Coxswains

Coxswains of Brooke Lifeboat

Between its establishment in 1860 and its closure in 1937 Brook Lifeboat had six coxswains.

All were expert seaman and all, except for Jack Seely, were local longshoremen and fishermen. Living all their lives in Brook, they knew more than anyone the different sea states, the local weather and every detail of the coastline.

The coxswain’s job was to judge the exact moment to shout ‘Launch!’ when the thirty or more helpers hauled on the two ropes which shot the boat from its carriage into the sea.

The experience and knowledge required and the qualities of nerve and judgement are so exacting...It is an affair not of minutes but of seconds, and hesitation, vacillation, or weakness spells disaster.

Launch, J E B Seely.

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Alf Woodford and Jack Seely - coxswain 1933-1937

Alf Woodford and General Jack Seely, Lord Mottistone, joint coxswains - 1933-1937

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Roland Hayter coxswain 1919-1933

Roland Hayter - coxswain 1919-1933 -stands to the left of General Jack Seely. Roland Hayter, below, lived in Brook Villa. He was a carrier and nephew to John Hayter, the first coxswain of Brooke Lifeboat.

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Tom Hookey - coxswain 1917-1919

Thomas William Hookey was the son of James and Harriett Hookey of Downton Farm. He became a farmer and blacksmith and was also a churchwarden. Tom was in the crew of the William Slaney Lewis when it rescued the Eider in 1892.

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Ben Jacobs - coxswain 1892-1917

Ben’s father James Jacobs (born c.1827) was one of the first volunteer crew members of the Brook rowing lifeboat station when it opened in 1860. James served in the crew up until 1892 and continued to help launch the lifeboat from Brook beach up to his death, from pneumonia, aged 71 in 1898.

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John Hayter - coxswain 1860-1890


‘Brook’s notable storm warrior,’ was what the Isle of Wight County Press called John Hayter. Over his 32 years as the first coxswain of the Brooke boat, John Hayter became the most decorated lifeboatman in the Island’s history.

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