The first purpose built lifeboat to be stationed at Harwich was a pulling and sailing boat called the "Braybrooke". Built by George Graham, run by the Essex Lifeboat Association, was on station in 1821 and withdrawn in 1825.
In 1875 a meeting was convened in Harwich after the lost of the German steamer "Detschland" with a review to establishing a Lifeboat Station. Following a further wreck, the RNLI sent a lifeboat to Harwich without waiting foe the erection of a lifeboat house. The lifeboat was called the "Springwell" and was a self-righting type 35ft in length, 9ft in beam and crewed by 10 men. Miss E Burmester of London donated the "Springwell" which was built by "Woolfe of Shadwell". On 20th January 1881 the "Springwell" launched to the aid of the Dutch vessel "Ingerid". Severn lives were saved from the wreck and the Coxswain and crew were awarded medals by the Dutch Government. Unfortunately it turned over in 1881 with the lost of one crew member. It was immediately replaced by another boat of the same name but 10ft longer. Both these early self-righter's were looked upon with some suspicion by the crew, as they were not very stable in rough weather. The second "Springwell" served at Harwich until 1902.
Following the "Springwells" was a 43ft Watson class lifeboat called the "Ann Fawcett". This boat stayed at Harwich until No.1 station was closed in 1912.
In 1890 a second Harwich Lifeboat Station was opened. The first boat was called the "Duke of Northumberland" and was built in 1889. This was the first every steam 50ft lifeboat and was a revolutionarily design. Water was drawn in through the hull and forced out at great pressure through the vents in the side of the boat. During its short stay at Harwich it was moored afloat near Halfpenny Pier. This boat was transferred to Holyhead in 1892.
Replacing the "Duke of Northumberland" was the new lifeboat "City of Glasgow" built to the same design but 2ft longer. It was designed by the Institution Naval Architect Mr G Watson and was built by Messrs R & H Green of Blackwall London. It was named "City of Glasgow " as the cost was funded by the Glasgow Lifeboat Saturday Fund. Presumably this was the equivalent of today's Lifeboat Day. The "City of Glasgow " arrived on station at Harwich on the 7th November 1894. The coxswain was instructed that exercises would be quarterly in accordance with the Institution policy, but the Chief Engineer was to raise steam and work the engines for four hours once a month. The "City of Glasgow " remained at Harwich until 1901 when it was sold out of service.
The RNLI replaced this lifeboat with another boat with the same name. This "City of Glashow " was 55ft long and was also steam driven. On 7th April 1908, his lifeboat went to the assistance of the schooner "Notre Dame des Toutes Aides" and in recognition of this rescue 11 medals were bestowed on the Coxswain and crew by the "Hospitaliers Sauveteurs Bretons".
This lifeboat stayed at Harwich until 1907 when the station was closed due to the Admiralty requisitioning the steam tug which assisted the lifeboat during services.
With the increase in sailing boats in the River Stour and River Orwell, the RNLI re-opened the Harwich Lifeboat Station in 1965. A 16ft inshore rescue boat was placed on Station, which was partly funded from a local fund. In 1966 the RNLI Committee of Management reviewed the East Coast lifeboat requirement and decided to place a 44ft Waveney class lifeboat at Harwich for a two year trial period. The inshore lifeboat also remained to cover the estuary. In September 1967 the Waveney class lifeboat built by Brooke Marine of Lowestoft took up station at Harwich. The naming ceremony and service of dedication was held on September 27th at Trinity Pier, Harwich. The Lifeboat 44-005 was named Margaret Graham and was the gift from an anonymous donor to record the friendship of William H Cavenaugh, Hazel M Dugan, Theodore and Margaret N Harley with the donor.
Due to the excellent work of the 16ft inshore lifeboat the RNLI decided to replace this craft with a fast 21ft boat of the Atlantic class. On the 27th May 1978 this Lifeboat was dedicated and handed over to the care of the Harwich Station by Lady Norton MBE, a member of the RNLI Committee of Management. This boat was a gift from a donor who wished to be known as an Essex lady. This Atlantic 21 had no name and was referred to by its boat number B526, had previously been in the RNLI relief fleet and used at other Stations. 1980 saw the replacement of the Margaret Graham by a similar class lifeboat. On 26th July the lifeboat was dedicated and named John Fison. The new boat was named by Mrs D E Fison in memory of her late husband John. In addition to monies donated by the Fison family other donations and trusts contributed to the total cost.
The ageing Atlantic 21 B526 was replaced by a new inshore lifeboat on 30th October 1987. This Lifeboat B571 was funded by the British Sub Aqua Club and is named British Diver II. The number of persons in distress at sea and requiring the services of the ~arwich lifeboats is ever increasing with annual launches of about 100 a year. Because of the demand on the Harwich lifeboats and its vast area of coverage the RNLI decided to allocate the first Severn class lifeboat in England to Harwich. This has a speed of 25 knots and is capable of responding to major marine accidents where many lives may be at risk.
The Severn class allocated to Harwich is 17-03 and named Albert Brown after a bequest from the late Victoria Maisie Brown to commemorate her late husband. It was named by Terry Waite CBE on 25th May 1997. The inshore lifeboat was upgraded in 2002 and an Atlanctic 75 was funded by The Boys Bridgade and named Sure and Steadfast on 18 May 2003