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Page last updated at 16:50 GMT, Tuesday, 26 January 2010
A History of the World: The birth of the RNLI
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A Lifeboat launch in 1860

The Marine's Cross Belt plate from the Manx Museum has been chosen for A History of the World as one of the most significant artefacts on the Island.

The badge belonged to a Royal Marine serving onboard the HMS Racehorse in December 1822.

The ship sank while attempting to pick up survivors from another naval ship off the coast of Langness.

The Racehorse hit rocks and perished along with three Manx rescue boats and the rest, as they say, is history.

The badge was brought up from the ship wreck over 100 years later.

Manx National Heritage
The Marine's Cross Belt Plate from HMS Racehorse

Curator at Manx National Heritage, Allison Fox said the finding led to one of the Isle of Man's first attempts at underwater archaeological excavation.

"The divers who excavated the underwater site found all sorts of things, amongst them, a pair of leather shoes, a huge ivory tusk and a bronze hammer.

"But the badge is the most evocative item because it was actually worn by someone. It tells a human story and someone was actually wearing it when HMS Racehorse went down.

"When she sank a lot of the crew perished too so if objects could speak, this one would have quite a lot to say".

Horrified at the terrors going on near Langness many Manxmen launched their own boats in the hope of rescuing some of the Marines but sadly three local boats were also lost in the storms of that terrible night.

The event left many local families without a husband or a father and, with no social security system to help out, they were left in a desperate situation.

This, said Allison Fox, was where local resident William Hillary came in.

"He saw how the bereft local families were struggling to survive without a bread winner and a couple of years later Hillary formed what was later to become the Royal National Lifeboat institution".

Since its inception the RNLI has saved the lives of more than 137,000 people.

The Marine's Cross belt plate can been seen at Manx Museum in Douglas.

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