Museum 'grateful' after lost number plates returned to legendary lifeboat

People onboard the HF Bailey lifeboat in Cromer

Two brass plates belonging to the HF Bailey are returned to the lifeboat in Cromer. Pictured left to right: Denis Baker, Bekki Britton, Malachi Britton, David Stubbs and Alan Gepp. - Credit: RNLI

A pair of number plates that were missing for decades have finally been returned to the legendary lifeboat used by Henry Blogg during the Second World War.

The brass plaques, which date from when the HF Bailey was built in 1935, were bought in an online auction by Jon Britton, who had intended to donated them to the RNLI Henry Blogg Museum in Cromer.

Mr Britton, who had strong links to the town, died at the age of 43, but now his family has travelled to Norfolk to honour his wish.

His sister Bekki Britton said: ”Jon was delighted to acquire the plaques and save them from disappearing into obscurity.

Makers plate and number plate of RNLB H.F.Bailey

The makers plate and number plate of HF Bailey were missing for decades but have now been returned to the legendary lifeboat in Cromer. - Credit: RNLI

"We are proud to hand them over to the RNLI Henry Blogg Museum in his memory and see them reunited with this historic boat.”

Jacqui Palmer, who manages the museum, said: “The number plate is the identification of the boat. Names of lifeboats sometimes change if they are moved to other stations, or a number of boats can use the same name.

"There have been four boats stationed at Cromer to bear the name H.F.Bailey thanks to a very generous legacy, but there has only ever been one lifeboat with the lucky number 777.

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"We are so grateful to Jon and his family for safeguarding the plates," Ms Palmer added.

Denis Baker, a volunteer boat conservator at the Henry Blogg Museum, is researching where the plates were attached to the boat originally.

He said: “We consulted the building specification and found a reference to the boat’s ‘NUMBER PLATE’. The instruction reads, ‘To be secured by brass screws at the centre of the After Endbox Bulkhead.’

A man and boy in a lifeboat's engine room

Malachi Britton and Denis Baker in the engine room onboard the legendary HF Bailey lifeboat in Cromer. - Credit: RNLI

"We want to make sure we have the correct position before attaching the boat’s unique number.

"This is the first time we have been able to put something original back on the boat. Which is fabulous for us," he said.

Mr Baker and the rest of the volunteer team are continuing their research by looking through historic photographs and consulting with other historic lifeboat custodians.

They are also keen to solve the mystery of where the plates have been all these years, to trace their journey from the boat and back.

Places - Cromer Lifeboat
Transport - Boats
Cromer's former lifeboat the H.F. Bailey (ON 777)

Cromer's former lifeboat the H.F. Bailey, which was stationed at Cromer from 1935 to 1945 under coxswain Henry Blogg. He and his crew saved 518 lives in 128 launches - Credit: Archant

HF Bailey (ON 777)

The brass plaques bear the name of the boatbuilder Groves and Guttridge Ltd and the operational number 777.

They belonged to the lifeboat HF Bailey which arrived in Cromer in 1935 and served throughout the Second World War until it was replaced in 1945.

Henry Blogg and the crew launched the boat 154 times and rescued 448 people from drowning during those 10 years.

The crew were awarded gallantry medals for three of the rescues.

Lifeboat legend: Coxswain Henry Blogg received the first of his three Gold Medals for his gallant re

Lifeboat legend: Coxswain Henry Blogg received the first of his three Gold Medals for his gallant rescue of the crews of the Pyrin and Fernebo - Credit: RNLI

Henry Blogg is still the most decorated crewmember of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

The HF Bailey was returned to Cromer after the work of Tony Webster, former chairman and president of Cromer lifeboat station, and the late Peter Cadbury.

Last year another historic lifeboat, the Louisa Heartwell, which was used by Mr Blogg and crewmen during two rescues on the North Sea within 14 hours in 1917, was returned to Cromer.