Henry Freeman, sole survivor of the 1861 Whitby lifeboat disaster, pictured in 1880Photo: The Sutcliffe Gallery, Whitby
Henry Freeman, sole survivor of the 1861 Whitby lifeboat disaster, pictured in 1880

Cork lifejackets have been around since 1765, but it is RNLI Inspector Captain Ward who finesses the design with narrow cork strips sewn to a wearable belt. In 1861, Henry Freeman becomes an early poster boy for the equipment when he is the sole crew survivor of the Whitby lifeboat disaster. He is the only crewman wearing Ward’s new design.