The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and the Royal Netherlands Sea Rescue Institution (KNRM) recently celebrated their respective 200th anniversaries with other IMRF members.

In mid-May, the RNLI held a Lifeboat Festival, hosting a 40-boat flotilla of current and historical RNLI lifeboats and international search and rescue (SAR) vessels. The mile-long parade concluded a weekend of celebratory events at the RNLI in Poole. There was also a small joint event to mark the RNLI 200th anniversary and the IMRF 100th anniversary, celebrating the close relationship and shared histories of these organisations.

The festival allowed visitors to enjoy a wide range of demonstrations, displays, and talks at the RNLI College. It was a unique opportunity for the public to view over 40 historic lifeboats and the current RNLI lifeboat fleet. 

One of the standout participants was the oldest RNLI vessel attending, the pulling lifeboat, the William Riley. This historic boat, which entered active service in 1909, saved 35 lives in 1914 during the First World War. The William Riley played a crucial role in the rescue of survivors from the hospital ship, the SS Rohilla, which was carrying wounded soldiers from Dunkirk and ran aground during an intense storm off the Yorkshire coast. Despite being badly damaged in the operation, the William Riley spent 50 hours at sea, highlighting the courage and resilience of its crew.

The KNRM fleet was also represented at Poole, together with other international lifeboats from France, Germany, and Sweden. Among the international participants was the oldest rescue craft, a Swedish pulling and sailing lifeboat named Lifeboat 416, built to a British design in London in 1868.

After the RNLI event, several international lifeboats left for the Netherlands to join a large fleet of Dutch historical and operational boats that sailed from IJmuiden harbour in a parade towards Amsterdam to participate in a special edition of Lifeboat Day 2024. 

In addition to Dutch vessels, lifeboats from Germany, Sweden, and the United Kingdom came to IJmuiden to participate in this unique parade, which was part of KNRM’s 200th anniversary.

In Amsterdam, a 300-metre pontoon runway was created near the National Maritime Museum where all the lifeboats could moor. These boats were open to the public to view and meet the crew. 

During the festivities, the Jubilee Book was presented at the museum, and a stamp specially made for 200 years of KNRM was unveiled. A reception in the museum’s large atrium was also held for all former KNRM rescuers, and all crew members of the international fleet of lifeboats were invited. 

This special edition of Lifeboat Day 2024 was a huge success, attracting many visitors from all over the country.   

Photo credits: RNLI – Nathan Willliams, RNLI – Charis Walker, Roel Ovinge, Youck Brussel, Coen de Jong, Flying Focus, Peter van der Laan