The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) has spearheaded innovation and adapted to the challenging circumstances of saving lives at sea since it began 200 years ago.

After the new design of cork lifejackets saved the life of a crew member, they became widely used by lifeboat crews in 1861.

The Whitby lifeboat had launched six times to rescue stricken vessels in a storm but on the sixth launch, a large wave capsized the lifeboat killing all the crew members apart from Henry Freeman who was wearing a cork lifejacket.

In 1886, the RNLI embraced fundraising after 27 lifeboat crew members from Southport and St Annes lost their lives while trying to rescue the crew of the vessel Mexico.

Gazette: The RNLI once used cork lifejacketsThe RNLI once used cork lifejackets (Image: Getty)

A public appeal was launched, driven by local man Charles Macara, and in 1891 a total of £10,000 was raised in just two weeks.

On October 1, the first Lifeboat Saturday was organised by Mr Macara and his wife Marion.

The event saw bands, floats and lifeboats parade through the streets of Manchester followed by volunteers collecting money.

On the day, more than £5,000 was taken which was the first recorded example of a charity street collection.

When did the first motor lifeboat launch?

In 1914, the first motor lifeboat launched from Tynemouth in a rescue of the steamship Rohilla which ran aground on rocks near Whitby as it was travelling to Dunkirk to help wounded soldiers.

To reach the ship, five lifeboats battled terrible seas and the motor lifeboat rescued the last 50 people on board meaning a total of 144 people were saved by the crews who worked for more than 50 hours in atrocious conditions.

An RNLI spokesman said: “The motor lifeboat proved its capabilities and became more widely accepted by lifeboat crews after this event.”

Despite many volunteers being called away to fight, the two world wars didn’t stop the RNLI from saving lives at sea.

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During the First World War, the average age of lifeboat crews at home increased to over 50 but between 1914 and 1918, RNLI lifeboats still launched 1,808 times, saving 5,332 lives.

RNLI crews saved 6,376 lives around the coasts of Britain and Ireland during the Second World War.

In 1940, 19 RNLI lifeboats were used to evacuate troops from Dunkirk with two vessels having RNLI crews while the others were manned by the Royal Navy.

The RNLI spokesman said: “The lifeboats and their stand-in crews saved thousands of lives while being shelled and bombed for days.”