It is impossible to praise this book too highly. The author was for many years the voice of the RNLI as PR Director with a wealth of direct knowledge. Since retiring from the RNLI after 28 years service, he has been writing books with an RNLI flavour and making a great success of presenting the heroism of the men and women who serve as employees or volunteers of the first organized marine rescue service.
NAME: Lifeboat Heroes, outstanding RNLI Rescues from three centuries
CLASSIFICATION: Book reviews
AUTHOR: Edward Wake-Walker
BINDING: Soft back
SUBJECT: lifeboats, crews, RNLI, British coasts, storm, tempest
DESCRIPTION: It is impossible to praise this book too highly. The author was for many years the voice of the RNLI as PR Director with a wealth of direct knowledge. Since retiring from the RNLI after 28 years service, he has been writing books with an RNLI flavour and making a great success of presenting the heroism of the men and women who serve as employees or volunteers of the first organized marine rescue service. Now into its third century, the RNLI covers the coasts of the British Isles, including the Irish Republic. From its foundation, it has provided its service to sailors in British coastal waters from lifeboat stations manned by their local communities. From the beginning, families and friends have crewed its lifeboats. Generations of the same families have served in a unique search and rescue service that has inspired and assisted other organizations around the world to provide a similar level of rescue capability. Hopefully, the author will continue to pen new books on the subject. His great challenge must have been in selecting the heroes and their rescues for this book. Over the period since its foundation, RNLI personnel have risked their lives in so many extreme conditions that the selection of just a handful is an almost impossible task. What the author has really done is select a fairly typical cross section of courageous actions that provides an illustration of the work done by RNLI crews in some of the most extreme conditions to be found in any seas. The first example of heroic action is drawn from Douglas, Isle of Man in December 1827. The last example is of Torbay in January 2008. These examples show how the RNLI has adapted to changing circumstances, but the raw courage remains as a fine tradition. Initially, the core of the lifeboat service was in communities. Often, crews were local fishermen who knew their waters intimately. Their lifeboats were pulling craft, with a sail in most cases, launched off open beaches or from harbours and covering a relatively short stretch of coast. In the early days, their incidents were almost entirely commercial vessels, cargo ships, fishing boats and an occasional yacht. Traffic around Britain was heavy with a myriad of small and medium sized vessels with small crews and some larger vessels plying the trade routes of Empire with the British Isles at the hub of the routes. Over the years, lifeboats became more sophisticated and expensive, but local communities recognized the courage of their local lifeboatmen by supporting them with donations. It is relatively recently that the RNLI have employed large fast lifeboats that can serve a greater area. That might have led to a significant reduction of the number of lifeboat stations, but as commercial vessels have declined in numbers, but grown in size, the leisure marine industry has dramatically expanded. As aircraft have increased in numbers, this has added another type of rescue to the list. The RNLI has responded by adding fast RIB and hovercraft to the fleet and the many smaller lifeboat stations have demonstrated their continued importance. As coastal leisure activities have increased, the RNLI has begun to develop a network of lifeguard services, supported when needed by the local lifeboat stations. To add to a growing range of rescue service, inland waters have been added and flood rescue teams established to respond rapidly to inland flooding. All of these services demand the highest levels of professionalism and courage. In terms of launches, the RNLI is responding to many more shouts in fair weather, during daylight hours, but the courage to face massive storms continues to be tested and lifeboat crews are available twenty four hours a day, every day of the year. This book not only recognizes a few of the many incidents where RNLI crews have performed outstandingly, but provides an inspiration to selfless service.