Roll out more cutters

A plaque on the side of Rye's The Ship inn near Strand Quay records the vessels needed in the past to patrol the coast

A recent report on the TV news said that, with fine weather in the English Channel, three separate small boats filled with refugees from France had been intercepted at different points along the coast between Ramsgate and Dungeness.

A Border Force patrol boat had caught one, but the other two apparently had to be “rescued” by lifeboats – but is this what lifeboats should be doing?

Various government announcements have said that the Border Force was getting more boats – but smaller, faster ones based on an RIB design like Rye’s lifeboat rather than the traditional cutter.

It was also suggested that a Royal Navy boat might be coming back from Mediterranean duties (often involving refugees there too) to help stem the flow from France.

And our local coast has been attractive for invasions – whether by the Romans, the Spaniards, the French (Napoleon) or Germans (Hitler), or for refugees (Huguenots fleeing religious persecution in past centuries, or from the Middle East today) and, of course, smugglers.

Indeed smuggling was such a problem that the Excise (see top photo) deployed seven revenue cutters (including four in Rye) between 1734 and 1833, along with three Royal Navy vessels, to sort out the smugglers.

Rye’s Castle Museum has a model of one of these cutters (see photo below), based on a Royal Navy design, so patrolling the coastline is not a new problem.

A cutter, similar to the revenue cutters that operated out of Rye in the 18th century, to tackle smugglers

However it is tempting to ask whether the Government has put enough resources into addressing the problem, and quickly enough, and whether lifeboat services should be filling the gaps?

Once ashore refugees have often been spotted very quickly, and I am reminded of the German spy (landed from a submarine) who (allegedly) marched in World War Two into a Marsh pub very early on a Sunday morning wanting a drink – and got hanged for his mistake in the Tower of London.

So perhaps foreigners, like those DFLs (Down From London), are immediately obvious. But should our lifeboats be involved?

Image Credits: John MInter , Rye Museum / John Minter .


  1. Another swipe at DFLs from Rye News. How are DFLs immediately obvious? Do we emit a strange smell? Look grey and faded? Talk funny?

    Fortunately the vast majority of people I have met in Rye are open minded, generous spirited and welcoming to newcomers, including other “foreigners”.

    • They are recognisable by their “touchiness” and quickness to take offence at any perceived slight or criticism!

  2. Lifeboats filling the gaps?
    An article obviously written by someone who doesn’t know a great deal about how the RNLI operates.
    The RNLI is a charity committed to saving lives at sea, there are no qualifying standards and the day the RNLI picks whether to rescue someone or not will be a poor day indeed.
    The RNLI do have prosedures in place when dealing with migrants on what to do, where to take them etc
    Don’t believe all you read in the press including this one apparently.


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