Lifeboat Crew

Photographs of Gorleston Lifeboat Crews, early 20th Century

By John Layton and Paul Douch

These photographs show some of the Gorleston Lifeboat Crews, up to 1943.

The first shows, in 1939, the Vicar of Gorleston, Rev D Dick, and the Gorleston Lifeboat Crew, from L to R, Avon, Nebon Monson, Joe John and "Sailor Symonds".

Charles Johnson served as coxswain of the RNLI's Gorleston lifeboat from 1934 to 1946, having previously served under coxswain William Fleming.  Both men can be seen in the front row in the third photo, taken about 1923.

Further information and photos on the website of the Great Yarmouth and Gorleston Lifeboat
See also page 95 of Norfolk's lifeboats by Roger Wiltshire for the names of other crew members in photo three.

The last two photos show the crew of the private Gorleston Volunteer Lifeboat "Elizabeth Simpson", in 1938, the year of its last famous rescue, from the SS Tartary.  The boat ceased service in 1939, having been launched in 1889.

Photo:Gorleston Lifeboat Crew, 1939, with Gorleston Vicar, Rev D Dick

Gorleston Lifeboat Crew, 1939, with Gorleston Vicar, Rev D Dick

Gt Yarmouth Museums

Photo:Gt Yarmouth and Gorleston RNLI Lifeboat Coxswain Charles Johnson, 1943

Gt Yarmouth and Gorleston RNLI Lifeboat Coxswain Charles Johnson, 1943

Gt Yarmouth Museums

Photo:Gorleston Lifeboat Crew, early 20th Century

Gorleston Lifeboat Crew, early 20th Century

Gt Yarmouth Museums

Photo:Crew of the Elizabeth Simpson lifeboat, Gorleston

Crew of the Elizabeth Simpson lifeboat, Gorleston

Great Yarmouth Museums

Photo:Crew of the "Elizabeth Simpson", 1938

Crew of the "Elizabeth Simpson", 1938

Great Yarmouth Museums

This page was added by John Layton on 23/02/2007.
Comments about this page

The photograph of the Gorleston Crew has my Great Great Grandfather Charlie Chilvers 4th from the left siting on the front row. Has anyone any other names?

By Norman Balls
On 01/06/2009

My relative is C. A . Johnson, coxwain. I think he had the pub called the Waterside Inn. I have some wonderfull photos of the crew of the life boat outside the pub. How brave they all were, as are the crews of today.

By jackie litchfield
On 19/09/2011

Ellery Harris is 3rd from the left at the bottom and Arthur Harris is 3rd from the right on the second line. They are my husband's grandfather and great uncle. Sidney Harris was also their brother.

By Joyce Harris
On 28/05/2012

My great great grandfather was Job Henry Woods he was coxswain of the Elizabeth Simpson between 1890 - 1901.  Does anyone know if he is on any of these pictures or have any photos of him.  I would love to know what he looked like.

By Jenny Cockrill
On 07/01/2013

My mother was Myra Baker, her mothers maiden name was Ann Harris, and my great grandfather was Sidney Harris

By John Lee
On 14/04/2014

I am in possession of medals for Arthur Harris from 1919 and 1924. Trying to trace why they are in my families possession.

Peter Argyle


By Peter Argyle
On 22/01/2017

Sidney Harris was my great great grandfather , I am a descendant of his son Bertie and granddaughter Beatrice Marian

By Tamsyn Hiscock
On 04/02/2018

Peter Argyle. This was a surprise to read your comment, Arthur Harris was my great grandfather. He served on the lifeboat about 1900 with his three brothers, Ellery Harris, Dennis Harris and his brother Sidney "Sparks" (coxswain) Harris. I would like to know more information about the medals please..My mother was a Harris, so that's my connection....Marlene Delay 



By Marlene Delay
On 04/02/2018

On the very first picture is Sailor Symonds. He is first on the right. He was my great uncle married to Annie Adelaide Harris, my great auntie, brother to Arthur Harris, who was my great grandad..Would love to hear from anyone who has more information about the Harris family, many served on the lifeboat and were fishermen at Gorleston....

By Marlene Delay
On 14/02/2018

Sidney Harris was my great great grandfather. He is the bearded gentleman standing on the far left. As well as being the coxswain he also had a seafood stall on the pier and at times his daughters Ethel and Laura worked there . My connection to Sidney is through his daughter Jessie. When I was young we used to go to Gorleston for our summer holiday and stay with Auntie Ethel who had a guest house. Aunt Laura used to live in Pier Road next door to the pub.

By Angela Pollard
On 21/11/2018

I would like to make contact with Peter Argyle who posted above, regarding Arthur Harris. Any help, greatly appreciated.

Kind regards, Malcolm.

By Malcolm Wilsonm
On 21/11/2018

My father is in the last picture, bottom row, first on the left. My name is Derek Harris

By Derek Harris
On 21/11/2018

In the third photo the man on the far left is Sidney Harris. He was the coxswain of the lifeboat. He was my great great grandfather. I think he also had a herring boat and at one time he had a seafood stall on the pier. I have a photo of my great aunts Ethel and Laura working there. My great grandmother Jessie moved back to Gorleston in later life and we would holiday there every summer and visit all our relatives.

By Angela Pollard
On 21/11/2018

I hold the bronze R.N.L.I Medal and framed award in vellum awarded to Arthur Harris for the wreck of the S.S. HOPELYN IN 1922-originally purchased from the Hayward collection at Spinks' in 1995.I think he would have also held the Elizabeth Simpson Gorleston Volunteer Lifeboat Medal for the CHRISTIAN in 1903, and the Medal for the War Valley in 1919.I also hold these same three Medals awarded to William Newson.I have been very interested in the Hopelyn rescue since I read the Book "Saved from the Sea" by Robert Malster

Gary Brown 07/05/2019



On 09/05/2019

Great memories here of men I knew.  My Dad Rey Ling was Hon. Sec. of Gorleston lifeboat station from late 1940s to early 1970s and I was a crew member of the first (zodiac) ILB when I worked just up the road from the lifeboat station at Eastsacks in the early 1969s.  
I remember Ellery Harris on the crew of Louise Stephen’s - greatly respected his quiet and confident competance.  Sugar Hannant and Shoots (spelling?) Parker too. (many stories of his strength, fortitude and and ability to take a drink!) and Ron (?) Mallion (?) who was, i think, related to the great Percy Beavers (can someone remind me how?).  

I clearly remember ‘Joe’ Johnson because he was my third Godfather -Dad had chosen two of his boyhood friends but one of them was away on HMS Sheffield in the South Atlantic at the time of my baptism (1940) so Joe stood in for him at the service.  Huge gentle man - always remember his huge hands.  I ought not to go on for too long on off-topic memories of theses great men but Dad told me of an occasion once during WW2 when, training hard for D-Day and based at the old Gorleston ‘Super Holiday Camp’ (on the corner of Bridge Road and Lowestoft Road) a battalion (of the Warwicks I think) was celebrating in Joe’s pub having won the inter-regimental tug-o-war. 

In conversation around the bar one of these young men, comparing their super-fit condition to that of the fishermen who frequented Joe’s pub, aroused Joe to tell them that a team of these men could pull them off the park.

So the challenge was made and the result was a whitewash for the fishermen.  What the soldiers had not taken into consideration eas that thede large, big-handed men of sometimes substantial girth, had been pulling hugely-long-and-heavy fish-filled drift nets all their adult lives - and so a team of soldiers was a roll-over!

As I said earlier - great men, and from a great community of fishermen and lifeboatmen.

Apologies for any excessive off-topic contribution.

By John Ling
On 29/04/2021

I have a print of the Mark Lane lifeboat being rowed out to sea in Dec 1902. My great grandfather “Australian Joe” Woods was at one time a crew member. My grandmother, his daughter, told me so. My grandfather, “Josh” Rix was engineer on the Richard Lee Barber, harbour tug in the 1950s. There used to be a ferry which rowed from the Gorleston side of the harbour across to the North Pier and South Denes - it was called ‘overing'.

By Angela Clifford
On 27/11/2021

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