30th May 1975

The Queen Mother names a new lifeboat

Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, visited Jersey to officially name the island’s new lifeboat Thomas James King. King had been a coxswain of the lifeboats and been awarded a gold medal in 1949 for his bravery as part of a crew that rescued the yacht Maurice Georges.

King and his crew had just returned to port, late at night on 13 September 1949 after a fruitless eight-hour search for a crashed Wellington aircraft that had come down on a flight between Cherbourg and Boulogne. As they pulled in, someone spotted a distress signal, and the crew quickly turned the boat, the Hearts of Oak, and set off to investigate. When they found the source of the signal, they discovered the Maurice Georges, a 10-ton yacht that had drifted among the treacherous rocks of La Sambue Reef. The lifeboat took off three of the passengers, leaving one aboard to make sure everything was alright as they towed it into port.

Sadly, news for the men on the downed aircraft was not so positive. Three survivors of the military team flying it were picked up near Chausey, but the other six crew members perished.

An award for bravery

In December 1949, King was awarded the RNLI gold medal for the bravery he showed in piloting his boat into the middle of the rocks where the rough seas could easily have smashed it. A gold medal is only ever given for gallantry. The other seven men on the lifeboat were awarded bronze medals and the crew as a whole was given £58 to be shared between them.

Thomas King retired from the lifeboat service after a career spanning 20 years, including the period of occupation, in February 1950, by which point he had saved more than 50 lives.


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