RNLB Lloyds II

Lloyds II was launched more times and saved more lives than any of its predecessors. This lifeboat was funded by Lloyds of London, the marine insurance institution. A self-righting lifeboat of the 37 ft. Oakley class, she had two diesel engines producing a total of 104 h.p., giving a speed of 8 knots over a range of 180 miles. During 24 years on station at Ilfracombe, Lloyds II was gradually modified to keep pace with technological developments in search and rescue. Eventually a radar was fitted, which had a range of 12 miles, a V.H.F. radio direction-finder (which could identify the direction of any casualty transmitting to the lifeboat on an agreed frequency), and facilities for making a hot drink.

For many years there were no spectacular incidents, but routine lifeboat work continued. Lloyds II was launched in all conditions — from the fairest to the most foul. At various times disabled yachts were towed to the safety of Ilfracombe, and searches made for people who had fallen from cliffs. ln September, 1973, the long haul to Lundy was made into the teeth of a gale gusting to Force 10. ln September, 1975, there was a night-long search, close to cliffs and in driving rain, for two boys supposedly cut off on the rocks between Lee and Ilfracombe. The boys were later found sleeping in a public convenience on the outskirts of the town. Some crew members expressed relief that the boys were safe; the comments of the others remain unrecorded! ln 1976, the only service of the year was to the sail-training ship ‘Winston Churchill’, to evacuate a crew member with acute appendicitis. The wind was almost up to gale force and there was a very heavy swell.

On April 25, 1981, disaster struck. The owner of the ketch ‘Spring Tide’ attempted to move his vessel to a more sheltered mooring in the harbour. She was bumping against a harbour wall in a swell built up by a severe Force 9 gale, later recorded as "gusting to Force 11". The ketch was swept away from the wall and the owner was unable to get aboard. The skipper now in charge decided to put to sea, presumably to ride out the storm. On board were a boy of 12 and a girl of 16. All seemed well although there was no radio contact. Suddenly, at 21.20, the Spring Tide altered course towards the rocks. At this point Lloyds II was launched into the gale. She was swamped several times rounding the pier, and although close inshore, she disappeared several times in troughs between the huge waves. Also on scene by this time was a rescue helicopter from RAF Chivenor, and within 30 minutes, the girl from the ketch was winched from the water, for immediate transfer to hospital. The lifeboat continued the search for the others in appalling conditions, until she was recalled from service at 01.40. An enquiry later revealed that the “Spring Tide" had been abandoned when a gas leakage from a cylinder caused a flash fire. No trace of the boy or skipper was ever found.

For this service, Coxswain David Clemence received a framed Letter of Appreciation from the RNLI.

On Sunday, September 9, 1984, Lloyds II was launched to the yacht ‘Liberty’ which was dragging her anchor close to Rapparee Rocks, just beyond the outer harbour. The skipper had died, and the other person on board had no boating experience. ln 20-foot waves driven by a north-westerly gale Coxswain Clemence manoeuvred the lifeboat stern to within feet of the bow of the ‘Liberty’, which was now grounding in the troughs between the waves. The tow was passed and secured to the base of the yacht’s mast, and she was pulled out of immediate danger. Both vessels were now beam-on to the waves, rolling violently. 200 yards from the outer harbour the lifeboat twice rolled very heavily to port in the breaking seas. ln the relative calm of the outer harbour, a lifeboat crew-member was put aboard the yacht, and sawed through its anchor-cable. ln the two minutes this took, the weight on the cable had pulled both boats, now lashed together, within 20 yards of Larkstone Flocks. After the cable parted, the ‘Liberty’ was berthed safely against the inner harbour wall. For this service, the Bronze Medal of the RNLI was awarded to Cox. David Clemence. Medal Service Certificates were presented to Second Cox. Colin Thadwald, Mechanic Wayland Smith, Asst. Mechanic John Fennell and crew members David-Paul Clemence, Andrew Bengey and Maurice Woodger.

During her final years at Ilfracombe, Lloyds II continued her work, as shown on the service boards in the boathouse. Her final service launch was on May 20, 1990, when red flares were reported, but nothing found. This completed an Ilfracombe service record of 136 launches and a total of 116 lives saved. This number excludes all those casualties who were helped when in difficult circumstances and whose situation could have deteriorated. Lloyds II was eventually transferred to Sherringham, Norfolk.