Historic lifeboat begins journey home to Wirral

The William & Kate Johnston Preservation Society (WKJPS) has announced that the historic lifeboat has a date set to be moved back to Merseyside.

On Tuesday, 19 March, this piece of Mersey maritime history moved, under her own steam, from Boathouse 4 at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard to Victoria Quay, also in Portsmouth.

She was accompanied by Portsmouth RNLI’s current Atlantic-85, B class lifeboat and volunteer crew.

After being berthed at Victoria Quay she will be berthed overnight before being lifted by crane onto road transport on Wednesday, 20 March, from where she will begin her long homeward journey to Wirral.

This momentous occasion will mark the first time the vessel has returned home in many years, and all at the WKJPS are very excited for her return.

The William & Kate Johnston served New Brighton RNLI from 1923-1950, launching 96 times and saving 248 lives. At the time of her service, she was the biggest lifeboat in existence, being one of only four Barnett-class lifeboats in use.

The WKJPS has been set up to see this heritage asset restored to her former glory and returned to the north west, to serve as a museum piece and working vessel on the river for day trips and community groups to take advantage of, whilst learning about her splendid history.

Having already acquired the vessel, the WKJPS have divided the task of the lifeboat’s return and restoration into several key phases. Phase one launched just a couple of months ago and was dependent on raising £10,000 to see the vessel returned home.

Whilst fundraising continues and this target has not yet been met – the remaining funds to resolve transport were obtained privately, the project was met with a swell of local support, with donations coming in from across Merseyside, including substantial donations from local businesses, indicating the support and enthusiasm from the community to see this endeavour completed.

Phase two of the project, which will launch shortly, will include extensive survey works to ascertain the level of repairs required to restore her to the river. The need for fundraising remains as vital as ever.

Tristan Dickson, New Brighton RNLI trainee helm and Director of the WKJPS, said, “The first part of this project always felt like the hardest to achieve, and the most critical in terms of timescale.

“To be so close now to having the William & Kate Johnston home, where she belongs, is a fantastic feeling. From here, we can take stock of what needs to be done and begin the longer process of restoration and repairs, and soon enough we will see her back on the Mersey, where she belongs!”

Why not follow birkenhead.news on Facebook, Twitter, and Threads? You can also send story ideas or letters to the editor to news@birkenhead.news