The Rocket Brigade


This station was one of the earliest in Scotland, being established in 1802 by the Harbour Commissioners. Like the station at Arbroath its first lifeboat was built by Henry Greathead. In 1875 a second station was established and up to 1925 the Aberdeen lifeboat had the magnificent record of 589 lives rescued.

At the beginning of 1925, at the request of the Harbour Commissioners, the Institution assumed control of the lifeboats and of the rocket life-saving apparatus at Torry and the North Pier, the Commissioners agreeing to contribute £500 a year towards their upkeep.

1825 Gold Medal awarded to Lieut Randall RN for the rescue on 17 January 1825 of four of the crew of the ship Devoran that had been wrecked at the Bridge of Don, north of Aberdeen. Lieut Randall set up Captain Manby's rocket apparatus down on the beach and, after great difficulty, succeeded in throwing a line on board the wreck enabling a boat, manned by coastguards to bring off four survivors (he later received a bar to the Gold Medal in 1834 for services to Wanderer of Anstruther).

1830 Silver Medals awarded to Lieut John Sanderson RN and Lieut Thomas Langton RN for the rescue of 14 people from the smack Fame that was driven ashore in Aberdeen Bay on 21 January 1830.

1844 Silver Medal awarded to James Robinson for the rescue of 11 people from the brig Newcastle which lost itís mast in a storm and sank at anchor in Aberdeen Bay on 24 February 1844.

1929 Centenary Vellum awarded to station. The centenary celebrations are described in the Journal of June 1929.

1930 Member of the crew of No 2 lifeboat washed out of the boat on service to Glen Cova on 2 April but was rescued.

1936 Bronze Medal awarded to Coxswain Thomas Sinclair a for the rescue of two of the crew of five of the trawler George Stroud that went aground approximately 50ft from the North Pier wall in heavy seas and a strong south-easterly wind on Christmas Day 1935. Coxswain Sinclair handled the lifeboat with courage, determination and skill, taking her five times into the narrow space between the pier wall and the wreck.

1937 During a 12-day period of gales in January 1937 the River Dee flooded causing widespread damage and isolating many buildings. The No 2 lifeboat was called out to rescue a woman and two men from a farmhouse. The coxswain took the lifeboat stern first through the front door. The farmhouse is now included among the local landmarks pointed out on coach tours.

Silver Medal awarded to Coxswain Sinclair and a Bronze Medal to Mechanic Alexander Weir and crew member John Masson and The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum was accorded to Second Coxswain George A Flett; Second Assistant Mechanic James Cowper; Assistant Mechanic Robert J B Esson; John M Noble and Alexander S Masson in recognition of their meritorious conduct when the lifeboat launched on 26 January 1937 and rescued the crew of seven of the steamer Fairy drifting towards the heavy surf two miles south of Belhelvie. It was blowing a gale from the south east with a very heavy sea, the night was very dark and it was intensely cold and snowing hard. One man fell between the steamer and lifeboat and was promptly grabbed by John Masson, who saved the man's life at the risk of being dragged overboard himself. This service was carried out in the face of considerable danger.

Silver Medal (Second-Service clasp) awarded to Coxswain Thomas Sinclair and Bronze Medals awarded to Second Coxswain George Fleet and Acting Motor Mechanic J B Esson for the rescue of two from a crew of eight of the trawler Roslin which went aground, almost submerged with seas sweeping over her, just south of the mouth of the River Ythan at Newburgh on the bitter cold night of 5 November 1937. Unable to anchor and veer down the lifeboat six times ran aboard the wreck before two survivors could be taken from the rigging. After a long and arduous search the damaged lifeboat returned to station at 5am.

1949 An outstanding personality at Aberdeen was Coxswain Thomas Sinclair who retired in 1949. He had a very distinguished record having been coxswain of the two Aberdeen lifeboats for nearly 25 years, during which time 131 lives were rescued. He won the Institution's Bronze Medal for gallantry in 1935 and twice the Silver Medal in 1937.

1952 Commemorative150th anniversary Vellum awarded to station.

1953 The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum was accorded to Coxswain George A Flett in recognition of his bravery and initiative when the lifeboat under has command rescued the crew of four of the fishing boat Trustful III and saved the boat on the evening of 26 October. The Trustful III had her propeller fouled by nets one and a half miles south east of Muchalls in a south-south-easterly gale and a high confused sea.

1956 The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum was accorded the Coxswain George A Flett in recognition of his skill and determination when the lifeboat under his command rescued the crew of 11 from the trawler Sturdee on the evening of 19 October 1955. The trawler was wrecked approximately one mile north of Aberdeen Harbour, in a moderate southerly wind and a heavy swell after going ashore in poor visibility.

1962 Aberdeen No 2 station and Torry Life Saving Apparatus closed on 30 June.

1963 Aberdeen lifeboat ON944 exhibited at Leith for the 9th International Lifeboat Conference held in Edinburgh from 4 to 6 June.

1968 D class lifeboat sent to station in August.

1974 Silver Medals for gallantry awarded to Coxswain Albert William Bird and Motor Mechanic Ian Jack and The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum were accorded to Assistant Mechanic George Walker and crew members F Cruickshank and A Walker in recognition of their bravery, skill and seamanship when rescuing 12 crew from the fiercely burning trawler Netta Croan on 13 April 1974. The trawler was out of control, her crew being unable to steer her or stop the engines. The lifeboat closed the moving vessel as she circled to starboard and the 12 men were taken off within one minute.

1976 Bronze Medal for gallantry awarded to Second Coxswain Charles Begg and The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum accorded to Motor Mechanic Ian Jack in recognition of their seamanship, skill and efficiency when they rescued the crew of five of the fishing vessel Karemma of Leith which had broken down outside Aberdeen harbour and was drifting towards the beach in a south easterly gale and a very rough sea on 12 March 1976. The lifeboat had to be taken alongside the vessel on three occasions in hazardous conditions to complete the rescue.

1994 A Schat davit has been installed on the quay for launching and recovering the D class lifeboat.

1996 The previous shore facilities provided very little in the way of crew comforts and therefore proposals were drawn up for the construction of a new shore facility and D class boathouse at Dock Island. In October, the City of Aberdeen Council granted Planning Permission and Building Warrant for the new shore facilities.

1997 Work commenced on the new facilities in February 1997 and was completed in July 1997. Facilities provided by the new building on the ground floor are housing for the D class lifeboat and improved crew comforts.

1998 A new Arun class lifeboat, ON1135 Mickie Salvesen was placed on service on Friday 28 August. Lifeboat ON1050 has been withdrawn and placed on the Sales List.

2000 The new station Severn class lifeboat ON1248 Bon Accord was placed on service on 20 July 2000. This lifeboat was funded as a result of the Aberdeen Lifeboat Appeal together with the generous bequest of Miss Janette Reid Gordon and other gifts and legacies. Lifeboat ON1135 Mickie Salvesen was withdrawn to the Relief Fleet.

2002 Bi Centenary Vellum awarded to Station.


Station History reproduced here with the permission of RNLI HQ Poole.



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