Station history

Walmer station was established in 1856 and guards the southern half of the Goodwin Sands and the Downs. It was closed in 1912, but was re-opened again in 1927 when the Institution decided to place a motor lifeboat on this part of the coast, as it was found that Walmer was more suitable for launching than the neighbouring station of North Deal, which was closed in 1933 when a motor lifeboat was placed at Walmer.

After the second world war it was, for a time, one of the busiest lifeboat stations on our coasts and Coxswain Frederick Upton, and Motor Mechanic C Percy Cavell, twice won medals for gallantry during those years. In both cases it was for services to foreign vessels - in January 1948, for rescuing 30 lives from the Italian steamer Silvia Onorato and in 1952 for rescuing the crew of 38 from the French steamer Agen.

The Walmer lifeboat Charles Dibdin (ON 762) was one of 19 lifeboats which took part in the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk in May 1940. She was manned by a naval crew, and of her adventures nothing is known, but she came back with holes in both sides. Eleven years later, in the spring of 1951 when she was being surveyed, the surveyors, on opening one of the compartments and taking out the air cases, found a tracer bullet and the surrounding charred wood.

1830

Gold Medals awarded to Captain P Graham RN, Lt H W Johnson RN and Lt W S Watts RN, and a Silver Medal to John Durban for the rescue of the crew of 13 of the ship Mountaineer and also three Deal boatmen on 24 November 1829. A pilot, one Deal boatman and two of the crew of the vessel were drowned.

1856

Royal Thames Yacht Club saves 16 lives between 1856 and 1861.

1859

Silver Medal awarded to John Moss for saving, at the peril of his own life, one out of two men from the tender to the lugger Stornoway that was run down off Dungeness on 19 December 1858.

1861

A second Royal Thames Yacht Club saves 5 lives between 1861 and 1871.

1867

The lifeboat capsized whilst on service without loss of life on 1 December.

1871

New lifeboat house erected 70 yards from former house at a cost of £460. Centurion saves 72 lives between 1871 and 1884.

1884

Civil Service No.4 (ON34), which cost of £504 begins service.

1896

A member of the crew, E Young, was drowned on 23 October when he was trying to board the SS Trapian of Hamburg from the lifeboat by a rope. Committee of Management voted £200 to local fund.

1897

The second Civil Service No.4 (ON394) begins service, costing £649.

1912

Station closed.

1927

Station re-opened and Barbara Fleming (ON480) begins service. The lifeboat was kept on a launching cradle at the head of the beach.

1933

Charles Dibdin (Civil Service No 2) (ON762) serves until 1959, costing £5664 and was the first motor lifeboat at the station.

1934

A tablet was placed on the side of the lifeboat house commemorating the Walmer luggers of the 19th Century who were, in the words of the honorary secretary, "…the cradle of the Lifeboatmen of the Downs". This tablet shows the names of 20 luggers from 1854 to 1894 and records that by the bravery and skill of those who manned them, of which no record remains, many ships were saved and many lives rescued.

1944

While the lifeboat was being launched in December, a hook slipped and she ran suddenly into a rough sea with only Motor Mechanic C P Cavell on board. He started the engines at once and taking the wheel brought the lifeboat into deep water and finally managed to beach her in a gap of 50 yards, the only place where she could be safely beached among the coast defences. Mr Cavell was awarded the Institution's Thanks on Vellum.

Bronze Medal awarded to Coxswain J Mercer for the rescue of 13 men from HM Anti-Submarine boat No 25 stranded on the Goodwins on 18 January 1944. It was a difficult service carried out with skilful and daring seamanship.

1948

Silver Medal awarded to Coxswain Frederick Upton and the Bronze Medal to Motor Mechanic C Cavell for the very fine service to the Italian steamer Silvia Onorato, which was aground on the Goodwin Sands on 22 January 1948. To effect the rescue of 28 Italians, two German stowaways and one Alsatian dog, the lifeboat had been 45 hours at sea in weather which all the time was getting worse, with heavy confused seas on the Sands and in bitter cold. For the crew it was two days and two nights of almost continual exposure and strain.

The Maud Smith Award for the bravest act of life-saving in 1948 was won by Coxswain F Upton.

1950

On 6 August a stained glass window was dedicated in St George the Martyr, Deal, this was designed by Donald P Taunton and was a replacement for a window destroyed by enemy action in 1942. The bottom pane shows the Walmer lifeboat in a rough sea.

The bowman of the lifeboat, James Rich, collapsed and died in the lifeboat when she went out on 24 December to the help of the Italian Steamer Santagata and rescued her crew of 32. The Institution granted a pension to his widow.

1952

Silver Second-Service clasp awarded to Coxswain Frederick Upton and Bronze Second-Service clasp to Motor Mechanic C Cavell for the difficult and hazardous service on 13 January 1952 to the French steamer Agen that was aground on the South Goodwin bank. There was a south westerly gale and a steep and confused sea. When the lifeboat reached the Agen she broke into two parts, the crew were all in the forward part. The Agen lay close to the remains of three other wrecks (from which the Walmer lifeboat had rescued the crews, 115 in all, during the past six years). By continuous manoeuvring, the lifeboat was held against the wreck whilst 37 of the Frenchmen slid down ropes into her. The Captain refused to leave. The rescued men were suffering from their long exposure and the lifeboat returned to Walmer. The lifeboat returned to the wreck and rescued the reluctant Captain later.

1956

The Queen Mother visited the lifeboat station and presented a Vellum celebrating the centenary of the station.

1964

An inshore lifeboat (ILB) station was established with a D class lifeboat placed on service at the station on 18 April.

1966

Freedom of Deal conferred on Dr James Hall, the 'Lifeboat Doctor' who had been going to sea with the Walmer lifeboat for 30 years.

1968

A Framed Letter of Thanks signed by the Chairman of the Institution was sent to the coxswain and crew for the service on 29 August when the lifeboat rescued three people from the yacht Fantasy which was in difficulties one and a half miles north west of the East Goodwin Lightvessel in a strong north-north-west wind gusting to gale force and a rough sea.

1969

The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum accorded to Helmsman Bruce Brown and crew members Cyril Williams and John Riley in recognition of their courage, skill and initiative when on 24 August the inshore lifeboat rescued four people cut off by the tide south of St Margarets Bay.

1970

The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum accorded to Helmsman Cyril Williams and crew members Leslie Coe and Charles Taylor in recognition of their courage, initiative and seaman-ship when on 18 June the inshore lifeboat rescued two men cut off by the tide in a cave on west side of St Margarets Bay. For this they also won the Ralph Glister Award.

1972

The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum accorded to Coxswain Henry Brown in recognition of his skill and fine sea-manship when on 24 May the yacht Nell and her crew of six, plus a cat, were saved after the engine failed near the South Goodwin buoy in a south-south-westerly gale and a rough sea.

1975

Hampshire Rose (ON1024) begins service.

1977

A Bronze Medal was awarded to Coxswain Bruce Brown in recognition of his courage and seamanship when on 4 August 1977, having rescued the crew of four of the cabin cruiser Shark, which had run aground about three quarters of a mile south west of the South East Goodwin buoy, he boarded her shortly before she sank and with complete disregard for his own safety, rescued the Second Coxswain who had become trapped in the cabin.

1978

Framed Letters of Thanks awarded to Coxswain Bruce Brown and Second Coxswain Cyril Williams, signed by the Chairman, in recognition of their commendable action when on 10 December 1977 the lifeboat was taken alongside the motor vessel Elmela aground on the Goodwin Sands in a south-south-easterly gale with steep high seas, heavy rain and poor visibility to put the Second Coxswain on board to act as a communication link on the UHF as the crew did not speak English. The Elmela was eventually re-floated.

1979

A Letter of Thanks signed by the Director was sent to Acting Coxswain C Williams in recognition of the service carried out on 9 August when the yacht Jewel, with a broken down engine, had dragged both anchors in a gale force south-south-easterly wind and a rough sea and had her mast fouling the Deal Pier decking. The yacht with a crew of two was towed clear with much difficulty by the lifeboat and later the inshore lifeboat transferred the two survivors to the lifeboat.

1985

A Framed Letter of Thanks awarded to Helmsman Anthony Evans signed by the Chairman in recognition of his leadership, determination and initiative during a difficult and dangerous operation on 9 June, when the D class inflatable lifeboat, on temporary duty at the station, rescued two men who were cut off by the tide near St Margaret's Bay after their canoe had capsized and they drifted on to the beach. The two crew members, John Collins and David Chidwick were each sent a letter from the Director.

1990

All-weather lifeboat withdrawn on 6 May. Walmer permanently established as an inshore lifeboat (ILB) station and a class B Atlantic 21 lifeboat operated from 21 November alongside the D Class lifeboat.

1991

The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum was accorded to Helmsman Duane A Brown in recognition of his high standard of seamanship and boathandling skills, when on 18 July the Atlantic 21 class lifeboat US Navy League, on temporary duty at Walmer, rescued the crew of three from the yacht Josse. The yacht had gone aground on the South East Goodwin Sands in a south westerly Force 6 Strong Breeze and steep seas. Framed letters of Thanks signed by the Chairman of the Institution were presented to crew members John Collins and Shaun East for their valuable support during this service.

Her Majesty The Queen has honoured ex Coxswain/Mechanic Bruce Brown in her Birthday Honours List for services to the Institution; the award being the British Empire Medal.

1992

Extension to the boathouse was constructed in order to accommodate the Atlantic 21 lifeboat with launching rig and the D class lifeboat. This work included the removal of the seaward gable wall, construction of a six metre extension and the rebuilding of the wall. Other facilities provided by the larger boathouse include a souvenir outlet, office and storage areas and improved crew facilities.

The Queen Mother visited the lifeboat station as Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports.

1997

New D class lifeboat D-514 Lord Kitchener placed on service on 22 January.

2003

The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum was accorded to Helmsman Andrew Coe in recognition of his leadership and sound seamanship when the Atlantic class inshore lifeboat saved the crew of two and the yacht Tahi-Tahi from the Goodwin Sands in south easterly Force 7 winds and rough seas during the early hours of 15 December 2002. Despite operating near the limits of its capabilities because of the sea conditions, the lifeboat recovered the yacht and safely towed her to Dover.

2006

Celebration Vellum awarded to commemorate 150 years service as a lifeboat station.

Two new class of lifeboats were placed on service, IB1 D-663 Duggie Rodband on 13 December and the Atlantic 85 B-808 Donald McLauchlan on 14 December. The lifeboat Donald McLaughlan was funded from the generous bequest of Lt Cmdr Arthur Donald McLauchlan MBE.

2009

The boathouse was extended at a total cost of £40,000.