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Heroes of the RNLI (Paperback)

The Storm Warriors

British History P&S History Naval

By Martyn R Beardsley
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 272
Illustrations: 32 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526725769
Published: 26th November 2020

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£16.99

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As featured in the Eastern Daily Press, January 2021: 'An unsung hero: Billy Fleming, Norfolk's great lifeboatman'

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Whenever vessels have foundered off the coasts of Britain, there have always been those willing to give their all to save those in peril. But in 1823, Sir William Hillary decided that this admirable but impromptu approach was not enough. He believed that many more lives could be saved by the establishment of a national, organised rescue service. His idea was realised the following year.

From the days of oar-powered open boats to modern high speed, hi-tech vessels, rescuers have battled storms and unimaginable conditions, risking – and sometimes forfeiting – their own lives in efforts to save others. The most outstanding of these operations led to the awarding of gold medals for gallantry, the RNLI version of the Victoria Cross. Above all, these are human stories. Using information gleaned from archives, contemporary newspaper accounts and genealogical records, this book looks not just at the details of the rescues, but into the people behind them.

I found this an interesting read. The author uses clear language and the book is well structured. If you have an interest in an enduring institution, then this is for you.

Read the full review here

Army Rumour Service (ARRSE)

I never fail to be in awe of the achievements of the RNLI, a public-funded and wholly voluntary organisation that has saved some 140,000 lives in the UK. Whenever vessels have foundered off the coasts of Britain, there have always been those willing to give their all to save those in peril but in 1823, Sir William Hillary decided that this admirable but impromptu approach was not enough. He believed that many more lives could be saved by the establishment of a national, organised rescue service. His idea was realised the following year. From the days of oar-powered open boats to modern high speed, hi-tech vessels, rescuers have battled storms and unimaginable conditions, risking – and sometimes forfeiting – their own lives in efforts to save others. The most outstanding of these operations led to the awarding of gold medals for gallantry, the RNLI version of the Victoria Cross. Using information gleaned from archives, contemporary newspaper accounts and genealogical records, this book looks not just at the details of the heroic rescues, but the people behind them.

Read the full review here

Julian Stockwin

Some of the stories covered in this book are fantastic feats of bravery, we have the highly decorated man Harry Blogg from Norfolk, Grace Darling and the Irish Father O’Shea. These are just a few examples of the stories in the book in which there are about 40 stories all collected together from the very start of the service to later times. The stories all come from various sources such as newspapers, genealogical records and the archives, so there should be praise and gratitude for the effort the author Beardsley has had to go to. As the book reads well and the stories have been put together very well. Maybe it’s because I am sitting here reading this book in front of a fire and it’s raining outside, but it’s good to hunker down and get lost in a great bunch of heroic stories. A highly recommended book, especially to those that like to read about life on the sea.

5 stars

Read the full review here

UK Historian

Article: 'You never saw him panic' – Norfolk’s Great Lifeboatman as featured by

Great Yarmouth Mercury, 29th January 2021

Article: 'You never saw him panic' – Billy Fleming, Norfolk’s Great Lifeboatman as featured by

Click here to read the article online

Eastern Daily Press, 23rd January 2021

It seems incredible that after the creation of the RNLI (formerly The Royal National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwrecks), around 200 years ago, it continues to be primarily funded by charity donations. This book highlights some of the more (as well as the less) well known courageous people who, as volunteers, risked their lives to save others. This is a well researched book and I enjoyed learning about all the brave volunteers. Sir William Hillary is the man given credit for setting up this wonderful institution. It was as interesting to read a little more detail about the celebrated Grace Darling as it was to hear about the heroes who have slipped from common knowledge.

NetGalley, Jill G

I found this a well-researched book about various rescues made by members of the RNLI.

The story of Grace Darling I was familiar with but the others, not. It is amazing to me that so many of the rescues in this book took place by men rowing out to ships in gale-force storms. I can't even imagine it. I was once caught in a storm on a sailing boat in the middle of the English Channel and that was terrifying enough; reading these rescues made my heart speed up, absolutely!

I am in awe of the skill and bravery of these incredible people who rescue others in appalling conditions (even with a motorised rescue craft, it is still very risky) and I am glad that a book such as this has been written about these unsung heroes.

4.5 stars from me.

NetGalley, Monica Mac

About Martyn R Beardsley

Martyn Beardsley writes for both children and adults, but history is his big passion. He is from Nottingham but visits the coast as often as possible, and has witnessed the Fowey lifeboat go into action on several occasions – on one of which he helped coax a troubled woman from the chilly waters of Polruan harbour. His other non-fiction works include Charles II and his Escape into Exile, and Waterloo Voices, a compilation of first-hand accounts of the famous battle.

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