Lifeboat & Rocket Brigade MemorialPrint Page Print this page


Photographs supplied by Stephen Woods

The monument commemorates those who served in Newcastle Lifeboat Service and Rocket Brigade in the early 19th to mid 20th centuries.  It is dedicated to those who served, those who fell in the line of duty and those they saved.  

The members of the Newcastle Lifeboat Service and the Rocket Brigades were about 350 over the course of their 136-year existence and are often forgotten in the Hunter’s maritime history. For about 136 years, their exploits were the only thing ensuring hundreds of shipwrecks off the coast of Newcastle did not result in hundreds, possibly thousands, of funerals. Many of the rescuers drowned or died from hypothermia or exhaustion.

The first lifeboat came to Newcastle in 1838 but it was very cumbersome and the accompanying equipment of similar standard. It wasn't until 1866 that they received a properly designed lifeboat.  A lifeboat would be stationed at Newcastle up until 1946 and the most famous vessels were the Victoria and the Victoria II. They were involved in some of the worst and most exciting rescue missions ever seen in Australian waters. One of the most memorable was during a 15-hour rescue in 1909, when a US ship was in danger of being washed on to the villainous Oyster Bank.

Complementing the lifeboat service were the Rocket Brigades, formed in 1866. They were split into north and south divisions, based either side of the harbour and crews didn’t have the luxury of a boat. Instead, they trudged heavy equipment, including a rocket launcher designed to fire ropes on to stranded ships, along the 30-kilometre stretch of Stockton beach. The Rocket Brigades were last involved in a rescue in 1974 when the iconic Sygna was lost – the wreck is still visible from Stockton beach.



Address:Nobbys Road, Nobbys Beach, on walk to Lighthouse, Newcastle East , 2300
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -32.919015
Long: 151.797206
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
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Monument Type:Monument
Monument Theme:Disaster
Designer:Jamie Sargeant & John Morton


Actual Monument Dedication Date:Friday 13th December, 2013
Front Inscription
In commemoration of those who served with courage and endurance in the Newcastle Lifeboats (1838 - 1946) and the Rocket Brigades ( 1866 - 1974 ).
Left Side Inscription

Whenever Duty Calls

The Newcastle Lifeboat Service 1838 - 1946 and Rocket Brigades 1866 - 1974

Newcastle`s harbour was one of the most dangerous in the world.  Hundreds of ships and lives were lost in this area. The first wreck occurred in 1800 and the lifeboat service began in 1838.  Volunteer crews manned the lifeboats until the 1880s when they were crewed by employees of the pilot service.

The lifeboat crews showed skill, strength, determination and courage as they faced death on their missions of mercy.  They saved hundreds of lives, sometimes at the cost of their own.  One of the most famous rescues was in September 1904 when the French ship `Adolphe` ran aground on the Oyster Bank in raging seas.  The remains of the vessel can still be seen on the northern side of the Stockton Breakwater.  There was also the rescue of the captain, captain`s wife and crew of the American schooner 'Alpena` in 1909.  The United States Presidential Gold Medal was presented to those involved in the `Alpena` rescue for their heroic service.

The Rocket Brigades also saved many lives - especially off Stockton Beach.  The crews had to carry their heavy equipment for kilometres along the beach to assist a ship in distress.  A rocket launcher was used to send a rope onto the ship and those aboard were hauled ashore in a breeches-buoy.  The Brigade responded to the `Susan Gilmore` in 1884 when she became stranded during a raging storm.  Later that beach was named after her.  The Brigade was disbanded in 1974 after the stranding of the `Sygna` and its wreck can still be seen on Stockton Beach. The last lifeboat, `Victoria II`, was launched in 1897 and remained in used until the service was disbanded in 1946.   It is now on display at the Newcastle Maritime Centre.

About the sculpture

This stylised representation of the boat and rocket launcher evoke powerful images of guardians of the harbour.  The `boat` provides an intimate space for conversation, reflection and contemplation against the panoramic backdrop of the ocean and harbour.   The larger than life rocket launcher sits alert, powerfully animated and ready for whenever duty calls.

Source: MA
Monument details supplied by Monument Australia - www.monumentaustralia.org.au
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