Thomas Kirk Wright

Boat Specification
Boat Name: 
Thomas Kirk Wright
Boat Type: 
R.N.L.I. Lifeboat
Boat Length: 
32ft
Boat Beam: 
9ft 3ins
Boat Draft: 
2ft 6ins
Boat Displacement: 
4.5 tons
Boat Engine: 
2 x Weyburn 12hp
Boat Construction: 
Double diagonal mahogany
Boat Builder: 
Groves & Gutteridge
Boat Year: 
1938

Ideal for working off the beaches, the surf lifeboat Thomas Kirk Wright, with its two impellers instead of screws, draws only 2ft 6ins and was the first of the lifeboats to reach the beaches of Dunkirk on 30th May 1940. She was manned by naval ratings and was loaded with French soldiers when she came under fire from German troops. Miraculously no one was hit, but the boat was seriously damaged; one engine was burned out and there was a foot of water in her hull. She was saved by her tremendously strong construction with double-skin Honduras mahogany laid diagonally in opposite directions and a frame-work of Indian oak, Canadian rock elm and mahogany secured with brass fastenings. The boat is divided into five separate water-tight compart-ments, each of which has the whole available space filled with air cases - a total of seventy-one, with another twenty-seven above deck. She was quickly repaired and returned to Dunkirk for a second trip on 2nd June when she was towed across by the tug Foremost 87, together with the RNLI lifeboat, Cecil and Lilian Philpott. When she left the lifeboat service in 1964, she was bought by Paul Neate of Poole who, together with his son Rupert, took good care of her for ten years.

She was then acquired by the National Maritime Museum who restored her to museum standard. She is now housed as a static exhibit in the little boathouse at Poole and has not been back in the water since 1976.

Source: 1, 5, 19 & 20

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