In June 1924 the Prudential Assurance Company of London presented the Royal National
Life-boat Institution with a cheque for £2,000. This was the first instalment of
a sum of approximately £10,000 which the company presented to the R.N.L.I as a gift
to mark their Centenary. From this gift a motor life-boat was to be built and named
the “Prudential” in accordance with the Company’s wishes.
Life-boat No. 697 was the resulting boat and she was unique in many ways, being the
prototype of a new class specifically intended for operating in estuaries. As she
was allocated to the Ramsgate station, being the prototype, the class became known
as the “Ramsgate” class, although it is thought that there were only two others
built of this type.
“Prudential” was built in 1925 by the firm of Samuel E Saunders Ltd at their West
Cowes boatyard on the Isle of Wight. Her hull was of double diagonal teak construction
and her dimensions were 48ft 6ins length, 13ft breadth and a draft of 3ft 10”, excluding
her 5ft 6ins drop keel. She was powered by a 76hp Weyburn DE 6-cylinder petrol engine
which gave her a maximum speed of just over 8 knots. The engine was so constructed
that in the event of it being totally submerged it would still function. Six oars
were also carried as well as standing lug, mizzen and jib sails. Without any gear
or her crew of nine aboard she weighed 19.65 tons and her displacement was 21.8 tons.
She cost a total of £8417-8s-6d.
After a sea trial at East Cowes on 20th November 1925 she was sent to Ramsgate to
be kept on a swinging mooring and on 24th April 1926, witnessed by thousands of
spectators and with the harbour decorated with flags and bunting, the official naming
honours were performed by Mrs Horne, the wife of the deputy Chairman of the Prudential
“S.S. Falcon” footage
Service Career at Ramsgate
The “Prudential” rescued a total of 330 souls during normal service in her 28 years
at Ramsgate, many of them on the Goodwin sands. Notable vessels attended included,
in 1926, the French steam trawler “Jubarte”, when both vessel and crew of 16 were
saved, and the “S.S. Falcon”, ablaze from stem to stern off Dover, where she rescued
the captain and crew. In 1928, another French steam trawler, “Cyclone”, was rescued
along with her 16 man crew. In 1932 she saved 9 crew from the Grimsby steam trawler
At the beginning of the war she saved 31 lives from the 5182 ton Antwerp steamship
“Kabinda”, broken in half on the Goodwins and 17 lives from the Sunderland steamship
“Ashley”. Just days after Dunkirk she saved 68 people from two french motor boats
and 31 from the London steamship “Harcola”.
The “Prudential” had the privilege, before being retired out of service, of being
the Flagship of the Life-boat Division Commodore, Commander E W Middleton, as one
of four life-boats taking part in the Spithead Naval Review taken by H. M.Queen Elizabeth
II on 15th June 1953; fine recognition of the boat’s 28 years in service.