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Fears over future of ‘remote’ lifeboat station

21 May 2024 3 minute read
Angle lifeboat station. Photo by Colin Bell is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Bruce Sinclair, local democracy reporter

One of the busiest lifeboat stations in west Wales is seeing operations from its village site  “becoming increasingly challenging” due to its remote location and a declining population, the RNLI has said.

Angle lifeboat station, was formed in 1868, and was supported by the generosity of a prominent north England philanthropist, Titus Salt junior, of Bradford.

Fears have been expressed locally that the station could be downgraded in favour of activities being run from Milford Haven.

Crewing levels

An RNLI spokesperson said: “It is becoming increasingly challenging for the RNLI to sustain operations at Angle Lifeboat Station due to its remote location and declining population.

“Since 2012, a local operating procedure has been in place for Angle’s all-weather lifeboat to collect crew from Milford Haven when attending incidents to ensure adequate crewing levels.

“The RNLI has recently provided extra support to crew based in Milford Haven, developing more infrastructure and dedicated training for volunteers.

“Angle’s all-weather lifeboat is currently based on a swing mooring to ensure it can be launched quickly and effectively in an emergency, due to limited amount of shore crew with daytime availability at Angle.

“Supplementing this arrangement, the RNLI has been operating from Milford Haven three days a week in order to maintain our lifesaving effect. We are working with Milford Haven Port Authority with a view to extending this arrangement to a 24/7 service for a three-to-six-month trial.

“We will still require the services of the Angle RNLI volunteer crew, but continue to review the situation in order to ensure the long-term viability of the station.

“The RNLI is committed to ensuring an effective lifesaving effect in the Cleddau Estuary and surrounding area and is grateful to Milford Haven Port Authority for their ongoing support.”

‘Whisky ship’

The first lifeboat at Angle, Katherine, launched seven times in 20 years, saving 22 lives, before being replaced in 1888 by the Henry Martin Harvey, which, in 1894, took part in its most famous rescue, of the passengers and crew of the ‘whisky ship’ Loch Shiel.

The ship was on a voyage from her home port of Glasgow to Australia, when she ran into heavy weather in the Irish Sea and tried to take shelter in the Milford Haven Waterway.

The Angle RNLI lifeboat was alerted and set out at 10.45pm, but by this time the ship was sinking and six of the men had taken refuge in the mizzen top.

Other members of the crew and passengers had crawled out along the ship and taken shelter on the rocks of Thorn Island.

The lifeboat rescued the six men from the mizzen top before heading to the far side of the island, hauling all 27 survivors to safety.

By daylight, the Loch Shiel had begun to break up and her cargo – which included 100per cent proof whisky – came ashore at West Angle Bay.

While customs officers quickly came to claim the whisky, much of it mysteriously disappeared, with local women said to have smuggled bottles from the beach in their long underwear.

In late 1929 the Merchant ship Molesey left Manchester for Cardiff when it was struck by a 70mph gale and was swept into the treacherous water between Skomer Island and the mainland, before being ground on the rocks off the Midland Island and began to sink.

In an hour-long operation 28 survivors of the Molesey where saved.

Earlier this month, May 2024, the lifeboat was called out four times in just two days.

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