RNLB Manchester Unity of Oddfellows (ON 960)

The Manchester Unity of Oddfellows ON 960
Owner: Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI)
Builder: William Osborne, Arun Shipyard, Littlehampton, West sussex
Official Number: ON 960
Donor: A gift of The Unity Friendly Society (The Oddfellows)
Station Sheringham
Cost: £28,500
Yard number: No:WO960
Launched: 14 March 1961
Christened: 15 June 1962 by HRH Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent
Acquired: 1961
Decommissioned: 1990
In service: 29 years
Fate: Displayed in Sheringham Museum, The Mo, from Thursday 25th March 2010
General characteristics
Class & type: Oakley
Type: Self-righting
Tonnage: 11 tons 17cwt
Displacement: 12 tons 1cwt
Length: 37 ft 0 in (11.28 m) overall
Beam: 11 ft 6 in (3.51 m)
Installed power: twin Perkins P4M, 43 bhp (32 kW)Diesel engine.
Re-engined in 1982 with twin 52 bhp (39 kW) Thornycroft 250 2701E four cylinder Diesel engines
Propulsion: 2 X 23 inches (580 mm) by 15 inches (380 mm) pitch propellers in tunnels
Speed: 8 kn (15 km/h)
Range: 190 nmi (350 km)
Notes: Once put on Display at the Royal Show in Cambridge in 1961.
The lifeboat was re-hulled between 1985 and 1986 at Cresent Marine, Otterham Quay, Upchurch.

The Manchester Unity of Oddfellows (RNLI Official Number 960) was an lifeboat of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI)[1][2] stationed at in the English county of Norfolk[3] from 10 July 1961 until 1990 when she was replaced after 29 years service by an second generation Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) in May 1992. During the time that The Manchester Unity of Oddfellows was on station at Sheringham, she performed 127 service[1] launches, rescuing 134 lives.[2]

Design and construction

The Manchester Unity of Oddfellows was built at the yard of William Osborne at Littlehampton, West Sussex.[4] She was an Oakley class self-righting design[4] which combined great stability with the ability to self-right in the event of the lifeboat capsizing. This was achieved by a system of shifting water ballast.[4] The system worked by the lifeboat taking on one and half tons of sea water at launching in to a tank built into the base of the hull. If the lifeboat then reached a crucial point of capsize the ballast water would transfer through valves to a righting tank built into the port side.[4] If the capsize was to the starboard side of the lifeboat, the water shift started when an angle of 165° was reached.[4] This would push the boat into completing a full 360° roll. If the capsize was to the port side, the water transfer started at 110°. In this case the weight of water combined with the weight of machinery aboard the lifeboat usually managed to stop the roll and allow the lifeboat to bounce back to upright.[4]

Hull construction

The hull of The Manchester Unity of Oddfellows was constructed from African mahogany built with two skins.[4] Each skin was diagonally laid with a layer of calico laid between the skins. The outer skin was ⅜ of an inch thick with the inner skin being ¼ of an inch thick. The keel was iron and weighed 1.154 tons. The hull was divided into eleven watertight compartments. The lifeboat was 37 feet 0 inches (11.28 m) in length and 11 feet 6 inches (3.51 m) in beam and displaced 12 tons 1cwt,[4] when fully laden with crew and gear. She was fitted with twin Perkins P4M, 43 brake horsepower (32 kW) Diesel engine, which moved her over the water at 8 knots (15 km/h).[4] The wheelhouse was positioned amidships.


The lifeboat was fitted with Decca 060 radar and all she carried Pye Westminster VHF and an Ajax MF radio telephones. In addition a radio Direction Finding set was carried, which gave a magnetic bearing to a transmitting station. The electric searchlight was standard along with Pains Wessex speedlines.

Service and rescues

The Manchester Unity of Oddfellows performed a total of 127 service launches during here 29 years at Sheringham[1] becoming the longest serving Oakley class lifeboat in the RNLI’s fleet.[2]


Over the period that The Manchester Unity of Oddfellows was stationed at Sheringham she had a total of five coxswains who were as follows:

  • Henry Downtide West, 1961 to 1962[1]
  • Henry Joyful West, 1963 to1984[1]
  • Jack West, 1985 to 1986[1]
  • Brian Pegg, 1986 to 1989[1]
  • Clive Rayment, 1989 to 1990[1]

Rescue of the Lucy

One notable rescue was carried out on the 15 August 1961.[2] the Lucy was herself a converted ship's lifeboat and she was on her maiden voyage from Peterborough to Southwold. There was a north west wind blowing, bitterly cold and sea conditions were described as short steep sea. The Lucy sprung a leak at the stern and started to take on water rapidly. Her four crew became concerned and started to send up distress signals. The signals were spotted and The Manchester Unity of Oddfellows made what was going to be a difficult launched. Because of the conditions of the tide, haul-off rope had to be used to prevent the lifeboat from being washed broadsides onto the beach. Just as the boat left the carriage the mast holding the haul-off rope snapped and it was only by skilful handling by coxwain Henry 'Downtide' West[2] that tragedy was averted. The lifeboat found the Lucy 5 miles (8.0 km) north east of Sheringham. Three lifeboatmen were put aboard the Lucy to help transfer the boat owner's unconscious wife and young son to The Manchester Unity of Oddfellows. The owner was transferred next, while the fourth member of the crew remained on board with the lifeboatmen while a tow was attempted. In the fierce swell the tow rope snapped and the coxwain decided to evacuate the four men remaining on board. The casualties were landed at Sheringham and all made a full recovery.


When The Manchester Unity of Oddfellows was retired from service her place was temporally taken by the last of Sheringham's all-weather lifeboats, the Lloyds II,[1][2] built in 1966[1] and paid for by donations from members of Lloyd's of London.[1] On 18 April 1992,[2] Lloyds II left Sheringham having performed seven services while on station. In May 1992 an second generation Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) also named Manchester Unity of Oddfellows became the permanent replacement for The Manchester Unity of Oddfellows ON 960

The lifeboat displayed at Sheringham Museum

Service and rescues

RNLB Manchester Unity of Oddfellows ON 960
Date Casualty Lives saved
July 13 Four crab boats, escorted boats
August 8 Small Yacht, saved boat 3
August 15 Converted Ships Lifeboat Lucy, saved boat 4
July 9 Converted Ships Lifeboat Sea Hawk, saved boat 4
August 7 Fishing vessel Sprat, saved boat 2
August 15 Cabin cruiser Buccaneer, In tow of crab boat, saved boat, landed 3
September 1 Crab boat White Rose, of Sheringham, gave help
June 20 Speed boat Sea Sprite, saved boat 2
August 15 Yacht Tablet, saved yacht
August 15 Speed boat Red Barrel, landed 2
September 5 Cabin Cruiser Sirius, gave help
July 1 Motor vessel Pantarali of Panama, landed 2 and a body
April 18 Four crab boats of Sheringham, gave help
January 29 Motor cruiser Hilary Anne, saved boat 1
May 20 Nine fishing boats of Sheringham, escorted
May 25 Fishing boat Tania of Sheringham, saved boat 2
June 30 Cabin cruiser She’s a Lady, assisted to save cruiser 3
August 17 Sailing Dinghy, saved dinghy 2
February 9 Motor vessel Richmond Castle, of London, landed a sick man
September 17 Crab boat Cicely, of Sheringham, escorted
January 3 Fishing boat Our Boys, of Sheringham, escorted
February 8 Fishing boat Welcome Messenger, of Sheringham, escorted
April 29 Eight fishing boats of Sheringham, stood by
June 3 Fishing boats Our Boys and Mizpah of Sheringham, stood by
June 9 Converted motor fishing boat Peggy, of Sheringham, saved boat 1
June 19 Cabin Cruiser John Kay, saved boat 6
July 31 Cabin cruiser Cylvia, gave help
September 16 Yacht Sea Boots, saved 2
January 1 Dudgeon Lightvessel, landed a sick man
April 6 Yacht Sallie of Maldon, saved 3
April 24 Dudgeon Lightvessel, landed a sick man
August 8 Fishing vessel Ame of King’s Lynn, gave help
November 7 Haisborough Lightvessel, landed a sick man
April 27 Six motor fishing vessels, escort vessels
November 25 Fishing vessel Kilsyth, landed an injured man
January 1 Finnlark of Finland, landed an injured man
June 2 Yacht Blue Tit, saved boat 2
September 4 Barge Focena, saved boat 2
August 5 Yacht Niord, gave help
October 25 Dinghy, escorted boat
March 28 Fishing boat Jonathan James, gave help
July 5 Converted Admiralty supply vessel VIC.32, escorted vessel
September 8 Motor launch Ailsa, gave help
January 29 Fishing boat Mizpah, gave help
April 5 Fishing boat Mizpah, escorted boat
April 16 Fishing boat Harvester, Saved 2
August 26 Motor cruiser Dora Lee, saved 5
April 8 Fishing boats, escorted boats
August 9 Cabin cruiser Cocktail II saved boat 3
May 11 Fishing boats, escorted boats
May 24 Fishing boats, escorted boats
August 10 Motor fishing vessel Venturer, saved vessel 2
April 20 Rubber Dinghy Force Four GT, saved boat 2
May 13 Fishing boats, escorted boats
June 3 Cargo vessel Bandick of Guernsey, landed an injured man
August 1 Rafts, saved 60
August 3 Catamaran Norwegian Blue, stood by
September 15 Two skin divers saved 2
October 28 Fishing boat Crystal Dawn, saved boat 2
April 25 Fishing boat Fragrance gave help
May 28 Motor fishing vessel Kathleen, Mizpah and Pegasus, gave help
May 28 Fishing vessel Good Courage, escorted vessel
July 25 Fishing boats, escorted boats
July 29 Fishing vessel Sea Eagle, Landed 3 sick men
October 4 Fishing vessel Caroline, saved 2
May 15 Motor yacht Kitaja, craft brought in–gave help
June 26 Fishing vessel Justifier, craft brought in-gave help
August 19 Sailboard, saved board 1
September 2 Fishing vessel Liberty, craft brought in-gave help
February 15 RoRo cargo vessel Torga Thia, of Sweden, stood by
April 16 Fiahing boat Cheryl C, svaed boat 2
May 30 Fishing vessel Pegasus, of Great Yarmouth, escorted vessel
June 21 Fishing vessels Donna Maria and Justified, gave help
June 29 Yacht Meg, saved boat 3
June 29 Sailing club safety boat Jeanie, escorted boat
June 29 Fishing vessel Sea Eagle, escorted vessel
April 14 Sailboard, saved board 1
July 15 Fishing vessel Blue Boy, gave help
August 19 Skin diver, saved 1
August 19 Two motor boats, gave help
September 28 Last Service, Yacht Smiling Swiss, landed an injured woman
Preceded by

RNLB Forester’s Centenary (ON 786)

RNLB The Manchester Unity of Oddfellows (ON 960)

1961 to 1990
Succeeded by
RNLB Lloyds II (ON 986)


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