The last Gold Medal was awarded 16 years ago, posthumously, to the Coxswain Trevelyan Richards of the Penlee lifeboat. The award followed the tragic loss of the 47ft Watson class lifeboat Solomon Browne, her entire crew and four survivors she had taken off the coaster Union Star. The crew members were also awarded posthumous Bronze Medals. 

The lifeboat had launched on the night of 19 December 1981 in circumstances with chilling parallels to the service to Green Lily. Union Star had also lost power and was drifting towards a rock-bound coast in storm force winds, conditions were so severe that a helicopter could not lift the survivors; and the lifeboat was working in extreme conditions just yards from the shore, being hurled against the side of a commercial vessel.

The wreck of the Union Star
The wreck of the Union Star

In 1997, however, the lifeboat and her crew escaped with their lives – although the ever-present dangers are well illustrated by the sad loss of a brave helicopter winchman.