Francis Forbes Barton

The backbone of the Navy
Francis Forbes Barton

During the First World War FRANCIS FORBES BARTON was one of several lifeboats that went to assist at a series of incidents that took place off the Goodwin Sands between 19th and 21st November 1916. A gale of almost hurricane force was blowing on 19th November when the Italian steamer VAL SALICE was driven onto the Goodwin Sands.  The main North Deal lifeboat went to her assistance, reaching her about midnight in intense darkness and blinding rainstorms. The whole crew were saved with immense difficulty. The operation was assisted by searchlight, which was thrown onto the steamer by the guard-ship.

Early on the morning of 20th November the steamer SIBERIA of New York was driven onto the sands. With the main North Deal lifeboat crew still exhausted, the Deal Reserve Lifeboat, the FRANCIS FORBES BARTON, with Coxswain William Stanton in command, was launched, with great difficulty. When the wreck was reached it proved impossible to get alongside, in spite of repeated efforts, although a cable was secured to the vessel.

The FRANCIS FORBES BARTON nearly capsized three times. On the fourth occasion she was thrown on her beam ends, such that one side that the deck was practically vertical, and her mast and sails were under water. Several of the crew were injured, and the coxswain was obliged to cut the cable and make for Deal.

The Ramsgate lifeboat was then called to the same incident, but was equally unsuccessful. It returned to Ramsgate, but was recalled and re-launched. This time she reached the SIBERIA, but by this time all the crew of 52 had been saved by the Kingsdowne lifeboat, which had also been called out.          

The coxswain of the North Deal lifeboat, William Adams, was awarded the Silver Second Service Clasp of the RNLI in recognition of the rescue of the crew of the SS VAL SALICE, wrecked on 19 November.  The second coxswain of the Ramsgate lifeboat was awarded the RNLI’s Silver Medal in recognition of his strenuous efforts to rescue the crew of the SS SIBERIA of New York, which was wrecked on 20 November 1916.

A total sum of £70 18s. was awarded to men injured in lifeboat service during the incident, including those of North Deal.  

FRANCIS FORBES BARTON was sold out of service in 1926. She was the last vessel to serve Broadstairs as its lifeboat. During that stage of her career two RNLI silver medals were awarded to her crew.



FRANCIS FORBES BARTON is currently located at Lincoln, where she is laid up awaiting restoration.




The Lifeboat (1 August 1917) 188, 199-200.

The Lifeboat (1 February 1918) 213.