Station history

This station which guards the Straits, from Folkestone to the South Goodwin lightvessel, was established in 1837 by the Dover Humane and Shipwreck Institution.  The Royal National Lifeboat Institution contributed towards the cost of another boat, which was built in 1853 on its plans and took over the station in 1855.

1860

On 21 June the lifeboat was exercised in the presence of two young Russian Princes, sons of the Grand Duchess Marie of Russia.

1875

HRH Prince Arthur went out in the lifeboat on an exercise launch on 23 April.  He expressed great satisfaction with the whole proceedings.

1882

Silver Medal awarded to Major Henry Scott, Chairman of the Dover Branch in recognition of his gallant and prompt services in volunteering to take an oar in the lifeboat and afterwards assisting to rescue five of the crew of the barque Chin Chin of Jersey, which was wrecked off the South Foreland, during a south west wind and heavy seas on 9 December 1881.

1891

Silver Medal awarded to Coxswain James Woodgate, in consideration of his valuable services during the 21 years he had occupied that position.  During this period he has assisted to save 24 lives.

1893

Silver Second-Service clasp awarded to Coxswain James Woodgate for a long and arduous service to the barque Johanne Marie that went aground on a sandbank at Lade in the early morning of 20 November 1893.  After receiving a telegram asking for help at 1400 the lifeboat launched and was taken under tow by the steam tug Lady Vita arriving at 1730.  A rescue was not possible that night due to the intense darkness, torrential rain, bitter cold and easterly gale.  The lifeboat remained in the area all night and sighted the wreck at 0700, at which time Coxswain Woodgatre took the lifeboat alongside and snatched seven survivors from the rigging.  This service lasted 28 hours.

1903

Committee of Management voted £100 to the fund raised locally for the widow of Police Inspector Alfred Nash, who was killed by the carriage whilst assisting to transport the lifeboat to the launching place on the occasion of the wreck of a hopper barge of Dover on 11 September and also paid for the funeral expenses.

1914

Station closed owing to difficulties in satisfactorily manning the lifeboat.

1919

Station re-opened as a steam lifeboat station.

1922

Station closed.

1930

Station re-opened.

1940

Silver Medal awarded to Coxswain Colin H Bryant, and Bronze Medal to three other members of the crew, for the rescue of 16 men from HM trawler Blackburn Rovers on 26 November 1939 which was on an anti-submarine patrol off Dover, had dropped her anchor and had drifted into the minefield.  It was a very gallant service carried out in the face of imminent peril, of which all were aware but against which nothing could be done.  Lt Richard Walker RNR, Assistant King’s Harbour Master, was also awarded the Bronze Medal.

Lifeboat Sir William Hillary taken over by Admiralty in October.  Temporary lifeboat Agnes Cross, remained on station until 1941 when station closed until 1947.

1951

Bronze Medal awarded to Coxswain John Walker, for the rescue of a man from the Dutch yacht Akeco that had dragged its anchor on 27 September 1951.  In a very confused, violent and dangerous sea the lifeboat reached the yacht at midnight to find her little more than 100 yards from the cliffs, broadside on to wind and sea.  Getting a line across, a tow was secured and the yacht was brought into the safety of the harbour.

1952

The Seafarers International Union in New York presented a plaque to the station for the rescue of 13 men from the American ship ss Western Farmer that had been in a collision.

1954

Motor Mechanic Henry Pegg and W Wilfred Cook, a travelling mechanic of the Institution, awarded testimonials by the Royal Humane Society for rescuing a man who had fallen into the sea at Dover on 30 May.

1956

On 25 November the Dover lifeboat made television history, for whilst the lifeboat was returning from the South Goodwin lightship after a BBC programme, distress signals were picked up from a helpless fishing boat.  Then without warning Sunday afternoon television viewers shared the thrill of a real rescue drama played out in the wind lashed Channel.

A bar to the Bronze Medal was awarded to Coxswain John Walker, for the rescue of 10 people from the yachts Tawi, Sonia and Madam Pompadour in winds of hurricane force gusting to 80 knots and a strong confused sea on 29 July 1956.

1966

A letter of commendation was sent to the station for the part played by the crew of the lifeboat Southern Africa in rescuing seven men from the Varne lightvessel on 2 December.  The lightvessel was pitching and rolling heavily.  Waves were estimated to be 20 feet from crest to trough and there was a south westerly Force 10 to 11 Storm.

1976

Silver Medal awarded to Coxswain Mechanic Arthur Liddon and Bronze Medal awarded to Second Coxswain/Assistant Mechanic Anthony George Hawkins, when the lifeboat escorted into Dover Harbour the coaster Primrose of Cyprus that was in difficulties with broken steering gear five miles east of the harbour in a south-south-westerly hurricane and phenomenal seas during the night of 1-2 December 1975.  Second Assistant Mechanic Richard John Hawkins, crew members John James Smith and Gordon David were each accorded the Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum.

1977

Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum accorded to Coxswain Mechanic Arthur Liddon and Second Coxswain/Assistant Mechanic Anthony Hawkins, when the lifeboat rescued six of the crew of the trawler St Patrick with a fire in her engine room five miles south east of Dover Harbour in a south easterly gale and a rough sea on 7 December.  A special certificate on Vellum was also accorded to Dr Sotiris Mantoudis when he was transferred by the lifeboat form the Cross Channel Ferry Earl Leofric to the trawler to give medical attention to the Chief Engineer.

1979

A Framed Letter of Thanks signed by the Chairman of the Institution awarded to crew member G V James in recognition of him commendable action in jumping from the lifeboat into the sea on 26 May and saving a canoeist who had become trapped underneath his capsized canoe.  A Letter of Appreciation signed by the Director was also addressed to the coxswain and crew for their skill and efficiency when six canoeists were rescued.

1981

Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum accorded to Coxswain/Mechanic, Anthony Hawkins, in recognition of the leadership and seamanship he displayed when a doctor and two crew members made a difficult and arduous transfer to the Danish container vessel Dragor Maersk, one and a half  miles south west of the South Goodwin lightvessel, where they attended an injured seaman who was subsequently landed by the lifeboat in a strong south westerly gale and a very rough sea on 10 October.  A special Doctor’s Vellum was awarded to Dr Peter Welch, honorary medical adviser, in recognition of his proceeding in the lifeboat and carrying out the difficult and arduous transfer.

1982

Framed Letter of Thanks signed by the Chairman of the Institution awarded to Coxswain/Assistant Mechanic, Anthony Hawkins, and his crew in recognition of their skill and determination when the crew of five was rescued from the French fishing vessel Armandeche on 29 June.

1985

Framed Letter of Thanks signed by the Chairman of the Institution awarded to Coxswain/Assistant Mechanic, Anthony Hawkins, his crew and shore helpers, and to the crews of the motor launches Darg, Denise and of the tug Dextrous, in recognition of the commendable service they gave following the accident to the hovercraft Princess Margaret on 30 March.

1987

A 150th Anniversary Vellum awarded to station.

1988

Silver Medal awarded to Acting Coxswain, Roy Couzens, and Bronze Medals awarded to the Acting Assistant Mechanic and Emergency Coxswain Michael Abbott, and crew members Geoffrey Buckland, Dominic McHugh, Christopher Ryan, Robert Bruce and Eric Tanner in recognition of their courage and determination when they rescued three crew of the 1,600 ton vessel Sumnia which had been driven against Admiralty Pier at Dover in a south-south-westerly hurricane and phenomenal seas on 16 October 1987.  The lifeboat arrived to find the vessel moving violently with waves up to 60ft breaking over the pier.  Acting Coxswain Couzens took the lifeboat close to the breakwater on the lee side to find two men had been washed overboard, a third survivor was sighted among the wreckage and recovered.  The Maud Smith Award to the lifeboatman who, in the opinion of the Committee of Management, performed the most outstanding act of lifesaving during the previous year, was awarded to Acting Coxswain, Roy Couzens, in recognition of the above service.

1992

The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum was accorded to Coxswain/Mechanic, Anthony Hawkins, and crew members David Pascall and Rodney Goldsack, when the lifeboat Rotary Service rescued three people and saved the yacht Phaedra which was in difficulties three miles south east of Sandettie W Buoy off the French Coast in a south westerly strong gale and very rough seas on 2 November 1991.  The lifeboat towed the yacht to Dunkirk West, and after stopping for refreshments returned to Dover.

1993

A Framed Letter of Thanks signed by the Chairman of the Institution was awarded to Coxswain/Assistant Mechanic Anthony Hawkins, in recognition of his boat handling and fine seamanship when the Rotary Service lifeboat negotiated ropes, wires and mooring buoys surrounding the Barge Brabant, 60 metres from the shore at Sandgate in a Force 10 Storm and very rough seas after five of her six mooring wires parted, and rescued the crew of three on 30 August 1992.

1997

The New station Severn Class lifeboat ON1220 City of London II was placed on service 15 March 1997. This lifeboat was funded by the city of London centenary appeal with bequests from Mrs E M Horsfiled, Mrs G M Koss and other gifts and Legacies. The lifeboat ON1031 Rotary Service has been withdrawn to the relief fleet.

1998

For services to the Institution, Coxswain/Assistant Mechanic Tony Hawkins has been honoured by Her Majesty the Queen in the recent Birthday Honours; - Member, Order of the British Empire (MBE).

2000

New shore facilities completed.

MEDAL RECORD

Nineteen medals gave been awarded – six Silver and 13 Bronze, the last being voted in 1988.

FOREIGN AWARDS

In 1932 the German Government thanked the lifeboat crew in respect of their service to German aircraft on 29/30 October 1932.