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Happy Birthday RNLI!

Exmouth inshore lifeboat in action (Image : John Thorogood / RNLI)

Charity celebrates 200 years

Today, as the charity celebrates its 200th anniversary, it’s announced that its volunteer lifeboat crews and lifeguards in the south west have saved 16,028 lives over the past two centuries.

Since the charity was founded in 1824, its volunteer crews in Cornwall, Devon, Somerset West Dorset and the Channel Islands have launched the lifeboats 55,912 times, saving 14,967 lives. RNLI lifeguards across the region – who became part of the charity’s lifesaving service in 2001 – have responded to 176,585 incidents, saving 1,061 lives.

In total, across the UK and Ireland, 146,452 lives have been saved by the RNLI – this equates to an average of two lives saved every day for 200 years**.

The RNLI, founded in London in 1824, has a history of saving lives at sea despite facing challenges like tragic disasters, funding issues, and World Wars. The charity has a strong presence in the south west with 33 lifeboat stations and 89 lifeguarded beaches during the summer season.

In the southwest, RNLI lifeguards have experienced significant successes, such as the largest rescue in RNLI history in 1907 saving 456 lives when the liner Suevic ran aground off Cornwall.

Cornwall also saw the first RNLI gallantry medal awarded for a challenging rescue in 2003 to lifeguard Rod MacDonald for saving a bodyboarder in Newquay.

In 2008, Torbay RNLI rescued the 20-person crew of The Ice Prince, a cargo ship in distress 31 miles out in the English Channel. Working in storm force winds with Salcombe RNLI and the Coastguard helicopter, they evacuated the crew due to the ship's risk of capsize.

Despite challenging conditions, all crew members were safely rescued and taken to hospital for recovery. After the rescue, Torbay RNLI crew members were awarded the RNLI Thanks of the Institution Vellum for their bravery.

They also won the Emergency Services category at the GMTV Pride of Britain awards. The RNLI operates seasonal lifeguards on 240 beaches.

They design lifeboats, run water safety programs domestically and internationally. For over 200 years, the charity has relied on volunteers and public donations to sustain its life-saving mission.

The charity is commemorating its bicentenary with events to honor its history and promote its current lifesaving services, aiming to inspire future generations of supporters.

A Service of Thanksgiving will be held at Westminster Abbey on March 4, 2024, attended by representatives from RNLI communities in the UK and Ireland.

** Statistics from RNLI Operational Data from March 4, 1824, to December 31, 2023, show the number of lives saved by the RNLI, indicating the impact of their interventions.

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