RNLB Emma Constance (ON 693)

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RNLB Emma Constance 1928.jpg
RNLB Emma Constance (ON 693)
British RNLI Flag
Owner: Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI)
Builder: Saunders Roe
Official Number: ON 693
Donor: Legacy of John Mackie of York
Station Aberdeen
Cost: £16,000
Laid down: 1926
Christened: 19 September 1927 by Lady Maud Carnegie
Fate: Sold out of fleet in 1951.
General characteristics
Class and type: Barnett-class
Type: Motor lifeboat
Displacement: 44.5 tons
Length: 61 ft (19 m) overall
Beam: 15 ft (4.6 m)
Installed power: two RNLI DE6 petrol engines delivering 80Bhp
Propulsion: Twin Screw
Speed: 9.5 kn (17.6 km/h)
Range: 150 miles at full power
Crew: 6

RNLB Emma Constance (ON 693) was a Barnett-class lifeboat[1] stationed at Aberdeen Lifeboat Station,[2] in the Scottish city of Aberdeen from 1927[3] until August 1951. The lifeboat was designed by James R. Barnett[4] who was a consulting naval architect to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.


The Emma Constance was a large lifeboat being 61 feet long and 15 feet wide, and was one of only three Barnett class Marks of this size. She had a draught of over 4 feet.[2] These lifeboats were the largest in the RNLI fleet at this time, and over the years has only been surpassed by the 70 foot Clyde-class lifeboats built in the 1960s. The Emma Constance was built in the yards of Saunders Roe of East Cowes on the Isle of Wight, and was laid down in 1926. She was driven through the water by means of twin screws with their power coming from twin RNLI DE6 petrol engines with each engine housed in its own separate watertight compartment.[2] These two compartments were two of total of fourteen watertight compartments that made up the boat's hull. The lifeboat was able to carry a fuel load of 500 gallons which was distributed between three separate fuel tanks which were at the rear of the engine compartments. There was also an auxiliary petrol engine installed which powered a generator for the lighting the windlass at the front of the boat and a capstan to the back of the boat. Although the Emma Constance had the most up-to-date technology installed, the designers also covered all eventualities by providing a full set of sails[2] in case of motor power loss. Another feature of this 61 foot Barnett-class was a specially designed jumping net which was supported forward between the two side funnels and two stanchions aft. This net allowed potential rescuees to jump from their ship into the net and then be hauled on to the lifeboat.[2]

The Christening[edit]

The Christening of Emma Constance took place on the 19 September 1927 in front of a gathered estimated crowd of 12,000 people. A small temporary jetty was erected for the ceremony and the Bandsman of the 4th Gordon Highlanders provided suitable music. The naming was performed by Lady Maude Carnegie. The proceedings ended with a short cruise for the V.I.P.s on the new lifeboat followed by a lifesaving demonstration.[5] The Emma Constance had in fact already been called out on her first service by the time of her Christening when she was launched on the 21 July to aid a Trawler called Vanetia which had run aground at Girdleness although on arrival at the scene her assistance was not needed. On the 6 September she also launched to the aide of the trawler Ben Tore.

Service and rescues[edit]

First rescue[edit]

The trawler Ben Torc was out of Aberdeen[6] and was returning to port when on the 6 September she ran into a dense fog accompanied by heavy rain. A south-easterly wind then blew up, causing a heavy breaking sea. Just before 10 pm and only 1 mile from the harbour, the breaking seas turned the 188-ton Ben Torc almost 360°.[7] The skipper, George Ross got the trawler positioned pointing seaward, mustered his crew in the wheelhouse and sounded the siren to alert that his vessel was in distress. The seas were now breaking over the forward part of the trawler, but help was on the way. The coastguards, named Davis and Fenn, who were manning the Gregness station[8] had climbed down the Gregg Ness cliffs to the scene[9] and had managed to get a lifeline across to the trawler at great danger to themselves. The trawlermen were nevertheless not prepared to risk the lifeline and asked that the lifeboat should come to their aid. At 10:27 pm the Emma Constance was launched with Coxswain Tom Sinclair at the helm. When she arrived she used her searchlight to illuminate the scene of the casualty. The Ben Torc was now stricken on to the rocky outcrop known as Gregness Point.[10] The area was full of half submerged rocky outcrops and the lifeboat carefully picked its way to position itself alongside the Ben Torc. The trawler's five crew immediately jumped aboard the lifeboat but the skipper, George Ross fell into the raging sea but was hauled aboard by line, his bowler hat still on his head much to the amusement of everyone. With all six crewmen safely aboard the lifeboat returned to the station arriving back at her moorings by midnight. This ended the lifeboat's second service but her first life saving rescue.

Trawler George Stroud[edit]

A notable rescue performed by Emma Constance took place on the 25 December 1935, but the rescue was only partly successful, with the loss of three crew men aboard the casualty. The Aberdeen trawler George Stroud[11] was returning to her berth in the harbour when disaster struck. The trawler was struck by an up-swell of sea which washed her starboard of her intended course and flung her against the wall of the north pier. The trawler was then crashed and battered along the pier until she ran aground 200 yards from the seaward side of the pier. The master and crew all took refuge in the trawlers wheelhouse and waited for help. The North Pier Lifesaving Brigade was soon on the scene and lit up the area using the headlights from a motor car. The LSA soon got lifelines to the stricken vessel by means of rocket lines, but the crew of the trawler would not use the lines preferring to wait to be saved by the lifeboat. The Emma Constance was launched and made her way, in a strong south-easterly wind and heavy seas, to the scene of the incident. Coxswain Tom Sinclair[12] took the lifeboat between the pier and the trawler but crew of the trawler did not respond to the lifeboatmen's calls to jump aboard. Eventually one man made a safe transfer to the lifeboat. Following this a heavy sea broke across the lifeboat throwing her against the piers foundation damaging the lifeboat.[12] This swell also smashed away the wheelhouse of the trawler. Coxswain Sinclair then manoeuvred the lifeboat five more times into the narrow space between the pier wall and the wreck, despite the lifeboats starboard propeller being fouled.[12] One crewman was spotted in the sea and although the lifeboat managed to get a line to him he disappeared below and was drowned. The lifeboat continued searching for the remaining crewman of the trawler with floodlights. On the remains of the smashed wheelhouse another crewman was seen desperately holding on to the wreckage. He was saved by the efforts of the LSA[12] operating from the pier. Although the tragedy saw the loss of three of the crew Coxswain Thomas Sinclair was awarded a Bronze Medal[12] for his part in the rescue and his determination and skill in taking the Emma Constance five times into the narrow space between the pier wall and the wreck despite the damage sustained to the lifeboat.

SS Fairy[edit]

On Saturday 23 January 1937[13][14] the full force of a South-easterly gale was blasting the east coast of Scotland. Fighting its way through the storm was the 249-ton[14] collier Fairy of Kings Lynn bound for Aberdeen from Goole. In the late afternoon of the next day the steamer arrived at the harbour only to find that the raging sea was being driven sideways across the harbour entrance and as a consequence the port was at this time declared shut. On Monday 25 January[14] the Fairy had made little progress and was thirty miles off-shore and the seas were filling the ship. The captain alerted the crew that he was turning back towards the coastline and that they should all start bailing. Nine miles from the coast the Fairy sent a distress signal to a nearby German Trawler Hendrick, which immediately took the Fairy in to tow. By the evening the ships had made slow progress to a point just off Donmouth. Coastguards raised the alarm after flairs were seen. Emma Constance was launched at 4.38pm[13] with Coxswain Tom Sinclair at the wheel. When the lifeboat reached the two vessels she hailed the Fairy and asked if all was well and did they needed further assistance. The Captain of the Fairy, George Croxford indicated that he would like to stay on his ship for as long as safely possible and so the lifeboat stood by. The Fairy and her towing ship made slow progress and some time later in the evening the towline parted. The Hendrick tried in vain to re-connect the towline but was unable to. At 10.pm the Fairy ran aground onto the sand[15] and the seas began to sweep over the ship. The Emma Constance made an approach toward the stricken ship but the violent seas lifted the body of the lifeboat across the rails of the Fairy. A second large surge lifted her back off the ship and she then made another approach and this time successfully rescued the seven crewmen. During the rescue one of the crew fell into the sea between the ship and the lifeboat and at great personal risk life-boatman John Masson[5] grabbed hold of the crewman and hauled him aboard the Emma Constance. With the crew now safe the lifeboat asked the nearby ship Montrose that they radio Aberdeen that the rescue had been a success and all were safe and the lifeboat was returning. At this time the Emma Constance was not equipped with radio equipment. Later back at the North Pier a look out was kept for the returning lifeboat. Conditions were as bad as ever and the waiting parties were very concerned as to the whereabouts of the lifeboat. Coxswain Tom Sinclair had wisely ruled out to risk returning to Aberdeen harbour with conditions as bad as they were. He headed for the calmer waters of the Moray Firth[5] but was unable to pass his intentions on to Aberdeen. Everyone at Aberdeen feared the worse for the Emma Constance and it was with great relief when word arrived of the safe arrival of the badly damaged lifeboat at Macduff in the Moray Firth on Wednesday 27 4.30pm.[5] The lifeboat had been out for three days. For his part in the rescue Coxswain Sinclair received an RNLI Silver Medal.[14] Mechanic Alexander Weir and crew member John Masson were awarded Bronze medals[14] and The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum[14] 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 during this rescue.

Record of service and rescues[edit]

RNLB Emma Constance (ON 693)
Flag of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.svg
Date Casualty Wind/Weather Lives Lost Lives saved Details
July 27 Venetia Heavy seas, Moderate Gale Stood Down when vessel towed to port by Tug
September 6 Ben Torc Moderate south-easterly Breeze, Moderate seas. 6 Casualty Stranded off Gregness, Took of Six Men
February 26/27 Isle of White Medium south-south-west breeze, Moderate seas Casualty Stranded of Belhelvie Beach, rescued by Newburgh Lifeboat
March 18 Agnes H Weatherly South-south-west Breeze Casualty Stranded 1 mile from Donmouth, No assistance required
June 6 Regain Strong south-westerly breeze, rough seas 8 Casualty Stranded 1 mile of Belhelvie CG station, towed to safety
October 25 HM Drifter Lunar Bow[16] South westerly fresh breeze, Moderate Sea Stood By, towed to safety by Tug
October 25 HM Drifter Lunar Bow South westerly fresh breeze, Moderate Sea 2 Rescued 1 injured naval rating and 1 midshipman
January 10 Shetland South-eastly breeze, Rough seas 15 ft of water in Vessels hold, Flooding taken under control
November 29 Wild Rose South-eastly strong breeze, Rough seas Vessel stranded on rocks, Nine rescued from beach
January 22 John G Watson South westerly strong breeze, Rough Seas Stranded 6½ miles north of Aberdeen, Stood By, Rescue achieved by No.2 lifeboat
January 7 St Merryn Westerly light breeze, Smooth seas Stranded and re-floated without the aid of lifeboat
April 9 Rightway South westerly moderate breeze, moderate seas Vessel stranded of Collieston CG station, Crew rescued by LSA
June 2 Loyal Friend Northerly moderate breeze, moderate seas Lifeboat stood by following vessels collision with north pier
December 3 Nairn South easterly whole gale, very heavy seas Lifeboat re-called, not required
August 14 Whitehills Lifeboat Smooth sea Towed broken down lifeboat back to port
January 1 Trawler Venetia Southerly strong gale, very heavy seas 9 Vessel stranded 3 miles north of Stonehaven,[17][18] Vessel total loss with all hands
January 18 Ben Screel Variable light breeze, Heavy seas Vessel stranded of Girdleness, lifeboat stood by, crew rescued from shore
January 19 General Birdwood Northerly moderate breeze, moderate seas Escorted Vessel
April 4 Lifeboat launched to False Alarm Lifeboat re-called after launch
July 3 Cretan of Glasgow Calm and smooth seas Lifeboat not required, Vessel towed by pilot tug
October 20/21 Fair Isle South-easterly fresh breeze, Rough seas Vessel with broken rudder, towed by other vessel. lifeboat escorted vessel back to Aberdeen.
October 23/24 Granero of Drammen North-easterly moderate gale, rough seas 7 Vessel stranded at Cawton Ness, crew saved by lifeboat and the LSA
December 29 Strathleven of Aberdeen South-easterly moderate breeze, very heavy seas Damaged steering gear, towed in by lifeboat, stood-by to other vessels
January 1 Fishing Vessels of Gourdon & Stonehaven Lifeboat on Stand-by
December 20 Unknown Trawler Variable light wind, smooth seas Search for vessel, nothing found
February 14 Local Fishing boats Northerly moderate gale Search of vessels caught in gale, All safe
February 2 Eldorado South-south-easterly gale, heavy seas Stood by, LSA safely landed crew north of Donmouth
June 24 Balmoral Castle of Aberdeen Northerly moderate (Fog), moderate seas Vessel stranded, refloated on high tide
September 9 Ebor Abbey of Aberdeen West-south-westerly moderate breeze, moderate seas Lifeboat re-called, rescue by others
November 5 fishing vessels Procure & Quest of Banff South-south-easterly moderate breeze, heavy seas Escorted back to port
December 25 George Stroud of Aberdeen South-easterly strong breeze, heavy seas 3 1 Grounded against North Pier, 1 taken off vessel by lifeboat, 1 taken off by LSA
December 31 Strathairlie of Aberdeen Light Variable winds, slight swell Vessel with broken rudder, lifeboat stood-by
January 17 WM Porter Aberdeen pilot cutter East-north-easterly fresh breeze, Rough seas 3 Pilots fouled rudder on the wreck of George Stroud. Three taken off by lifeboat
January 21 Local Fishing boats East-south-easterly moderate gale, rough seas Stood-by until vessels safely in port
February 6 Pretoria of Aberdeen South-westerly moderate gale, rough seas vessel involved in collision, lifeboat assistance not required
February 23 Ocean Gift of Banff East-south-easterly strong gale, very heavy seas Adrift in harbour, lifeboat crew mustered but no launch
December 16 Margaret & Frances of Cockenzie South-south-westerly strong gale, Very heavy seas 2 Vessel stranded off Belhelvie CG station, Vessel found but a total loss
January 21/22 Strathebrie of Aberdeen South-easterly strong gale, very heavy seas Vessel taken into toe
January 23 Utility of Aberdeen South-easterly strong gale, strong flood vessel hung on stern moorings,vessel towed to fishmarket
January 26 Fairy of Kings Lynn South-easterly gale, very heavy seas 7 See description Service and rescues section
April 16 Paul Rykens of Aberdeen Calm, dense fog Vessel stranded, re-floated under own power
RNLB J & W (ON 722), Relief (Watson-class)
December 30 Calvinia of Aberdeen North-north-westerly moderate breeze vessel lost prop, search aborted after vessel was towed into Aberdeen by others
August 25 Carry On Variable fog banks, slight swell Vessel aground, towed off by lifeboat
December 4 Branch of Montrose Southerly moderate gale, rough seas. Reported in difficulties, search carried out, vessel towed to port by others.
January 22 Unknown Vessel reported capsized East-south-easterly slight breeze, slight seas Search carried out but nothing found
World War II
September 15 Vessel reported torpedoed North easterly moderate breeze Launched to scene, re-called, not required
October 10 Solstad of Oslo South-easterly storm. heavy seas Search carried out, vessel towewd to port by others
October 31 Cairnmona[19] of Newcastle upon Tyne Easterly light to moderate breeze, rough seas Vessel torpedoed of Rattray Head by U-13,[20] survivors landed by others
December 12 Cimbria of Copenhagen Crew mustered only, no launch
December 18 Trinity NB[21] of Aberdeen West-south-westerly, moderate seas 3 Vessel reported bombed, search carried out, no trace found, survivors picked up by Danish schooner Start
January 9 Gowrie[22] of Dundee vessel sunk by enemy aircraft four miles east of Stonehaven, crew rescued by others, search carried out for wreckage but nothing found.
January 9 Feddy[23] of Copenhagen South-south-westerly fresh breeze 2 Vessel bombed and on fire, crew members taken off, ecorted vessel.
January 9 Ivan Kondrup[23] of Copenhagen South-south-westerly fresh breeze 1 Vessel bombed. reached port under own steam, one crewman missing
January 10 Feddy[23] of Copenhagen South-south-westerly light breeze vessel towed into Aberdeen,
February 9 Lily of Aberdeen South-westerly wind, moderate swell 3 Vessel disabled, found by lifeboat and taken into tow
March 3 Unknown bombed vessel reported North-westerly moderate breeze, slight seas Search carried out but nothing found
July 18 Shipping convoys attacked off Aberdeen on the 17 July[24] Lifeboat and crew on standby at the station
October 20 Conakrain[25] of Freetown East-south-easterly breeze, rough seas Torpedo damaged in air attack of Girdleness,[26] taken into tow by tug, escorted by lifeboat
October 21 Conakrain[25] of Freetown 2 Two taken off vessel in Aberdeen bay in heavy weather
October 23 Conakrain[25] of Freetown Easterly moderate gale, moderate seas 23 Crewmen taken off vessel at request of the Royal Navy
April 3 Cairnie East-south-easterly force 7 to 8, very heavy seas 7 Vessel bombed and in distress, Aberdeen harbour entrance, steering damaged and grounded.[27]
July 24 Unknown vessel Calm, smooth seas search carried out, nothing found
August 8 Unknown vessel lifeboat on stand-by only
October 2 RAF Aircraft Westerly force 4, moderate seas ditched Pilot rescued by others, lifeboat re-called
March 13 Unknown vessel South-south-westerly force 6, heavy seas No record kept of launch
March 3 HMS Hyderabad and the tug Bruno Southerly force 3 to 4, smooth seas Both vessels grounded, lifeboat towed of tug, corvette refloated herself.
April 4 Bon Accord of Aberdeen No record kept of the launch
April 2 Unknown vessel No record kept of the launch
April 7 schooner Else of Thisted, Denmark North force 6 to 9, very rough seas Vessel towed into port with lifeboat escorting
November 29 Trevorian of st Ives Smooth seas No record kept of the launch
October 23 Keilehaven of Rotterdam South-easterly breeze force 3 to 4, growing swells 40 Crew abandoned ship to US Ship but some returned to vessel by lifeboat
April 10/11 Albert Victor of Vága Easterly breeze force 3 to 4, breaking surf 9 run aground, Lifeboat took off crew and pilot
April 13 Maria of IJmuiden Light easterly breeze Lifeboat stood-by
RNLB John Russel (ON 699) Relief (Watson-class)
July 30 May Lily of Peterhead Slight seas Vessel with engine failure,Lifeboat made search, vessel made port under own power
October 19 HM Motor Fishing Vessel 1172 South-south-easterly breeze force 3 to 5, Moderate to rough seas 5 Vessel disabled, towed into Aberdeen by lifeboat.
December 19 T L Devlin of Granton Southerly breeze force 5 to 7 Escorted vessel to port
December 21 Sparkling Star of Peterhead Light Southerly wind, smooth seas Fouled prop, self-cleared, lifeboat stood down
January 20 Spurs of Grimsby vessel aground in navigation channel, Lifeboat damaged whilst standing-by
August 7 Harmonious II of Aberdeen South-westerly breeze force 2 to 3, Light to moderate seas 6 Broken down vessel, towed into port
October 20 Harvest Gleaner of Buckie South-south-westerly breeze force 5, moderate seas Towed into port by others, lifeboat stood down
February 5 Northman of Aberdeen Southerly breeze force 4 to 6, Both vessel and lifeboat grounded, pulled of by tug
January 13 Welbeckof Grimsby South-westerly breeze force 2, smooth to slight seas Lifeboat then tug tow vessel off
September 23 Alirmay of Aberdeen South-easterly breeze force 3 to 4 Lifeboat re-called, not required
September 24 Brightside Easterly breeze force 1 to 2, slight seas Stranded vessel, crew landed by others, lifeboat re-called
September 19 Saga of Aberdeen South-south-easterly force 8 to 9, very high seas Vessel with engine failure, Aberdeen lifeboat re-called
September 19 Saga of Aberdeen South-south-easterly force 8 to 9, very high seas Second launch to vessel towed by Peterhead lifeboat, Aberdeen lifeboat escorted
September 26 Lyndburn of Aberdeen North-easterly force 4, Rough seas 1 Vessel grounded, lifeboat takes of 1
February 14 Yauwl of Aberdeen South-easterly force 3 to 4, slight seas 2 Vessel broken down, towed into port by lifeboat


On the 14 January 1951 Emma Constance performed her last launch. She went to assist the Yawl Glen of Aberdeen which had broken down 1 nautical mile east-north-east of Gregness. The lifeboat took the vessel into tow and returned to Aberdeen. In August 1951 the Emma Constance was retired from Aberdeen. Her replacement was a 52 ft Barnett class lifeboat called RNLB Hilton Briggs (ON 889). Following her retirement the Emma Constance was sold out of the RNLI fleet and was renamed several times becoming first the Southern Cross followed by Achilleus and then Griselda.

Preceded by
Private Lifeboat
Star of the Waves
Flag of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.svg
RNLB Emma Constance (ON 693)

1927 to 1951
Succeeded by
Flag of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.svg
RNLB Hilton Briggs (ON 889)


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