by Richard Wigley, Clacton Lifeboat

IT has been 50 years since Clacton witnessed the naming ceremony for the Valentine Wyndham Quinn, the sixth and last offshore lifeboat to be stationed at Clacton during the station’s 140-year history of saving lives at sea.

Arriving at the beginning of the year on 18 January, 1968, the 37ft Oakley class self-righting lifeboat replaced its larger predecessor the Sir Godfrey Baring.

The change to the smaller class of lifeboat was due to the silting up at the base of the slipway, which caused occasional difficulties with launching for the larger lifeboat.

The new lifeboat did not have to wait long to be called into action for it was requested to launch to a small cabin cruiser Ginny on February 4 with engine difficulties off Jaywick. The cruiser and its three occupants were taken in tow to Brightlingsea.

With preparations well under way for the naming ceremony on April 22, the inevitable happened and the lifeboat was requested to launch at 11.30am after wreckage was spotted near the Mid-Barrow lightvessel.

After a detailed search with other vessels and a helicopter, nothing but wreckage was found.

It was believed to be an older wreck breaking up.

The lifeboat was recovered at 4.30pm and was readied for its public appearance the following day.

In front of a large crowd, Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent, officially named the new lifeboat Valentine Wyndham Quinn, after a former RNLI Chairman.

The new lifeboat was accepted by Clacton RNLI’s honorary secretary C. A. Perry from Admiral Sir Wilfred Woods, chairman of RNLI’s management committee.

Over the next 15 years there were many exceptional services, being launched on service over 90 times, resulting in at least 66 lives being saved.

One of the more mundane rescues is of special interest to our current lifeboat operations manager David Wells.

At 10.36pm on March 24, 1974, with a force four East North Easterly blowing and a moderate sea, he launched for the first time on service as a crew member of the Valentine Wyndham Quinn to reports of red flares being sighted.

Mr Wells is now using those 44 years of experience to guide the station forward while installing the values and virtues of all those that have gone before in today’s crew.

The same problem curtailed the service period for the lifeboat due to the silting up at the base of the slipway in 1984.

It led to Clacton becoming a dual inshore lifeboat station, with an Atlantic 21 lifeboat being housed in the pier boathouse, using a special trolley to use the iconic slipway.

Today there are still two inshore lifeboats, an Atlantic 85 and the latest D class, now housed in the new boathouse at Martello Bay.

The Valentine Wyndham Quinn can now be seen on display in the Harwich Lifeboat Museum, 6 Wellington Road, Harwich.