A MISSION to save a replica of a ship which sailed at the Battle of Trafalgar was the focus of a documentary charting the lifesaving efforts of lifeboat volunteers.

The BBC 2 show Saving Lives at Sea revealed how the HMS Pickle set sail from Dover en route to Harwich at first light in August 2019.

The schooner faced rough conditions and her engine room began to take on water.

The crew alerted the coastguard and Frinton and Walton RNLI, assisted by Harwich RNLI, responded.

Frinton and Walton RNLI first received a mayday in the afternoon, the most urgent distress call at sea.

When volunteer Dale Steggles, 31, first heard the name HMS Pickle, he told the show he wondered whether they were being called out to a warship.

A seven-man crew, assisted by Harwich’s all-weather lifeboat, reached the HMS Pickle’s last known location, 20 miles south east of Walton.

“I thought ‘oh it’s not a grey naval warship, she’s an old schooner-type tall ship’ – it was like ‘wow, this is very different.’,” said Dale.

Two members of the crew used the lifeboat’s small y-boat to reach the 100ft long vessel, climbing on board before using a salvage pump to help clear the flooded water.

The crew managed to save the ship and identify the source of the leak.

Dale told the documentary: “We are at the entrance to the Thames, very busy with traffic coming in to Harwich and Felixstowe – there’s a lot of yachts coming up and down the east coast on trips – plenty of boats around.”

He added: “The ride back was interesting, we learned a bit about the history and there was a great sunset at the end of a successful job.”

The vessel was built in 1996, a replica of the HMS Pickle which sailed at the Battle of Trafalgar – the first ship to return to Britain with news of Admiral Nelson’s victory.

Mal Nicholson, owner and skipper of the HMS Pickle, told the show: “We left very early in the morning and were making great progress.

“The seas were extremely rough but that’s nothing unusual for HMS Pickle she can deal with that.

“It wasn’t until I opened the engine room door I knew it was serious, contacted the coastguard and told him that it was balancing on a knife edge.

“You never ever expect you’re going to be in that situation, but when you’re there and you see the lads coming over the horizon going like hell, you know full well that whatever can be done will be done.

“You’re very much aware in that situation, others are putting themselves at risk to help you.”