat crews, visiting the Poole Lifeboat College to experience sea-survival and capsize training, and testing the new 'Man Overboard Guardian' system in the chilly January waters off Torbay. He goes aboard the William Riley, built in 1909, to find out what it was like to row the early lifeboats, and then compares it with the speed and sophistication of new lifeboats like the Atlantic 85 Inshore Lifeboat, and the groundbreaking Tamar Class all-weather lifeboat.
Modern lifeboat heroes such as Mark Criddle, Coxswain of the Torbay Lifeboat who won a Silver Medal for Gallantry in 2008, speak of what it means to be always waiting for the call. Ben also recounts the exploits of RNLI legends such as Henry Alexander Hamilton, Ireland’s most decorated lifesaver, and the incomparable Henry Blogg of Cromer, ‘the greatest lifeboat man of all time’. Then there’s the tales of those who didn’t come back, including the ‘Mexico’ disaster of 1886, the worst night in RNLI history in which 27 lifeboatmen were lost, and the loss with all hands of the Penlee lifeboat Solomon Browne in 1981.
What Ben discovers in the past and present of the RNLI is a long tradition of commitment, courage and sacrifice, which continues to define this unique British sea rescue service and charity.