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Reviving the past for a safer future

This website is dedicated to one particular lifeboat; the former St Peter Port Lifeboat; Sir William Arnold (SWA) which was built in 1973 and went onto serve tirelessly until 1997 when she was replaced by a modern Severn class lifeboat.


The SWA was much loved and respected by her crews that manned her over the two decades she was operational. Involved in over 550 rescue missions, it was instrumental in earning its coxswains and crews 15 RNLI medals for gallantry, from Gold to Bronze, countless Certificates on Vellum and other external awards for gallantry.

Since its foundation, lifeboats have changed beyond recognition. From pulling and sailing, to steam, petrol engines and more recently,water jets. All have given sterling service and brought their crews home safely.

Some, like 52-02 just need their own story telling. This is her story and through her restoration and new lease of life we are delighted that the public are now able to come on board themselves.


In the 1970s the RNLI were developing a faster class of lifeboat to replace the traditional ‘double-ender’ 8 knot lifeboats. They had been experimenting with a 44ft steel lifeboat from the US Coastguard and the RNLI architects were designing a brand new class of lifeboat and so they produced the Arun class.

The first Arun 52-01 was named simply “ARUN” and looked very different to all the later Arun’s as these two pictures illustrate.

The Arun (52-01) initially served at St Peter Port on evaluation trials and it wasn’t long before she was being put to good use on operational service. She also visited a number of European countries on evaluation trials, and whilst she was being taken round Britain and Ireland, work was well under way on the 2nd and third Arun.

Eventually 52-01 would become the Barry Dock lifeboat and the second Arun 52-02 would become St Peter Port’s famous Lifeboat. While 52-01 was found to be a very good sea boat, one of the main disadvantages of the initial design was her high freeboard.

This made recovering survivors from the water very difficult, so 52-02 had noticeably lower freeboard aft. She also had a re-designed wheelhouse which gave the SWA such a distinctive look. A smaller inflatable lifeboat was also carried for shallow water rescue. Initially it was carried on the aft deck (similar to 52-01) but later it was carried on a gantry over the aft deck and launched by means of a crane. The first Arun had a “Flying Bridge”; an upper steering position and this along with 52-02 was at the rear of the wheelhouse. Subsequent other Arun’s had the flying bridge forward and the “Y” class sat on the roof of the wheelhouse.

Here you can see the cradle on the aft deck ready to take the Y class inflatable for shallow water rescues.

The first two Arun’s were built wood with an aluminum wheelhouse,52-02 triple laid diagonally for extra strength. The picture below show the mould for a later fiberglass version, but there’s no mistaking that familiar sheer line of the deck.

Whilst there appears to be no actual pictures of the boat being built in Littlehampton, the following give an indication as to how she looked stripped back to wood (during a refit after the Bonita rescue).

Named in May 1974 by HRH the Duchess of Kent, she went onto serve for approximately 24 years when she was replaced by the current St Peter Port lifeboat a Severn class.

Lifeboats may have changed in design over the years, so too have their cost. In 1974 the Sir William Arnold cost approximately £100,000.

Over half of that amount was raised by the people of Guernsey, in a fantastic fundraising campaign, led by the then Bailiff of Guernsey, Sir William Arnold. £40,000 had been the original target set, but many kept coming in.


There were very few large individual donations. It was a community effort representing a wide cross section of the island’s activities. Contributions came in from schools, church collections, flower shows, people who’d opened their gardens. Even the local Police raised £1000 from a sponsored row from Salcombe to Guernsey.

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