RNLI Selsey Lifeboat Station

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4/5

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June, 2016

The ‘Tyne class’ lifeboat at Selsey in Sussex, has now outlived it’s 50 years expectancy, during which time it has swung into action and battled against the elements to assist and rescue all in peril at sea.

At the end of June, I had the opportunity, with a group of people to visit the RNLI Selsey Lifeboat Station where we listened to an informative and interesting talk about the purpose, operation and the future of the RNLI, including a few, amusing incidents and yarns that had taken place. One particular story was an occasion when the muster went off, and the RNLI voluntary crew had to immediately stop what they were doing (as is the case) and rush to the lifeboat. Some crew members at this particular time had been attending a rather classy dinner, dressed in formal dinner jackets etc. So it gave cause to great hilarity, when they turned up at the station in such attire for a rescue launching!

On the particular day of our visit the wind and rain was awful, and, dressed in wet weather clothing, we had to fight our way across the pier to the main offshore boathouse. You could say it was a good sample taster of the type of weather conditions which face the voluntary crew who save lives at sea on their 24 hour search and rescue service.

Currently, the Tyne (named after the River Tyne) is launched from the slipway from the main boathouse at Selsey Bill, standing away from the shore on a piled platform. It is about to replaced by a new 25 knot (29 mph) Shannon-class lifeboat from a new on shore boathouse.

The station, has about an average call out of about once a week now, but it had a really busy time during the Second World War. Many trips were made to rescue pilots from fallen aeroplanes. In July 1940 a Squadron leader John Peel was rescued. He was the commanding officer of 145 Squadron based at nearby Tangmere. He was forced to ditch his plane (a Hurricane), into the sea off Selsey Bill after sustaining damage in a fight with German bombers. Wearing only a Mae West, Peel was pulled from the waters by the then, Canadian Pacific lifeboat, only minutes after ditching. The Canadian Pacific remained on station until 1969 where she had been on 286 services and rescued 157 lives.

Boards containing names and dates, hang on the inside wall of the boathouse depicting rescues through the years.

We were able climb on board the Tyne and see close up. The Tyne’s features include a low-profile wheelhouse and a separate cabin behind the upper steering position. It is self-righting and aided by twin automatically inflating bags on the aft cabin roof. The mast and aerials are able to be lowered when working with helicopters. Her propellers and rudders lie in partial tunnels set into the hull, along with the main and two long bilge keels.
The Tyne also carries an X boat, (small unpowered and manually launched inflatable daughter boat), able to access areas where the lifeboat cannot reach.
The first aid equipment includes stretchers, oxygen and Entonox (an effective analgesic agent) . A portable salvage pump is also carried.

This was a great opportunity to learn more about heroic volunteers who put their lives on the line to save others. To stop, think, and imagine situations like being woken in the early hours of a freezing morning and having to get out of a snug bed to head out to sea with pounding waves rising and falling around you. In complete darkness and gale storm winds the boat is tossed around as it heads towards it’s rescue mission.

Such gallantry competing against the wild, stormy elements – and to so many who have to thank these lifeboats and crews in their hours of need.

Caroline Hutchings

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