I am not aware of anywhere other than the British Isles which has allowed a ‘Charity’ to become the official water-borne body for saving lives at sea. That, however, is the situation which exists through the United Kingdom and Ireland and this is the story of the courage and fortitude which goes with the calling of its volunteers - past and present.
The Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) was formed almost 200 years ago. Since then their craft have continuously put to sea - often in the worst possible conditions, before deliberately approaching even more dangerous circumstances of disabled ships being battered by treacherous seas - in order to save lives. A single example from page 150 reads; “….the situation looked impossible. One moment the lifeboat would be on the crest of a wave level with the Bonita’s stern, and the next she would be in a trough, below the propeller.” The Bonita was a stricken ship which had lost all power and where the cargo had shifted. On board were 36 people - including wives and children. In spite of the conditions, the lifeboat still managed to rescue 29 of those on board. Altogether there was only one death - and that from injuries already sustained prior to rescue.
The all-volunteer crews and mostly found from within the local fishing industry where these true men-of-the-sea remain on standby to crew their lifeboat at any time of day or night. When emergencies do occur, they frequently demand these men put to sea in conditions usually regarded as far too dangerous. With an almost indefinable quality of modesty and professional ability, their numbers have included some of the bravest of the brave and even the most decorated within our society. The very nature of their work, however, has also led to tragedies such as Penlee!!!
This is a photography-led book and, (if I may!) speaking as one whose own work has been used by National Geographic, this single book contains some of the finest selections of outstanding photographs I have ever encountered in a single collection - anywhere. They really are that exceptional.
Set out in a journey around the British Isles, author Huw Lewis-Jones and photographer (and lifeboat crewman!) Nigel Millard join forces to circumnavigate the UK in order to reveal the many qualities which make the RNLI exactly what it is. In so doing, they join the lifeboat crews as they put to sea and share the thrills and the spills with those people - both on and off duty. In their quest to tell the story about the courage - and it really is a book about that courage, they have exceeded all expectations.
This book will draw many different emotions from the reader. There are stories to make a grown man cry and yet, only a few pages further on - it will make that same man laugh. Most of all, however, it is a book which will make you proud - though perhaps a little ashamed if you are a regular user of British seas and are not even a Shoreline Member - or perhaps an Offshore Member, with all the attendant benefits of being part of one of the finest organisations ever devised by man.
This book should be read by all users of the sea - wherever they may live in the world, if only to learn what is involved in being rescued.