The first Monday in March was a proud milestone for the RNLI, with national celebrations marking the 200th anniversary of the organisation. Its two centuries of dedicated lifesaving operations have resulted in more than 144,000 lives being saved.

At the stroke of 11:30am on March 4, the same time that the RNLI founding papers were signed in 1824, representatives from across the charity gathered at Westminster Abbey for a Service of Thanksgiving. Guests at the service included volunteers and staff from all areas of the RNLI, from lifeboat stations, lifeguards, water safety, and fundraising teams, to donors, partners, and a  number of VIPs and dignitaries.

Originally established as the National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck, the RNLI has stood by that early promise to save everyone it can.

Here on the Island there are three stations; Bembridge, Cowes and Yarmouth,as well as the Inshore Lifeboat Centre at East Cowes where all the inflatable boats are built and refitted. The oldest lifeboat station was Brook, established in 1860 with Bembridge following only seven years later.

Mark Southwell, Lifeboat Operations Manager at Cowes RNLI Lifeboat Station, says  “Today there are hundreds of Islanders who crew or support these lifeboats, and are happy to freely give their time to a very honourable cause, helping to fundraise or crew the stations, and responding to the pager no matter when it goes off”.

Representatives from all the RNLI stations and branches attended a service at historic Brook Church on Sunday 3rd March. In the presence of HM Lord Lieutenant who is also President of the RNLI Isle of Wight Lifeboat Board. Also attending were descendants of the Brook crew and we remembered crew life lost and gallantry awards made.

Former Bembridge coxswain, Martin Woodward, MBE reminded us there have also been RNLI lifeboats at Atherfield, Brighstone, Totland, Ryde and Shanklin in the last two hundred years. Retired Yarmouth coxswain, Dave Kennett, MBE recounted his service which earned him both silver and bronze medals for gallantry as well as an appearance on ‘This is your Life’!