The UK’s largest charity that saves lives at sea around the UK and Ireland can marshall 5,000 volunteer lifeboat crew – who launched 8,436 times and aided 8,072 people in 2017 – 23,000 fundraisers and hundreds of thousands of supporters. Its lifeguards last year assisted 24,044 people and patrolled 249 beaches.
Formed in 1824 as the National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck by Sir William Hillary in response to the treacherous waters he witnessed around the Irish Sea, the RNLI played a vital role saving seaman in both world wars, with 19 boats in the Dunkirk evacuation in 1940. (Its biggest rescue was of 456 passengers from the liner SS Suevic off Cornwall in 1907.)
Headquartered in Poole, Dorset, its support centre and college were opened in 2004. It operates flood rescue teams that work internationally.