The Coastguard Service was brought in 1922 under the control of the Board of Trade and reorganized into two divisions -
THE BREECHES BUOY IN ACTION. A light line is fired over the vessel from a rocket apparatus and a hawser is thus hauled on board. The breeches buoy then brings the crew ashore one by one. This photograph was taken during the rescue of twenty Italian seamen from their ship, the Nimbo, which had gone on the rocks between Newhaven and Brighton, Sussex.
SINCE the earliest days of her history Great Britain has had some form of coast-
As soon as the Government of a country imposes taxes on certain imports there rise at once a number of people determined to cheat the Government of its dues and at the same time,
by smuggling, to make a fortune for themselves. The British Isles, with their indented coast-
As far back as 1698 there existed a recognized coast force consisting chiefly of preventive officers and riding officers who patrolled the coasts. These officers were at a later date augmented by Dragoons, and in 1822 the Army took over the control of the whole of the coast riding force.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Government took more active steps about coast watching and a stronger preventive force was employed, chiefly under the Treasury and Customs Departments. Men with sea training were also required to man patrol vessels and the Admiralty gradually gained some control. A signalling system was organized which, although slow, was fairly efficient and operated between the various watch stations and from hill to hill to London.
The Napoleonic wars led to an increase of smuggling. At this period, too, the threat of invasion, of which the Martello Towers on the south and east coasts are a reminder, led to the personnel of the coast watchers being greatly increased and their duties multiplied.
Peace brought with it much un employment among seamen, many of whom were taken on for coast duties. Gradually the work of coast watching was sorted out, but the control was mixed, the Admiralty, War-
The Admiralty kept a watchful eye on the service for many reasons, but perhaps the most important reason was that the service formed a useful nucleus of reserves in the event of war. This
reserve was officially recognized in 1845. As far back as 1827 ex-
In 1857, after the Crimean War, the Coastguard Service was placed on a more definite footing under the Admiralty by an Act of Parliament which formally embodied it for “the Defence of the Coasts of the Realm, and the more ready manning of the Navy”. Thus it remained with varying minor changes until the war of 1914-
This Coastguard Service was an occupation much sought after and gave employment not only to pensioners and ex-
During the war of 1914-
Strange to say, the question of life-
They could help to launch lifeboats, for instance, but were not supposed to go out in them. The lifeboat service was and is run as a Society maintained by public subscription, and private life-
On the reorganization of the coast service in 1922, the old Coastguard Service as such ceased to exist, but the word Coastguard was retained, as in war-
The Coastguard is now divided into two sections — the Coast Watching Force under the Board of Trade and styled H.M. Coastguard, and the Coast Preventive Corps. The duties of the Coast Watching Force are mainly connected with the saving of life, the salvage of wreckage and the administration of foreshores.
The Coast Preventive Corps, which is supplementary to the Coast Watching Force, performs duties in connexion with the protection of revenue, and, the cost of maintenance is borne by the Customs and Excise Vote. The administrative side of H.M. Coastguard is carried out by a Chief Inspector and Deputy Chief Inspector at the Board of Trade, both officers being retired naval officers.
The coasts of Great Britain and Northern Ireland are divided into twelve divisions, each with an Inspector, who is generally a retired captain or commander of the Navy, in charge. Each division has a varying number of stations in it according to the length and nature of coast to be watched. The North Scotland Division, for instance, has fifty-
The stations vary in the number of personnel and in the watch kept, according not only to their locality, but also to the weather conditions prevailing. In these days of wireless and quick communications the maximum watch is necessary only in bad weather or in such weather as would render boat work difficult.
In the most important stations watch is kept day and night and is taken by four men. Other stations have three or two men according to the circumstances. The staff belongs to the standing force. In addition to these permanently manned stations, there are auxiliary ones in which watch is set only in bad weather, and the personnel is provided by volunteers from among local persons under the charge of a responsible resident. The number of stations occupied exceeds 250, and there are more than 750 watch-
Watch at all the stations is kept from a look-
A PISTOL ROCKET APPARATUS was used by the Lowestoft, Suffolk, rocket life-
The introduction of the telephone has greatly increased the efficiency of the coast-
If the distressed vessel is close inshore and the weather bad, the Rocket Apparatus Company, which is under the charge of the Coastguard, is called out. Throughout a particular service, the Coastguard maintains the closest touch with all the authorities concerned with the rescue measures and, if the vessel is in touch by wireless, the Coast Wireless Station receives her signals.
The work of the lifeboat is well known (see the chapter “The Drama of Life-
The rocket is fired over the vessel requiring succour and carries with it a line. The line is attached to the rope and block and this is made fast on board the vessel. From the shore the hawser is then hauled to the vessel, and after everything has been properly set up, the breeches buoy can be transported to and fro as a passenger service. Instructions for operating the service are printed in four languages and attached to the block so that the crew on the wreck can know what to do; but even if they do not understand, the people ashore can generally help.
Volunteers for this valuable work are taken from all walks of life and receive a retaining fee and an allowance for drills and service rendered. The age limit for volunteers is normally fifty and the retiring age sixty-
The shield for 1935 was awarded to the Bootle and Whitehaven (Cumberland) Companies for their services in connexion with the steamship Esbo, which drifted ashore early on October 19 in that year. The Bootle men arrived on the scene at 7 a.m., but the vessel was then too far out for the rocket to reach her, and even during the forenoon when the vessel had got inshore, the gale and distance were still too great.
Meanwhile, the District Officer was busy, and the Whitehaven Life-
The hawser could not be got out and so the breeches-
Duties connected with fisheries, meteorological reports and a variety of odds and ends are all part of the Coastguardsman’s life. Recruits for the Service are obtained from ex-
Recruits for the Service are generally taken from among men between the age of forty and forty-
A CONCRETE WATCH-
“Smugglers and Revenue Cutters” on this website.