Appeal after seeming theft of RNLI coxswain's posthumous bravery medal

William Trevelyan Richards and seven volunteer crew members were lost in the Penlee lifeboat disaster in 1981. Credit: RNLI

A gold medal for bravery awarded posthumously to the coxswain of an RNLI lifeboat appears to have been stolen.

The gold gallantry medal, which is the highest award for bravery issued by the RNLI, was awarded posthumously to William Trevelyan Richards, who died during the Penlee Lifeboat Disaster of 1981.

Eight volunteer crew members were on board the Solomon Browne. It sank after going to the aid of the coaster Union Star on the night of 19 December 1981.

Both ships were lost in the storm during the disaster, leaving 16 people dead. Credit: ITV News

All eight volunteer crew members were lost in the disaster, and the whole crew were awarded gallantry medals by the RNLI in recognition of their selfless bravery and sacrifice.

The gold gallantry medal is one of the most precious artefacts in the RNLI’s heritage collection. Credit: RNLI

The gold gallantry medal has been compared to the UK’s Victoria Cross in its significance and recognition.

The one awarded to William Trevelyan Richards is one of the most precious artefacts in the RNLI’s heritage collection. It was recently found to be missing from a dedicated secure facility at the charity’s head office in Poole.

Despite an extensive search the medal has not been found and police have been notified of a suspected theft.

The medal was stored in a facility with multiple layers of security. A thorough search of the heritage collection and an internal investigation has been carried out. The RNLI is now working closely with the Police and those affected by the medal’s loss.

Can you help?Anybody with any information about the medal’s location is urged to either: