About the archive

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About the archive

Lifeboat magazine, originally published as The Life-boat journal, has been telling the RNLI’s stories since 1852.

The first issues were available for interested members of the public to buy, at a price of 1½p. The journal set out to cover new stations, lifeboat developments, distinguished services, reports from local committees, medal awards, accounts of shipwrecks and correspondence.

In 160+ years, the publication has evolved. These days, the magazine is posted to people who make regular donations to the RNLI. It’s our way of keeping our charity’s supporters up to date on how their generosity helps save lives at sea. And we still cover the things our Institution does best, including rescue stories, local news and technological advances.

The RNLI has been at the heart of coastal communities around the UK and Ireland for generations. From tales of courage and loss at sea to imaginative local initiatives to prevent drowning, we hope you find the archive useful and inspiring.

The RNLI is the charity that saves lives at sea. Find out more about our work, and how you can get involved, at our website.

Frequently asked questions

How do I search for a photograph?

If you search for a keyword in the archive, your results will be displayed on the next page as a series of white rectangular tiles. Click on the PDF icon on the bottom of the relevant tile to open up a PDF of the original magazine spread. If the article had an image with it when originally published, you’ll see it on the PDF.

Images are not available on the text-only versions of articles. We wanted to make the archive available in a cost-effective way for our charity – and adding images to all of these pages for such a large archive would be a manual and costly job.

If you are looking for a particular image, and can’t find it using the method above, please email [email protected].

How do I use the advanced search option?

Under advanced search, you can fill in as many or as few fields as you like.

Under the ‘Journal/magazine’ tab, you can search by year, volume, issue and/or content type. If searching by year, volume or issue, you do not have to fill in both fields. For example, if you put ‘1977’ in the ‘From’ field on the ‘Year’ line, and don’t put anything in the ‘To’ field, you will get results from 1977 to the latest issue.

If you want results from just 1 year, put that year in both the ‘From’ and ‘To’ fields.

It’s also possible to search for specific services using the ‘Rescue’ tab. See below for some tips on how to search by vessel name.

You can search using a combination of the fields under the ‘Journal/magazine’ tab and the ‘Rescue’ tab. Simply navigate between the two tabs, fill in the fields you need, and click ‘Search’ on the bottom right. Clicking ‘Clear all filters’ will clear all fields under both tabs.

How do I search for a vessel that’s needed the RNLI’s help?

The ‘Vessel name’ field gives you an alphabetical dropdown list of vessels that the RNLI has been called out to in services notable enough to warrant a report in the journal.

If you can’t see the vessel in the list, try looking under T for ‘The’. For example, if you can’t find ‘John and Mary’ under J, it might have been recorded as ‘The John and Mary’ under T.

You can also try using the ship prefix (for example SS for steamship, MV for motor vessel), as the vessel might be in the list under S as ‘SS John and Mary’.

Why are there spelling errors in the text-only versions of articles?

Most of the content in the archive was scanned into the database using a process called optical character recognition. It’s an automated process that scans an image of a page and recognises the shapes of letters in order to produce a searchable file.

Due to the condition of some of the pages of our older copies of the Life-boat journal, and differences in the font styles used over the journal’s history, some words have corrupted during the process.

As a charity, we wanted to make the archive available to the public in a cost-effective way. It would be a costly process to manually go through every article to check for these errors.

However, we would like the archive to be as accurate as possible, so if you come across any errors of this type do let us know where they are and we can fix them on a rolling basis.

What if I can’t find what I’m looking for?

The Lifeboat Magazine Archive is just one of the resources managed by the RNLI Heritage Team. If you can’t find a particular piece of information in this archive, it’s worth getting in touch with us on [email protected]. We may be able to help.