The service began not as a life saving service but to help in the fight against smugglers. At this time the service was known as the Preventative Water Guard or Preventative Service and was part of Customs and Excise.
In 1815 the first experiments with Manby’s Mortar Rocket started, a line attached to a rocket with a range of 275 yards could be fired out to vessels in distress. These were issued to some stations in 1819 and were is regular use by 1825. During this time, 1822 to be exact, the name HM Coastguard came into being.
Arguments broke out about priority of work and who paid for what tasks, to resolve this, the Admiralty took control of the Coastguard in 1845, the workers became regular naval ratings. Some saw the move to make the men ratings as a way to keep extra seamen on the books during times of peace.
By 1856 anti-smuggling became a minor part of duties and life saving and safety began to take priority. New stations sprang up around the coast, one of those, built in 1859 was Donna Nook.
Around this time new rocket equipment was being issued around the coast. This equipment hardly changed until it was withdrawn only a few years ago.
Many of the coastal communities where Coastguards were station were remote and unpopulated. Houses were built close to many of the stations, and many of these Coastguard Cottages remain in our coastal villages today.
In 1894 the Board of Trade was given ‘responsible for the establishment and maintenance of rocket and other life saving stations around the coast, for the purpose of giving assistance towards the preservation of life in cases of shipwreck and distress at sea’.
Coastguards were assisted in manning the Life-Saving Apparatus (LSA) by teams of local men. The teams practiced regularly, firing the rocket and setting up the Breaches Buoy.
In 1922 a new Donna Nook station, lookout and cottages were built. At this time Donna Nook still had a lifeboat.
During the first and second World Wars, Coastguards provided telegraphy training for the Admiralty as well as coast-watching duties.
Post second World War, the Coastguard became responsible, in its own right, for the Rocket Equipment and also became a service in its own right. This is the modern Coastguard Service that we know today. In 1946 it ceased to be an armed service. Full time Coastguards were now assisted by Auxiliaries, volunteers drawn from the local community. The name Auxiliary remained until the review of the service in 2005 after which the name was changed to the Coastguard Rescue Service (CRS) which we know it as today.