Jason Logg on station Friendly Forester

The Flamborough Lifeboats

Will and Fanny Kirby Jason Logg

© Simon Robson

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"WILL & FANNY KIRBY" (O.N. 972) 1983 - 1993

This page was
last updated :

12th April 2005


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Chairmans Letter
23rd August 1987

Picture taken by
and © of the late
John Bates former Flamborough Lifeboat Press Officer.

Will & Fanny Kirby

Will & Fanny Kirby in action 1989


Total Service Calls: 145
Lives Saved: 46
People Assisted: 87±
Vessels Saved: 18
Vessels Assisted: 129±
Took Up Station: Jan 1983
Retired: Aug 1993


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During 1982 speculation was high that the Flamborough station may be under the threat of closure. The coastal review committee was due to make the decision in this year as to whether Flamborough should remain an all weather station or be re-graded to an inshore station. After much petitioning and some significant fund raising by the village it was announced that Flamborough would remain an all weather station. An Oakley Class lifeboat, the "WILL AND FANNY KIRBY", replaced the "FRIENDLY FORESTER". After a journey from Staniland's Boat Yard of Thorne, up the River Humber, the new boat arrived on station on 5th January 1983.

William Osborne Ltd of Littlehampton originally built the "WILL AND FANNY KIRBY" in 1963 for the Seaham, Co Durham station. The boat cost £33,000, which was defrayed by a gift from the Mr. and Mrs. W. L. Kirby Benevolent Fund. Whilst at Seaham the lifeboat was involved in a Bronze Medal winning service on 11th November 1973, for the rescue of 18 anglers off the seawall. She remained there until 24th February 1979 when that station was closed. She spent some years in the reserve fleet and whilst at the Hoylake station was involved in another Bronze Medal service on 20th September 1979, for the rescue of 3 people from the catamaran 'Truganini'. The Oakley class boats by this time were also coming to the end of their life span and newer, faster lifeboats were being developed. The newer class lifeboats were the Mersey class.

The lifeboat was built to a design by the R.N.L.I's Naval Architect Richard Oakley. The Oakley design was the first to combine inherent stability with the ability to self-right in the event of capsize. The righting was achieved by system of shifting water ballast. On launching the lifeboat took on 1½ tons of sea water into a tank in the bottom of the hull. If the lifeboat reached a crucial point of capsize the water transferred, through valves to a righting tank on the port side. If the capsize was to the starboard side, the water transfer started when an angle of 165° was reached. This would push the boat into completing a full 360° roll. If the capsize was to the port side, the water transfer started at 110°. This weight of water combined with the weight of machinery usually managed to stop the roll and allow the lifeboat to 'bounce back'.

The lifeboat was constructed from two 'skins' of African mahogany, diagonally laid. A layer of calico separated the two skins. The outer skin was 3/8 of an inch thick and the inner skin was ¼ of an inch thick. At 37 feet in length and 11 feet 6 inches in beam the Oakley displaced 12 tons 1cwt, when laden with crew and gear. Her keel was of iron and weighed 1.154 tons. The hull was dived into 11 watertight compartments containing 219 air cases. Originally powered by twin 43 h.p. Perkins P4M diesel engines, she was re-engined in 1982 with twin Ford Thornycroft 52 h.p. diesel engines. These drove 23 inches by 15 inches pitch propellers in tunnels. As the lifeboat was slipway launched she was slightly lighter than the carriage launched boats. This gave her an extra ½ a knot in cruising speed, making top speed 9 knots. All offshore lifeboats had two numbers: the official number, which was introduced with self-righting tests in 1887, and an operational class number. The "WILL AND FANNY KIRBY" had an official number of 972 and an operational number of 37-05. The 37 represented the boat's length of 37 feet and the 05 meant she was the fifth boat of this class to be built.

The Oakley class was designed so well that very few major modifications were ever made. The small canvas cover over the helm was replaced with a collapsible metal framed all round canopy. Decca 060 radars were fitted around 1977 and all boats carried Pye Westminster VHF and an Ajax MF radio telephones. In addition a radio Direction Finding set was carried, which gave a magnetic bearing to a transmitting station. The electric searchlight was standard and the Schermuly rocket lines were replaced with Pains Wessex speedlines. The lifeboat was controlled by wheel steering gear and an emergency tiller could be attached directly to the stern post should this have failed. The rudder was raised whilst launching and lowered when afloat by a series of ropes. Echo sounders for measuring depth of water under the keel were also now standard equipment.

On Monday 23rd January 1984 the lifeboat was involved in a dramatic service. It started out as a routine call to escort the fishing vessels 'Challenge', 'Eva Ann' and 'Serene' in a South Easterly force nine gale. As conditions worsened it was decided that the Scarborough Lifeboat 'AMELIA' would be launched and take over the escort at Filey Brigg. Shortly after launching Scarborough harbour was closed due to the conditions making Whitby the next open port. All three cobles were safely berthed in Whitby and the two lifeboats decided to return to Scarborough. Scarborough lifeboat made the first attempt on entering the harbour and made it to safety. When the "WILL AND FANNY KIRBY" made her turn into harbour she was struck by a huge wave, which knocked the lifeboat onto her side and nearly capsized her. Crewmember Kenny Jewitt was washed overboard and only managed to stay alive by hanging onto the drogue rope. The lifeboat was struck again by another wave. This knock down was so severe that the capsize switches activated and cut out both engines. Mechanic Les Robson fought to re-start the engines and managed to get one running. Coxswain Bob Major ran the lifeboat in on this whilst the remainder of the crew recovered Kenny Jewitt. He was taken to hospital with a suspected broken arm, but released when it was found to be a sprain. The lifeboat returned to station the next day after being checked over.

The "WILL AND FANNY KIRBY" served at Flamborough until 1993, during which time she went to Leggets Boatyard in Grimsby for a re-fit. This was on 14th July 1986 and she was away until 30th May 1987. Whilst she was away no reserve lifeboat was on station as most of the Oakley boats by now had been phased out. Once again speculation turned to the future of the station. The official line was that this refit would make her good for another 10 years, but in 1992 the coastal review committee found in favour of re-grading the station to an inshore station. This decision caused a lot of resentment in the village and many of the crew felt they could not work with an inshore boat. The rumours of a strike were very much blown out of proportion.

"WILL AND FANNY KIRBY" saw a fair amount of service during her 10 years at Flamborough. She played her part in the 7th May 1984 disaster along with Bridlington and Filey lifeboats, when two fishing boats, 'CAROL SANDRA' and 'NORTH WIND III' sank with the loss of seven lives. Finally on 18th August 1993 she left North Landing for the last time and the North Landing station, which had been in operation for 122 years was closed. The lifeboat ended up in the Historic Dockyard at Chatham, Kent, where she remains today. The new inshore lifeboat was based at the newly re-built South Landing station.

Notable Services

14th January 1993 

- To the keel boat "HESPERIAN" of Bridlington (sinking), saved 3 and vessel.

19th June 1991 

- To the speed boat "PLAYFAIR" (missing), saved 5 and vessel.

19th January 1991 

- To the fishing coble "ENTERPRISE" of Filey (sinking), saved 2 and vessel.

18th January 1991 

- To the fishing coble "ROYAL ENDEVOUR" of Bridlington (steering failure), saved 3 and vessel.

4th October 1989 

- To the motor vessel "FRITHER" (engine failure), saved 2 and vessel.

1st October 1989 

- To the dinghy "MAHALA" (sinking), saved 3 and vessel.

4th July 1989 

- To the cabin cruiser "SEA CURLEW" (engine failure), saved 3 and vessel.

23nd August 1987 

- To a skin diver trapped in a cave (missing), saved 1.

27nd September 1987 

- To a rowing boat from Bridlington (adverse conditions), saved 2 and vessel.

11th September 1987 

- To the fishing coble "Northern Star" of Bridlington (sinking), saved 2.

20th August 1987 

- To the fishing coble "NEPTUNE II" of Bridlington (engine failure), saved 2 and vessel.

12th January 1985 

- To the cargo vessel "PAMIR II" of West Germany (sinking), saved 4.

19th July 1984 

- To the fishing coble "CHANCE" of Bridlington (fouled propeller), saved 8 and vessel.

7th June 1984 

- To windsurfers, saved 5 and boards.

7th May 1984 

- To the fishing boats "CAROL SANDRA and NORTH WIND III" of Bridlington (capsized), recovered a body.

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Helmsman - Flamborough Lifeboat Station