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Last Updated: Friday, 7 May, 2004, 16:17 GMT 17:17 UK
Lusitania survivor's lifeboat
Only 764 of the 1,959 aboard Lusitania survived the U-boat attack
A survivor of the World War I sinking of the Lusitania has launched a west Wales lifeboat she helped fund, 89 years to the day since the tragedy.

American Audrey Lawson Johnston was three months old when the liner was torpedoed off the Irish coast by a German U-boat on 7 May, 1915.

Almost 1,200 died, including Mrs Johnston's two sisters, although her brother and parents were saved as they travelled from New York.

Mrs Johnston, who lives in Northamptonshire, raised 26,000 for a new RNLI lifeboat for New Quay, Ceredigion, and was guest of honour at a ceremony in the town on Friday.

It gives me great pleasure to hand over Amy Lea to the RNLI - mind you take care of her
Audrey Lawson Johnston

Mrs Johnston said: "I'd like to thank everyone in New Quay for giving me such a warm welcome - it's very exciting.

"I can hardly explain it, it's quite a momentous occasion. I will never forget it.

"My mother did so much for lifeboats, I thought I would do something for her."

The 16ft D-class lifeboat is named after Mrs Johnston's mother, Amy Lea, and she raised the money for three years through coffee mornings and support from her friends.

Launched by the senior citizen with a splash of champagne, she then toasted the other guests at the special ceremony with a plastic cup full of the tipple, before adding: "It gives me great pleasure to hand over Amy Lea to the RNLI - mind you take care of her."

Audrey Lawson Johnston
Audrey Lawson Johnston's two sisters died on the Lusitania

Addressing the guests, Bob Byrnes, deputy divisional engineer of lifeboat west division, said, "The family is inextricably linked with New Quay lifeboat station. You can rest assured that your gift will be looked after better here than at any other lifeboat station in Britain."

George Legg, of the New Quay lifeboat appeal, added: "The inshore vessel will be invaluable and will be able to get in close to the shore and under cliffs to rescue people that the larger lifeboat can't get to.

"We are so grateful to Mrs Johnston who has helped us secure this invaluable piece of equipment."

More than 150 guests were at the ceremony, including 23 of Mrs Johnston's family, followed by a reception at New Quay Yacht Club.

The Irish lifeboat service, which responded to distress calls from the Lusitania in 1915, was also represented.

Mrs Johnston was saved by her nanny who grabbed her from a cot and rushed to one of the liner's crowded lifeboats.

She said she had never forgotten the bravery of those who helped saved her life.

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