The Early Motor Lifeboats

The 32 ft. Rosabella was the first of a new class of lighter lifeboat. She was designed for use on a carriage, and powered by two 12 h.p. petrol engines. She was launched 18 times during World War Two, involving many long searches in terrible weather conditions, contributing no doubt to the many requests for the frequent replacement of the rum ration. (This continued the tradition established by the crew of the previous lifeboat, whose Hon. Sec. once reported that "the rum was naturally necessarily consumed.") ln many respects the War must have been a frustrating period for the Ilfracombe crew because there were 11 launches to aircraft in distress - all with no result; in several cases the airmen were rescued by neighbouring Lifeboats or other vessels. The wartime blackout caused launching problems, for one Hon. Sec. in particular, who walked into a lamp-post and was seriously stunned!

At the beginning of the War a caterpillar tractor was supplied, thus cutting the shore party required for launching and recovery from over 50 men to 12. By the time of her transfer to the Holland Life-Saving Society, the Rosabella had saved 12 lives.

The next lifeboat was of the Liverpool type. She was transferred to the Ilfracombe station from Newquay, Cornwall in October, 1945. She was the Richard Silver Oliver, and was to be involved in one of the most distinguished services in the history of Ilfracombe lifeboats, when she went to the aid of the disabled ‘Monte Gurugu’ on November 13, 1949.

During her final three years at llfracombe, the Richard Silver Oliver towed in four boats, but as these and similar services are not "rescues" in the accepted sense of saving lives, it is simply recorded that the lifeboat "gave help".

She was replaced by the Robert and Phemia Brown, a new Liverpool type lifeboat of the latest design. Her first service was on January 17, 1954, to the Admiralty tanker ‘Wave Victor’, crippled by an engine-room fire nine miles north of Bull Point. Ten of the crew were taken off. One person was injured, so the lifeboat returned to Ilfracombe as soon as the Appledore lifeboat arrived to stand by the stricken vessel. ln her time at Ilfracombe, the Robert and Phemia Brown was launched on service 15 times and saved 23 lives.