In 1867 the RNLI awarded a silver medal to Thomas M Rees of St Davids for risking his own life in descending the cliffs on a dark and stormy night to rescue four men from the wrecked schooner Two Brothers. It was following this incident and a number of similar wrecks at the time in which lives had been lost that the residents of St Davids appealed to the RNLI for a boat to be stationed at St Davids.
RNLB Augusta 1869-1885
In 1869 the first lifeboat - Augusta the gift of the Earl of Dartmouth - arrived at St Davids. Though initially kept in the city centre, a new boat house and slipway was erected in 1869 at Porthstinan. The Augusta was 32 feet in length and could be sailed or rowed by her ten oarsmen. Her officers were the Bowman, 2nd Coxswain and in command the coxswain - David Hicks. The lifeboat remained at St Davids until 1885 launching 17 times and saving 23 lives. Her most noteable rescue being the crew of the Mystic Tie in 1878.
RNLB Gem 1885-1910
In 1885 the lifeboat Gem (ON 59) arrived at St Davids. She was a little larger than the Augusta and had 12 oarsmen and could self-right in the event of capsize. She was donated by John Metcalf of York in a legacy, costing £300. She launched 19 times and saved 16 lives. Her finest moment probably came in 1903 when her crew rescued six men from the SS Graffoe which had run aground on Ramsey Island. The RNLB Gem is probably best known for the rescue of the three crewmen of the ketch Democrat in Ramsey Sound in 1910. After successfully taking the three men aboard the lifeboat was swept onto the Bitches reef and three of her crew were drowned. The remaining 12 plus the Democrat survivors spent 14 hours clinging to the reef until two local shore boats manned by men from St Davids came to their rescue.
One of those rescuers (Sidney Mortimer) became the next lifeboat coxswain at the age of 18.5 years. A temporary lifeboat (Charlotte) was stationed at St Davids in the little harbour of Porthclais whilst a new lifeboat slipway and boathouse were built at Porthstinan above the original slipway. This boathouse - much modified - remains in use today.
RNLB General Farrell 1912-1936
In 1912 the motor lifeboat RNLB General Farrell (ON 614) was placed on station. Costing some £3000 she was the gift of Mrs CMH Leckie of Walton on Thames. The lifeboat was a self righting single screw boat with a petrol engine - her top speed would have been some 7 knots. An open boat she was also equipped for sailing. The boat remained on station until 1936 during which time she launched 26 times and saved 17 lives. The most notable of these rescues being to the SS Mosely in 1929 in atrocious conditions.
RNLB Swn-y-Mor 1936-1963
With the arrival of the RNLB Swn-y-Mor (ON 784) in 1936 one of the busiest periods in the stations history began and a number of award winning rescues were performed by the crewmen of St Davids. She was donated to the RNLI by the Civil Service Lifeboat Fund (No 6) at a cost of £7618. The RNLB Swn-y-Mor was a 46 Watson class motor lifeboat with twin petrol engines, a small cockpit shelter and a covered cabin forward. She was not of self-righting design. She remained on station until 1963, was fitted with radio and first aid equipment and during her services launched on 90 occasions and saved 108 lives.
During the years of the 2nd World War a number of notable rescues were performed but these received little recognition at the time. Amongst the rescues were those of a man trapped on cliffs and the search for survivors from two landing craft which were overwhelmed in rough seas at the entrance to Milford Haven. However, the two most known rescues were to the World Concord in 1954 when 35 crew were rescued from a tanker which had broken in two in a severe storm and the rescue of 8 French fishermen from the trawler Notre Dame de Fatima when one of the lifeboatmen (Ieuan Bateman) was lost overboard.
RNLB Joseph Soar 1963-1985
In 1963 a second Watson class lifeboat was stationed at St Davids. The RNLB Joseph Soar (ON 971) was also donated by the Civil Service Lifeboat Fund (No 34) and named after a long-serving St Davids station Honorary Secretary. She cost some £40,000. The RNLB Joseph Soar was a 47 Watson class wooden hulled lifeboat with wheelhouse and forward and aft cabins. She was powered by twin Gardener diesel engines at a top speed of about 8 knots with a range of 300 nautical miles.
Her original equipment included MF and VHF radio, drogue, wave subduing oil, Neil Robertson stretcher and first aid equipment. In 1974 she underwent a major refit which included conversion for self-righting through the fitting of buoyancy to the cabins and making the wheelhouse and cabins watertight, radar equipment was also added for the first time to give much improved night-time operations. The lifeboat launched on 99 occasions and saved 45 lives - among her most noteable rescues were MFV 7 and Miss Ali Jane.
The relief lifeboat RNLB Charles Henry Ashley also paid a notable visit to St Davids. Whilst on temporary duty at the station in 1981 whilst the RNLB Joseph Soar was undergoing refit she was launched to assist three Greek tugs which were in distress in St Brides Bay.
RNLB Ruby & Arthur Reed (48-03) 1985-1988
In 1985 the RNLB Joseph Soar was transferred to Dunbar station and replaced by the ex-Cromer lifeboat RNLB Ruby and Arthur Reed which had already saved 58 lives. She was a 486" Oakley class self righting boat of wooden construction. She was powered by twin Gardner diesel engines at a top speed of 9 knots and was fitted with MF and VHF radios, MF and VHF direction finding equipment, radar, first aid equipment, a stretcher and a drogue. Whilst at the station she was launched 10 times and saved 9 lives - the rescue of the Marigold A being the most noteworthy.
The current lifeboat (RNLB Garside) replaced the RNLB Ruby and Arthur Reed in 1988. Major repairs and modifications were made to the boathouse and slipway in preparation for the arrival of the new boat. The Garside has launched over 160 times since her arrival, with the services to the MFV Stephanie Jane and tanker Blackfriars of special note.
In 1997 a D class inshore lifeboat was placed on station for a trial period following the removal of RAF helicopter cover from nearby RAF Brawdy. Major renovation works were carried out to the old lifeboat house and watchroom and a new slipway created for launching over the beach using a quad and trailer. In 1998 the RNLB Dewi Sant / St David was placed on station confirming the end of a successful trial period.