WHEN the Life-boat Service was founded, at a meeting in the City of London, in 1824, King George IV became its Patron, and five of the royal dukes its vice-patrons—York, Clarence, Sussex, Cambridge and Gloucester.
So the Service began at once to justify the belief of its founder, Sir William Hillary, that it was "a cause which extends from the palace to the cottage . . . and which addresses itself with equal force to all the best feelings of every class in the state." When the Duke of Clarence suc- ceeded George IV, in 1830, as William IV, he, in turn, became the Institu- tion's Patron, but the head of George IV remained on its medals for gallantry through the seven years of his reign and through the first twenty-five years of Queen Victoria's. It was not until 1862 that it was replaced by the head of the Queen.
Queen Victoria and the Prince Consort In the first report of the Institution are the names only of men. Even among the subscribers are not more than a dozen names of women. Men founded the Institution. They set it on its way. Not until it was thirteen years old does a woman's name appear, when, on her accession to the throne in 1837, Queen Victoria became Patron.
The next year another famous woman's name appears, the first woman to win the Institution's medal for gallantry—Grace Darling.
The Queen was married in 1840.
Ten years later her husband, the Prince Conscrt, became a Vice-Patron.
That was in 1850, the year in which he was preparing the Great Exhibition of 1851. It was, too, the year before Rear-Admiral the Duke of Northum- berland became President of the Institution, and—in the word used at the time—the Life-boat Service was "renovated". When the Prince Con- sort died, in 1861, the Institution acknowledged its debt in that work of renovation, and the help which he had given it as "a liberal annual subscriber." In the early days of the Life-boat Service not only our own Royal Family but foreign royalties gave it their names and their help. Besides the five royal dukes, who were the original vice-patrons, there was a sixth, Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, Queen Vic- toria's uncle. As King Leopold of the Belgians he continued to be a vice- patron. Among the foreign sub- scribers to the Institution were the Emperor of Austria and the Emperor of the French. Among those who made gifts to it were the King of Prussia and the Queen of Rumania.
Queen Victoria herself gave two boats. The estate of Samuel Fletcher of Manchester, who had died without making a will, came to the Queen in right of the Duchy of Lancaster. Part of it was given to the Institution to build a life-boat, the Samuel Fletcher of Manchester. She was stationed at Blackpool. A second Samuel Fletcher replaced her in 1896, and between them the two boats served at Black- pool for forty-four years.
Two years after the gift of the Samuel Fletcher, in the year of the Queen's Golden Jubilee, the Institu- tion, with the Queen's consent, decided to build, and to maintain in perpetuity, a life-boat named after her. The first Queen Victoria was stationed at Bern- bridge, and named by the Queen's daughter-in-law, the Duchess of Edin- burgh. The second was at Porthou- stock. The. third is stationed today at Guernsey. The three boats between them have rescued 227 lives.
When the Queen died in 1901, she had been the Patron of the Service for the sixty-three years of her reign.
She had been "one of its largest annual subscribers," and to the end of her reign the Institution's medals for * This account of all that the Royal Family has done for the Life-boat Service appears also in the Coronation Number of the Story of the Life-boat with 32 pages of pictures.gallantry had born the head of the Queen, which had first been struck for them in 1862.
King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra It was King Edward VII, as the young Prince of Wales, who began the more intimate and active association of the Royal Family with the Life-boat Service, which has continued through three generations to the reign of Eliza- beth II. In 1863, at the age of twenty- two, he became vice-patron in succes- sion to his father. The original vice- patrons—the royal dukes and the King of the Belgians—were now dead.
The Queen was Patron, the Prince of Wales the only vice-patron. So it was for the next twenty years.
Seven years before he became vice- patron, one of the Padstow life-boats had been named after him, Albert Edward. Then, in 1864, the Berwick- on-Tweed life-boat was named Albert Victor after his first child, the Duke of Clarence, born in that year. For seventy-three years there was an Albert Edward in the fleet, and five life-boats bore the name. The first two were at Padstow from 1856 to 1883, the second being a gift from the City of Bristol. Then, while the second was still in service, another Albert Edward, a gift from the Free- masons of England, in gratitude for the Prince's safe return from his Indian tour, was stationed at Clacton-on-Sea in 1878. She was succeeded there by two more, and the third was not with- drawn from service until 1929. In those seventy-three years the five Albert Edwards rescued exactly 700 lives.
Edward VII, as Prince of Wales, was the first member of the Royal Family to preside at the Institution's annual meeting. This was in 1867. He pre- sided again in 1884 and yet again in 1893. At that last meeting, in reply to a vote of thanks to him, he said : "Be assured I always have taken, and always shall take, the very live- liest interest in the success of this great and most important Institution. I do not consider that in this world there can be a finer service than this one in which men are called upon at all hours of the day and night to give their services, frequently at imminent risk to their lives, to save their fellow crea- tures from the frightful death of drowning. This is, to my mind, one of the noblest and finest services to which a human being can belong." He rpoke a ain, in 1899, at a dinner on bel.alf of the London Life-boat Saturday Fund, of which his son, the Duke of York (later George V) was president. At that dinner he made four speeches, in proposing the health of the Queen, in replying to the toast of other membsrs of the Royal Family, in proposing the toast of the Army and Navy, and then, in a long speech, in proposing the toast of the London Life-boat Saturday Fund.
The Princess of Wales became a vice- patron in 1883. In 1913 she became a Patron. She remained a Patron until her death in 1925. She had then been associated with the Service for forty- two years. For an even longer time — for fifty-two years — life-boats named Alexandra were on the coast.
There were three of them, built out of the same gift from the Freemasons of England, which had built the three Albert Edwards at Clacton-on-Sea.
They were stationed at Hope Cove, Devon, from 1878 to 1930 and they rescued sixty-four lives.
Both the Prince and the Princess showed their interest in the Service in very personal ways. They received at Marlborough House Robert Egerton of Clacton-on-Sea, coxswain of the life-boat Albert Edward, and Rowland Hughes, coxswain at Moelfre, Anglesey, who was retiring that year, 1884, at the age of eighty-two. The Princess presented to them medals awarded by the Institution. In 1892, when the first steam life-boat, the Duke of Northumberland, was at Cowes, on her way from Harwich to Holyhead, the Prince of Wales went for a trip in her.
Next day the German Emperor, Wilhelm II, also went a trip in her.
In 1899 the Prince became the first royal President of the Service, and two years later, on the death of Queen Victoria, he succeeded her as Patron.
As King and Patron, Edward VII continued his personal interest in the Service, and a year after his succession he received at Sandringham James Haylett, of Caister. The new Prince of Wales (George V), who had justbecome the Institution's President, and the new Princess of Wales (Queen Mary) were also present. It was two months after the disaster at Caister, when the life-boat, bv night, was driven ashore and capsized in the surf, pinning her crew beneath her. Eight of them were drowned. Three were rescued by James Haylett, then aged seventy-eight, and one of his grand- sons, who went into the surf at the risk of their lives. The Institution awarded James Haylett its gold medal for gallantry, and the King presented it. To the King's delight James Haylett "earnestly expressed the hope that His Majesty would live to be a hundred years old and then die and go to heaven." Three months later came King Edward's last recorded meeting with the Life-boat Service. He was visit- ing the Isles of Scilly, and went out in a steam launch with Colonel T. A.
Dorrien Smith, the president of the Institution's Scillies branch, and father of Major A. A. Dorrien Smith, D.S.O., who is now the president. Colonel Dorrien Smith told him of a recent good service by the life-boat. Just afterwards a boat passed them and he pointed it out as the boat of the cox- swain, Eustace Thomas, with the man himself on board. They could not stop and speak, but all that the King could do he did. He raised his cap and bowed to the coxswain.
When King Edward died in 1910 he had been associated with the Service for forty-seven of his sixty-eight years.
Admiral of the Fleet the Duke of Edinburgh Queen Victoria's second son, Prince Albert, the Duke of Edinburgh, who went into the Navy and became an admiral of the fleet before succeeding to the dukedom of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, also took a personal interest in the Service.
As a captain in the Navy, he pre- sided at the Institution's annual meet- ing of 1872, and from 1879 until 1882, as Admiral Superintendent of Naval Reserves, he was an ex-officio member of the committee of management. In 1881 he presented at Ramsgate the gold medal awarded to Coxswain Charles Fish, and the silver medals awarded to the eleven members of his crew, for the most famous life-boat service of the nineteenth century, the service to the barque Indian Chief.
In the same year the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh became the only two members of the Royal Family to be rescued by a life-boat. They had gone in H.M.S. Lively to Sidmouth and put off from her in a pinnace.
There was an increasing swell; the pinnace nearly capsized; and the life- boat, which was waiting to be in- spected, went out and brought them ashore.
Their interest in the Life-boat Service had already been recognised when they were married. The Duch- ess was the only daughter of the Emperor of Russia. She was Patron- ess of the Russian Association for the Rescue of Shipwrecked Crews, and the wedding gift of the British residents in St. Petersburg was two life-boats built in England, and named Alfred and Marie, to be stationed on the coast of Russia.
The Duke became a vice-patron of the Institution in 1883, and as Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha spoke at a meeting in the City of London in 1894, which led to the founding of the City of London Branch of the Institution.
Other Children of Queen Victoria The Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll, was first associated with the Service when she attended the naming ceremony of the Atherfield, Isle of Wight, life-boat in 1891. Four years later she was in Manchester receiving purses from the Manchester and Sal- ford ladies of the Life-boat Saturday Fund. In 1923 she became Patron of the newly-formed Ladies' Life-boat Guild, and speaking that year at a conference of life-boat workers she said: " It is a great pleasure and dis- tinction to be the Patron of the Ladies' Life-boat Guild. ... No Institution can go nearer to the hearts of our women with more penetrating interest, love and sympathy." In the same year, and the next year, she visited flag day depots in Kensington, and in the year after was at the meeting in London of the general council of the guild where, with the Prince of Wales, she personally welcomed the150 members. She was at the matinee at the Victoria Palace, London, with Queen Mary, in 1922, to see the Citroen film of the crossing of the Sahara Desert; at the life-boat variety matinee at the Hippodrome, London, in 1930, with the King, Queen and Prince of Wales, and at the annual meeting of the Institution the follow- ing year. She remained the Patron of the Guild until her death in 1939.
Field-Marshal the Duke of Con- naught spoke at the annual meeting of the Institution in 1917, and made personal appeals for the Service to all the corps, including the Grenadier Guards, of which he was colonel-in- chief.
The Princess Beatrice, Queen Vic- toria's youngest child, who had first been associated with the Service when she opened a life-boat fete in York in 1905, became Patron of the Isle of Wight branch in 1920, and remained Patron until her death in 1944.
The Princess Marie Louise, daughter of Queen Victoria's daughter Princess Helena and of Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein, has for the past five years taken part in the work of the Central London branch, as president of its bridge party committee, and has spoken at the bridge parties and the annual conference of the life- boat workers in Greater London.
George V and Queen Mary Like his uncle, the Duke of Edin- burgh, George V was trained for and served in the Navy. As Lieutenant Prince George of Wales, R.N., he became a vice-patron of the Institu- tion in 1891, and three years later as Captain the Duke of Cornwall and York, R.N., he joined its committee of management and served as a member until 1901. In 1895 he became president of the Life-boat Saturday Fund, and the next year presided at the annual meeting of the Institution. Speaking in the name of the Navy and the merchant service, he said that the men of both had the greatest admiration for the life-boat crews.
In 1902, as Prince of Wales, he became the Institution's President.
In the same year, when visiting York- shire, he met John Owston, the cox- swain of the Scarborough life-boat, and gave him two silver-mounted briar pipes with the royal monogram on them. In 1908 he received at Marl- borough House Coxswain John Owen of Holyhead, and presented to him the Institution's gold medal for gallantry.
Queen Mary, as Duchess of Cornwall and York, became president of the Ladies' Auxiliary of the Life-boat Saturday Fund in 1895. In 1902, as Princess of Wales, she became a vice patron of the Institution, and in 1903 she received purses for the Life-boat Service at Marlborough House from 125 ladies from all parts of the country.
The Prince and Princess both attended a life-boat matinee at the Alhambra in 1902, and in 1909, when visiting the Duchy of Cornwall, saw a launch of the Newquay life-boat and went aboard her.
As King and Queen they continued to show their interest in the Service.
The King became its Patron on his accession to the throne, and the Queen a year later. For the first time the Institution had two Patrons. In 1913 the King went afloat at Cowcs in a motor life-boat just about to sail for Beaumaris. During the war of 1914- 18 he sent two special messages to the Service, in 1915 and 1917, thanking its men for their gallantry and for carry- ing on "the splendid tradition of an Institution with which the King is proud to have been for so many years so closely identified." WThen the Service ended its first 100 years in 1924, he received at Bucking- ham Palace seven of the eight living holders of the gold medal and presented each of them with the Empire Gallan- try Medal, and he sent a message to the delegates at the first International Life-boat Conference, then being held in London, in which he said: "I rejoice that the Prince of Wales succeeded me in the position of President of a society of which I am proud to be Patron." The King and Queen showed their interest in other ways. In 1922 Queen Mary attended a matinee in aid of the Service at the Victoria Palace in London, to see the film of the Citroen expedition of tracked motor vehicles, which had crossed the Sahara Desert,and a programme of French artists; and in 1930, the King and Queen, as well as the Prince of Wales and Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll, were at the life-boat variety matinee at the Hippodrome in London.
For forty-six of his seventy-one years, King George was personally associated with the work of the Service.
Queen Mary was associated with it for fifty-seven of her eighty-five years, only six years fewer than Queen Victoria.
Edward VIII, as Prince of Wales It was at the same station of New- quay, in the Royal Duchy of Cornwall, where King George and Queen Mary saw a launch of the life-boat (down the steepest slipway on the coast) that their sons first met the Service.
Prince Edward and Prince Albert (Edward VIII, now Duke of Windsor, and George VI) first met it in 1911, when they were cadets at the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth, and Prince Henry (the Duke of Gloucester) and Prince George (the Duke of Kent) two years later.
Eight years after his first sight of a life-boat in action—as soon as the war of 1914 to 1918 had ended—Prince Edward, who was now the Prince of Wales, became the Institution's Presi- dent. He lost no time in showing his interest in the Life-boat Service, and that interest continued, and grew, during the next seventeen years.
In 1921 he presided for the first time at the annual meeting. There he met the whole of the crew from Fishguard, in South Wales, and presented the gold medal won by Coxswain John Howells, and silver and bronze medals won by the other members of the crew, for the rescue, in extreme danger, of the crew of the Dutch motor schooner Hermina. There, too, he announced that a Ladies' Life-boat Guild had been formed to unite all women working for the Life-boat Service. The appeal which he then made for the Service was taken up at once by the Press.
The Times said: "To the public, to the Army, to the great cities, to the shipping community and to the women of the nation the Prince made a special appeal for willing help. In the name of 'the glory and tragedy' of the Life-boat Service it cannot be that he will appeal in vain." That was the first of five annual meetings at which he presided. The other four were in 1924 (the centenary year), 1928, 1931 and 1934. He spoke in other places, at a meeting of the general council of the Ladies' Life- boat Guild in London in 1925, where the 150 members of the council were presented to him, and at a Scottish Life-boat Assembly in Edinburgh, in 1929, where he met the most distin- guished of the Scottish coxswains.
At the annual meeting in 1928 he said: "Since my recent appointment to that high position as Master of the Merchant Navy and of the Fishing Fleets, I am even prouder than before to be in the chair, because this title gives me yet another link with this great Institution, and with its crews, which are the very pick of that splen- did body of men, our fishermen." Then he went on to appeal to the shipping companies and suggested that "one or two" might give a life- boat. "What prouder thing," he said, "could a great Shipping Line have than its name on one of our life-boats ?" WThen he spoke next year at the Scottish Life-boat Assembly he was able to say how promptly that appeal had been answered, and to thank the Peninsular and Oriental Group of Companies for the life-boat Princess Mary, which last year came to the end of her service at Padstow, the Oceanic Steam Navigation Com- pany for the life-boat White Star, now serving at Fishguard, the Cunard Company for the life-boat Cunard, now serving in the Scillies, the Cana- dian Pacific Company for the life-boat Canadian Pacific, now serving at Selsey, and the Royal Mail and the Union Castle Companies for the life- boat Lady Kylsant, now serving at Wicklow. In the same speech at Edinburgh, the Prince appealed to the fishing companies "whose ships are more frequently assisted by the life- boats than any other, and whose crews are made up of the same fine stamp of men as the life-boat crews." In 1924, the centenary year of the Institution, the Prince was particu- larly active. The year before it, the last year of the first century of theService, he allowed all life-boat flag days to be called Prince of Wales Day, and he made a tour of the depots when the day was held in London. He spoke at the meeting held in the Mansion House on the Institution's 100th birthday, March 4th, 1924, with the Lord Mayor presiding. He presided and spoke at the centenary dinner, where the other speakers were the Prime Minister (Mr. Ramsay Mac- donald), Mr. Winston Churchill, the Spanish Ambassador, the Minister for the Netherlands and Major H. E.
Burton, one of the Institution's gold medallists. He issued a special centenary appeal to the country in which he said: "There is not a country with a sea- board whose vessels and seafarers have not, at some time during the past century, been rescued from shipwreck by the British Life-boat Service. . . .
There is nothing in our long and splendid history as a seafaring race of which we are more proud." He contributed also an introduction to Britain's Life-boats, The Story of a Century of Heroic Service, by Major A. J. Dawson: "It is the story of a great national duty, voluntarily undertaken by the British people themselves, and carried out by them without financial assis- tance from the State. The first mari- time nation in the world has made it a point of honour that the Service which embodies the Brotherhood of the Sea should be a Service supplied and maintained by the people itself." When the centenary year ended he sent an autographed letter of thanks to the honorary workers, officers and staff of the Service.
Not only the Prince of Wales but other members of the Royal Family took part in those celebrations. The King, as already mentioned, decorated the Institution's gold medallists, and sent a message to the International Life-boat Conference. The Duke and Duchess of York made a tour of the depots on life-boat flag day in London, and the Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll, of the depots in Kensington. The Duke of Gloucester opened the Life-boat Centenary Fair in Birmingham.
In 1928 the Prince of Wales again toured the depots on London life-boat flag day, and in 1935, the year of George V's silver jubilee as King, he again allowed the life-boat days throughout the country to be called Prince of Wales Day.
He contributed an introduction to a second life-boat book in 1932, Launch, by Major-General Lord Mottistone, coxswain of the life-boat at Brooke, Isle of Wight. There he said: "I recommend this book to all. I recom- mend it specially to those who are inclined to lose confidence in our future. It will put courage into them." In 1928 a second Citroen film, The Black Journey, was shown in London.
This time it was of a journey the length of Africa from Algiers to the Cape. It was the Prince of Wales who suggested that, like the first, it should be shown for the Life-boat Service.
He came to it himself, brought the Duke and Duchess of York, and Prince Arthur of Connaught, and went on the stage with M. Citroen to speak.
Six years later a third Citroen film, An Eastern Odyssey, showed the cars travelling 7,000 miles across Asia.
Again it was given in aid of the Life- boat Service and again the Prince of Wales was present.
In 1929 the Prince had attended the life-boat matinee in Bradford which, for many years, was given annually by Mr. Francis Laidler. In 1930 he was the host for the Service to King George and Queen Mary when they attended the life-boat matinee at the Hippodrome. Two years later he went to a life-boat ball at Liverpool.
He named life-boats at Yarmouth, Isle of Wight, Dover and Torbay. He visited the station at Eastbourne and met the crew. He visited the station at Hastings where he went aboard the life-boat, and the fishermen made him a member of their Winkle Club and presented him with a gold winkle.
Two life-boats were named after him, the Prince David, stationed at Barry Dock in 1922, and the Edward Prince of Wales, stationed at The Mumbles in 1924.
He was always ready to meet men and women of the Service. After the annual meeting in 1928 he went fromthe hall to the Westminster Hospital next door to talk to a crippled woman, who, though bedridden, had for years worked for the Service and won its gold badge. After the annual meeting in 1934 he met and talked to Mrs.
Robert Patton of Runswick. She had just received from him the gold medal awarded to her husband who had deliberately risked, and lost, his life, in rescuing a cripple as he hung help- less from a wreck.
The Prince's last life-boat speech was at the annual meeting in 1934, the year before he came to the throne.
At the end of that speech he said: ''As I pin the decorations on the coats of these life-boatmen . . . we want them to know what we think of them, which is that their service and self-sacrifice . . . are an example of all that is noblest and best in the British race." George VI and Queen Elizabeth In 1924. the centenary year of the Institution. George VI and Queen Elizabeth, as Duke and Duchess of York, toured the depots on life-boat day in London. Two years later the Duke and Duchess went to Montrose where the Duchess, in her own county of Angus, named the life-boat. In 1928 they went with the Prince of Wales to the film. The Black Journey, and in the same year—the year of George Y's serious illness—the Duke took the place of the King and Queen at a life-boat matinee of drama, opera and ballet at the Lyceum, where the first performance was given, with a very distinguished cast, of Louis X.
Parker's life-boat play which he wrote for, and gave to the Institution, Their Business in Great Waters. In 1931 the Duchess again made a tour of depots on the life-boat flag day in London, and the next year she named the new life-boat at another statioii in the county of Angus, Arbroath.
When Edward VIII succeeded to the throne in 1936 the Duke became the Institution's President, and when, in the same year, he succeeded to the throne himself, he and the Queen became Patrons. In 1934 the life- boat at the Lizard, the gift of King George's Fund for Sailors, was named after him, Duke of York.
The Princess Royal and the Duke of Gloucester The Princess Royal (Mary, Countess of Harewood), has, like her grand- father, Edward VII. and her brother, Edward VIII, had two life-boats named after her, the Princess Mary, gift of the Peninsular and Oriental Shipping Companies stationed at Pad- stow in 1929, and the Princess Royal, gift of the Civil Service Life-boat Fund, stationed at Hartlepool in 1939.
She herself has named four-life-boats, two on the Yorkshire coast, at Scar- borough and Bridlington, in 1931; then her own life-boat, the Princess Royal, at Hartlepool on the coast of Durham in 1941; and a third York- shire life-boat at Redcar in 1951, the City of Leeds. This boat had been built out of a special fund raised in Leeds, of which the Earl of Harewood was the patron.
The Duke of Gloucester opened the life-boat centenary fancy fair in Bir- mingham in 1925. The next year, following the example of the Prince of Wales in 1923, and the Duke and Duchess of York in 1924, he took part in the life-boat flag day in London, and in 1930 he named the Padstow life-boat Princess Manj. He said: "It is a happy coincidence that this month my family are nearly all closely linked with the Life-boat Service. The other day my eldest brother named the Dover life-boat after Sir William Hillary, the founder of the Institution.
Today I am naming the Padstow boat after my sister. On Friday next my youngest brother is naming his fourth and fifth life-boats at Walton-on-the- Naze and Clacton-on-Sea." The Duke of Kent The Duke of Kent became the Insti- tution's fifth royal President when George VI ascended the throne. That was in 1937. He had already taken an active part in the work of the Service for the past nine years. In 1928, as Prince George, he went to the Orkneys, "the first member of my family," as he said, "for many years who has performed a public function in these remote islands." There he named the new life-boats at Stromness and Longhope, and presented theScottish challenge shield in the life- boat essay competition for elementary schools which, that year, had been won by an Orkney school: and there he made the first of his many life- boat speeches.
"As you know, all the other mem- bers of my family, following the example of His Majesty the King, have associated themselves personally with the great national undertaking which is carried out by the Royal National Life-boat Institution, and I am delighted to take this, my first opportunity, of sharing in a life-boat ceremony." Those were the first two of a suc- cession of naming ceremonies in which he took part on many parts of the coast, at Southend-on-Sea, in 1929, Walton-on-the-Naze and Clacton-on- Sea in 1930, Newhaven in 1931, Aide- burgh in 1932, Shoreham Harbour in 1933, Weston-super-Mare in 1935 and Blackpool in 1937.
At the annual meeting in 1936 he had spoken and presented the awards in place of the Prince of Wales, who had just become King. As President he presided at the meetings in 1937, 1938 and 1939. At those four meet- ings he presented medals for gallantry to eighty-four life-boatmen and then, when the meetings were over, met and talked with them, and was photo- graphed with them. Not even his elder brother, in his busy seventeen years as President, had met so many of the men, or visited so many life-boat stations.
The 1939 meeting was the Duke's last. He had just been appointed Governor General of Australia. It was a meeting, as he said in the first sentence of his speech, held "under the shadow of two disasters" at St.
Ives, in Cornwall, and at Cullercoats, in Northumberland, where the boats had capsized with heavy loss of life.
The year before had been a year of special gallantry. As the Duke said, "It is hard for us sitting in this hall to realise how much lies behind that simple statement '673 lives rescued.' But presently we shall see some of the life-boatmen themselves. There are over forty with us this afternoon, the largest number that has ever come to this meeting. They have come from all parts of our coast, from England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. They are all men who have been given special awards for outstanding services.
There will be several among them who have been here before, and I should specially like to welcome Cox- swain William Mogridge of Torbay.
Twice already I have presented medals to him, and he is here today to receive yet a third award for gallantry." At the end of his speech he said good-bye: "For four years I have presided at these meetings. In a few months I shall be going to other duties overseas ... I shall take with me to Australia very happy memories of these meetings, and of the gallant men that I have met in this hall. I shall look forward to presiding here again when I return. Meanwhile, you may all be sure that while I am away my warm interest and best wishes will al- ways be with the Life-boat Service in its work round the shores of this country." Those were his last publicly spoken words to the Service, spoken to an audience of over 2,500 people. That was at the end of April. Four months later, war was declared and his journey to Australia was cancelled.
There was work for him at home.
He could not attend the annual meetings in uie next three years, but he sent messages to each of them, and he found time in other ways still to help the Service. In November, 1941, he was in Northern Ireland and pre- sented a bronze medal and a bar won by Coxswain Patrick Murphy, of New- castle, Co. Down. Coxswain Murphv had won them both in twelve days.
Within a year of winning the bar he had won the gold medal for an act of the greatest daring.
Then, in July, 1942, the Duke pre- sented the bronze medal won by the coxswain of the Plymouth life-boat for rescuing an Australian flying boat as it was being carried on to the rocks.
This was his last public act for the life-boats. Six weeks later he was killed on active service when his aero- plarie crashed by night in the Scottish mountains on its way to Iceland.
The Duchess of Kent Just three months after the Duke's death, the Duchess of Kent acceptedthe Institution's invitation to succeed him as President. She wanted, as soon as it could be arranged, to meet as many as possible of the men and women of the Service. It could not be done at a public meeting. No public meeting could be called to meet her, since in the war the engagements of the Royal Family were kept secret.
Instead a private tea party was held in London at which she met the Committee of Management, the Central London women's committee, the committee of the City of London branch, honorary life-governors of the Institution and the principal officials.
There she made her first life-boat speech: "I look forward after the war to meeting the crews of the boats from many parts of the country, and to thanking them for their courageous deeds of mercy in these critical years." As soon as the war ended that promise was fulfilled, but before it ended she attended a life-boat fete in Birmingham, and just after it ended she visited Cromer, where she met Coxswain Henry Blogg and his crew, and Sheringham where she met Coxswain James Dumble and his crew, and saw the life-boat launched.
In October of the same year she attended her first annual meeting. It was the first full meeting to be held since the Duke's last in 1939. For though a public meeting was held in 1940, no life-boatmen could come from the coast to receive their medals, and during the next four years the meetings were held solely to receive and pass the report and accounts.
At this memorable first meeting the Duchess presented the eight gold medals awarded during the war for conspicuous gallantry, to Robert Cross, of the Humber, who had won it twice, Henry Blogg, of Cromer, William Bennison, of Hartlepool, John McLean, of Peterhead, William Gammon of The Mumbles, Patrick Murphy, of New- castle, Co. Down (who had received his bronze medal and clasp from the Duke of Kent three years before) and John Boyle, of Arranmore. When she had presented them she said: "The dangers which the very gallant men of our Service cheerfully accept in peace time were increased a thou- sand times during the hardest years of the war, and your record is unsur- passed in the 121 years since the Institution was founded. Men of all ages formed the boats' crews, and no praise can be too high for those who, although they had reached the retiring age when war broke out, stayed on through the last six years and together with the younger men showed not only great courage, but extraordinary physical endurance. It is with real pride that I have just presented the Gold Medals to the seven men of the life-boat crews who, as you have heard, come from all parts of the British Isles, England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Eire. They will, I feel sure, accept these medals as a tribute not only to themselves, but also to their comrades who shared the dangers with them. The Institution has awarded 204 medals to life-boatmen during the war and we honour each one of them and the other members of the crews, and thank them for their wonderful, self-sacrificing work for humanity." Two of the speakers who followed the Duchess at this memorable meet- ing had carried on their life-boat work under German occupation. One was Commander H. T. de Booy, secretary and chief inspector of the Royal Xorth and South Holland Life-boat Society.
The other was Mr. L. P. Stevens, honorary secretary of the Institution's life-boat station at St. Helier, Jersey, who was himself to win a medal for gallantry four years later.
In 1946 the Duchess visited the life-boat station at Weston-super- Mare. In the same year she sent a message to the annual meeting. Next year she was to have presented the awards at the meeting, among them certificates to the widows of the men of The Mumbles who, in the April of that year had lost their lives when the life-boat capsized in a hurricane.
Illness prevented her, but her speech was read. " With a heavy and under- standing heart, I pray that the families of these men may be comforted by the world-wide tributes to them . . .
We shall not forget them or their relatives." And next year, when she was in Swansea for the Festival of Music, she met the widows.In that same year, 1948, the Duchess named her first life-boats at Bridling- ton and Tynemouth; in 1951 the life- boats at New Brighton and Margate; and in 1952 the life-boats at Plymouth and Padstow. She paid other visits to life-boat stations. In 1947 she saw the Portrush life-boat and her crew in Northern Ireland. She went to Ramsgate in 1948, where she met present and past members of the crew, among them Coxswain Howard Prim- rose Knight, who had won the Distin- guished Service Medal when he took the Ramsgate life-boat to Dunkirk in 1940 to help in bringing off the British Army. She went to Penlee in 1950; to Walmer, Aberystwyth and Bar- mouth in 1951.
In 1949 and in 1951 she attended the annual life-boat dinner and dance organised by the Central London women's committee, and in 1949 she visited the Institution's depot at Boreham Wood. There she saw all the departments at work, from the rigging loft and machine shop to the despatch department and canteen, and was presented with a bell rope made in the rigging loft and a pair of brass candlesticks made in the machine shop.
In each year from 1948 Her Royal Highness has attended the annual meeting, and in her six meetings she has met life-boatmen (some of them more than once) from twenty-seven different stations in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Eire, the Orkneys and the Channel Islands. It is net surprising that at the meeting in 1948, she said: "Only those who are familiar with the cheerfulness, increas- ing vigilance and undauntable courage of the life-boat crews can measure the debt which we owe to every one of them. I am indeed proud to be associated with a Service whose name is rightly famous throughout the world." Nor that she should have said, a year later: "The bravery of the Service seems inexhaustible." Queen Elizabeth II, and the Sixth Generation When Queen Elizabeth II, as Prin- cess Elizabeth, was married in 1947, she gave the Institution £180. It was the balance of her wedding present from Kimberley, and it came "with her good wishes and those of the people of Kimberley." It was a gift most appropriately chosen, for during the war the people of Southern Africa had spontaneously raised £30,000 for the Life-boat Service to provide three life-boats bearing Southern African names. Next year the Princess sent another cheque, this time from the royal wedding presents exhibition fund. Two other gifts came from the money raised by the exhibition of the Princess's wedding dress. The Lord Provost of Edinburgh gave the whole of the proceeds of the Edin- burgh exhibition, £5,511. The Lord Mayor of Cardiff gave £1,000 from the proceeds of the Cardiff exhibition.
In June, 1949, the Princess Eliza- beth visited the Channel Islands.
There the crew of the life-boat at St.
Hclier, Jersey, were presented to her.
Three months later they carried out the most gallant rescue since the war ended in 1945. Coxswain Thomas King won the gold medal; all his crew won bronze medals.
On that visit to Jersey the Princess Elizabeth was the first of the sixth roval generation since George IV became Patron in 1824 to meet the Life-boat Service. When she suc- ceeded her father on the throne, she succeeded him also as the Institution's Patron. Last year, 1952, another of the sixth generation, the Princess Alexandra of Kent, came to the Insti- tution's annual meeting and saw her mother present the medals for gallan- try. The Duchess had chosen it to be her first public meeting. In memory of it the Institution presented her with a silver life-boat.
"It is a cause which extends from the palace to the cottage." What the cottages, and the little homes, of England, Scotland, Ireland and W'ales have given, and are giving, to the Life-boat Service is written in each year's records of the life-boat crews themselves. It is written also in the annual accounts of the thou- sands of pounds given in the street and at the house door, in answer to the Institution's appeals.
This story is the brief record of what the royal palaces have given to the Service through 129 years..