National memorial to honour RNLI's heroes

A lifeboat coxswain from Sunderland and crew from Seaham lifeboat station are to be honoured on the RNLI's first national memorial.

The memorial sculpture, to be unveiled in the autumn at the RNLI's Dorset headquarters, will pay tribute to those who gave their lives while helping to save others.

It will be a tribute to the five crew members on board the Seaham lifeboat George Elmy who lost their lives when the vessel was capsized by two huge waves just 30 yards from Seaham Harbour's south pier.

The accident occurred on November 17, 1962, after the volunteers were called to rescue the five crew members of the fishing boat Economy, which had foundered in stormy seas off Dawdon Colliery.

The only survivor of the tragic accident was one of the fishing boat's crew, who was washed ashore clinging to the propeller shafts of the upturned lifeboat.

Also remembered on the memorial will be former coxswain of Sunderland lifeboat station John Davison, who collapsed and died on May11, 1910, while hurrying to the lifeboat station in anticipation of a service call being received.

His widow later received a grant from the RNLI and family member George Davison succeeded him as coxswain, maintaining the long line of Davisons serving at Sunderland lifeboat station.

Most names on the memorial will be RNLI volunteers from the UK and the Republic of Ireland, but other maritime life-savers including those from HM Coastguard will also be remembered.

Anthony Jobling, crewman at Sunderland RNLI, said: "The current crew at Sunderland station feel it is important to remember our fellow lifeboat crew who lost their lives in the service of the institution.

"The new memorial sculpture will be located opposite the Lifeboat College, where future generations of lifesavers and fund-raisers will train.

"This memorial and those it remembers should further inspire them and all who are connected with the RNLI and life-saving at sea.

"The memorial will be accessible at all times so the public can pay their respects and contemplate the extraordinary self sacrifice of the many people, throughout the whole of the UK and Ireland, involved with the charity over the last 200 years.

"Ultimately the memorial will remind us all of the commitment and dedication of those involved with maritime search and rescue past and present, especially the RNLI's volunteer lifeboat crews."

The RNLI invited submissions from artists for an inspirational design. A selection panel representing all areas of the RNLI chose a design by sculptor Sam Holland.

Her steel sculpture depicts a life-saver in a boat, vulnerable to the elements, saving another from the water, and was thought to symbolise the history, and future, of the RNLI in its most basic and humanitarian form.

The names of those who lost their lives will be engraved in steel bands around the base of the memorial sculpture.

Anthony said: "The new RNLI memorial is not intended to replace local memorials like the one located in Seaham to honour the crew of George Elmy, but it does recognise the totality of the sacrifice that has been given and names of all those who have died while saving lives at sea."