RNLB Lucy Lavers (ON 832)

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Lucy Lavers Lifeboat.jpg
RNLB Lucy Lavers (ON 832)
Career British RNLI Flag
Owner: Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI)
Builder: Groves & Gutteridge, Cowes, Isle of Wight
Official Number: ON 832
Station Aldeburgh, Wells-next-the-Sea
Laid down: 1939
Acquired: 1940
In service: 1940 to 1968
(Re-named L'Esperance), became a pilot boat in the Channel Island port of St. Helier, Jersey.
Status: Undergoing restoration (2013)
General characteristics
Class & type: Liverpool Class
Type: Motor lifeboat
Tonnage: Displacement of 6 tons 10cwt
Length: 35 ft 6 in (10.82 m) overall
Beam: 10 ft 3 in (3.12 m)
Draught: 2 ft 3.5 in (0.699 m)
Depth: 4 ft 4 in (1.32 m)
Installed power: 35hp Weyburn petrol engine
Speed: 7.42 kn (13.74 km/h)
Notes: Fitted with single mast
and carried two oars

RNLB Lucy Lavers (ON 832) was an RNLI lifeboat which was on No. 2 station at Aldeburgh[1] from 1940 until 1959 when she was placed in the reserve fleet until 1968 when she was retired. The lifeboat is currently undergoing restoration by the Rescue Wooden Boats Charity[2][3] to whom she was donated by the Dunkirk Little Ships Restoration Trust.[4] The Lucy Lavers is entered in the National Historic Ships register and has the Certificate No: 2206[5]


Lucy Lavers is a Liverpool-class single engine lifeboat[2] which was also equipped with a sail, as was favoured by the RNLI for all single engine Liverpool class lifeboat. To stabiliser the lifeboat when under sail she was also fitted with a drop keel.[2] The installed engine was a 35 hp Weyburn petrol engine.[2] She was built for the RNLI by Groves and Gutteridge and was laid down in 1939.[2] The boat was finished in 1940 and was sent for service at the Aldeburgh Lifeboat Station. The lifeboat was 35ft 6in long and has a beam of 10ft 3in and a draft of only 2ft 3.5in. She had a displacement of 6 tons.[2]


Her engine was housed in its own watertight compartment which was designed to enable the engine to continue to run even if the engine room became flooded.[6] During the lifeboats sea trials the engine was found to give the lifeboat a top speed of 7.3 Knots and fuel consumption gave the boat a radius of fifty nautical miles with a fuel consumption of 3.5 gallons used each hour of operation. Her comfortable cruising speed was found to be 6.5 knots which at this speed and fuel consumption extended her range to sixty nautical miles.[6] The lifeboats has a mahogany hull was constructed using a double diagonal method and has six water-tight divisions. These compartments are fitted with 115 mahogany air cases, all individually made to fit into its allocated position in the hull.[6] Her equipment included the latest innovations of the time which included a line throwing gun and an electrically powered searchlight. The boat was designed to be operated by a crew of Seven and could carry on board up to thirty people in foul weather, although there was little protection for the crew or passengers.[6]

Service at No. 2 Station in Aldeburgh[edit]

The Dunkirk evacuation[edit]

The Lucy Lavers arrived in Aldeburgh in 1940 and was almost immediately commandeered,[7] along with Aldeburghs No:1 station lifeboat RNLB Abdy Beauclerk (ON 751)[8] by the Royal Navy. She was summoned to Dover and arrived at the port on the 31 May. She was needed, along with 17 other RNLI lifeboats, to help in the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force and the French Army from Dunkirk. Lucy Lavers has an exceptionally shallow draft of around 2 ft 3in which made her particularly suitable for the task of transporting hundreds of men from the beaches out to the big ships waiting to evacuate them back to England. At Dover small Royal Navy crews with a small number of RNLI coxswain took the lifeboats to the French coast. This task was achieved by the lifeboats being towed across the English Channel by a drifter. They arrived at a beach just east of Dunkirk harbour where they began the evacuation. Lucy Lavers along with the other lifeboats was orders to remain at Dunkirk until ordered to return Home. She remained there and ferrying the evacuees out to larger ships. She stayed in the vicinity until late on the evening of 4 June in case stragglers reached the beaches. The Lucy Lavers, along with the other surviving lifeboats, returned overnight to Ramsgate in Kent.

Wartime rescues[edit]

The Aldeburgh station records show that during the rest of the Second World War, Lucy Lavers along with Abdy Beauclerk were called out on many occasions. Most of these 'shouts' (calls for help) were in response to reports of aircraft crashed into the sea. Both Lifeboats spent long hours searching exhaustively for survivors but on most occasions all they found was wreckage or patches of oil. The lifeboats at Aldeburgh were responsible for saving a total of 107 lives during the war period.

Reserve service at Wells-next-the-Sea[edit]

In 1962 as part of her service within the reserve, Lucy Lavers was sent to Wells-next-the-Sea[9] as cover for the stations Liverpool-class lifeboat Cecil Paine (ON 850) which had been sent to Fletcher’s Boatyard in Lowestoft for a complete overhaul. During her time there she was launched six occasions.[9] On the service of 19 September she went to assist a motor cruiser Y811 which had been taken into tow in rough seas by a sprat boat. The Y811[9] had become adrift from the towing boat and had dropped anchor in rough seas and the lifeboat pulled alongside. An air-sea rescue helicopter[9] had also arrived on the scene and airlifted one of the two crew members and took him to Wells. The helicopter then took of the second member of the crew and left the lifeboat to secure the Y811 and tow her to safety. In October 1962 Lucy lavers was returned to the reserve fleet. On the 14 July 1963[10] she was again called on to cover at Wells while the Cecil Paine had gone back to Fletcher’s, this time for an engine re-fit. During this period she performed three service with the first occurring on the 15 July[10] when she landed a crew of three from a catamaran that had been in tow. The second service, on the 21 November[10] involved escorting four sprat boats back to Harbour in heavy seas. Her last service at Wells took place on the 9 February 1964[10] when she went to the aide of motor barge Una which had run aground. The barge had tried to pull herself clear but her engine failed completely. Lucy Lavers took the Una in to tow in to the safety in Wells Harbour.

Retirement and Restoration[edit]

The Lucy Lavers was on station at Aldeburgh for a total of 19 years and during that time she was called to service on 30 occasions and she was responsible for the saving of 7 lives. From Aldeburgh she was placed in the RNLI’s reserve fleet where she was called in to action on 52 occasions saving a further 37 lives. She was had reserve placements at Wells-next-the-Sea, Sheringham[9] and Rhyl. In 1968 she was finally sold out of the fleet by the RNLI and began a career as a pilot boat[11] in the port of Saint Helier, Jersey. She was also renamed L’esperance[11] and eventually became a private fishing boat. In 1986 the lifeboat was given a new role when she was bought by a Dive and Ski Club of St. Helier. During this period she spend most of her time around the island of Sark.[11] In 1997 she was finally retired and her engine canopy and some of her remaining fixtures and fittings were stripped out and used in the restoration of Howard D (ON 797), an ex-Saint Helier lifeboat. Following the removal of these parts her diagonal mahogany hull, which was still in good condition, and she was sent to Simon Evans Boat Yard on the River Yonne, in Sens, France. She was then joined the Dunkirk Little Ships Restoration Trust.[7]


Following some keen detective work by two Lifeboat enthusiasts from Norfolk, who had been looking for the Lucy Lavers for sometime she was found in 2006. In 2010, the Dunkirk Little Ships Restoration Trust kindly donated Lucy Lavers to Graeme Peart who has passed her on to the Rescue Wooden Boats charity for restoration. Lucy Lavers is now undergoing full restoration work at Stiffkey, Norfolk (2013). Having been stripped back to little more than a bare hull, the majority of her original mahogany hull remains. She is listed on the National Register of Historic Vessels by National Historic Ships. Her certificate number is 2206.[5] In 2012 the National Lottery Heritage Fund awarded a grant to Rescue Wooden Boats £99.300[12] towards the restoration of Lucy Lavers. It is now planned that the restoration will be completed in time for the Lifeboat to return to Dunkirk under her own steam to join the 75th anniversary celebrations of the evacuation of troops which is due to take place in 2015.



  1. ^ OS Explorer Map 231 – Southwold & Bungay. ISBN 978 0 319 23805 9.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Rescue Wooden Boats – Conserving maritime history". Lucy Lavers Background. RESCUE WOODEN BOATS (Registered Charity 1144180) 14 Norton Street, Burnham Norton, King's Lynn, Norfolk PE31 8DR. Retrieved 25 August 2013. 
  3. ^ "Dunkirk boat Lucy Lavers given £100k restoration grant". BBC News webpage-3 November 2012. BBC © 2013. Retrieved 25 August 2013. 
  4. ^ "Lucy Lavers". Lucy Lavers-Background History. Dunkirk Little Ship Restoration Trust. Retrieved 25 August 2013. 
  5. ^ a b "National Historic Ships Register". Lucy Lavers entry. National Historic Ships Register- National Historic Ships UK. Retrieved 22 August 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c d The Story of The Aldeburgh Lifeboats (28 page Paperback): Author: Morris Jeff: Publisher Lifeboat enthusiasts' Society (1994) :ASIN B0018TW60Y
  7. ^ a b "The Association of Dunkirk Little Ships". Lucy Lavers. Association of Dunkirk Little Ships. Retrieved 27 August 2013. 
  8. ^ "The Association of Dunkirk Little Ships". Abdy Beauclerk. Association of Dunkirk Little Ships. Retrieved 27 August 2013. 
  9. ^ a b c d e Wells-next-the-Sea Lifeboats. Author: Nicholas Leach & Paul Russell. Chapter 4: Cecil Paine, 1945-1965, Page: 52. Published by:Tempus Publishing Ltd, 2006. ISBN 0 7524 3875 1
  10. ^ a b c d Wells-next-the-Sea Lifeboats. Author: Nicholas Leach & Paul Russell. Chapter 4: Cecil Paine, 1945-1965, Page: 54. Published by:Tempus Publishing Ltd, 2006. ISBN 0 7524 3875 1
  11. ^ a b c "RNLB LUCY LAVERS/LUCY". Description and photographs of Lucy Lavers in the Channel Islands. Channel Islands Shipping. Retrieved 3 August 2013. 
  12. ^ "Near £100.00 grant to restore the Lucy Lavers". Eastern Daily Press 24.co.uk, Dec 2012. Eastern Daily Press © 2013 Archant Community Media Ltd. Retrieved 3 September 2013.