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Brigade at attention for 150th anniversary of first-ever drill

The South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade carrying out a drill in the 1870s.
The South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade carrying out a drill in the 1870s.

A life-saving group will be standing to attention when it marks the 150th anniversary of its first-ever drill.

Members of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade will re-enact the event on its anniversary tomorrow.

Tom Fennelly, honorary secretary of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade.

Tom Fennelly, honorary secretary of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade.

The first drill took place on February 13, 1866, one month after the brigade was established on January 15, 1866.

This year, the group is hosting a number of events to celebrate its 150th year.

The re-enactment will take place at 11am in the Pier Head car park, in Sea Road, South Shields, near the Watch House, where the brigade is based.

Tom Fennelly, honorary secretary, said: “The re-enactment marks another significant milestone in the history of the establishment of the brigade.

Members of South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade carrying out a drill in the 1900s.

Members of South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade carrying out a drill in the 1900s.

“It is great to be able to do this on the exact spot where the first drill took place.

“We will be assisted by our colleagues from Tynemouth and Sunderland Volunteer Life Brigades, which also highlights the fact that we represent the last three remaining brigades in the country.”

The next major event in the brigade’s celebrations will be a reunion of past and present members on Saturday, March 12.

On Saturday, April 2, there will be a major re-enactment of the first time the breeches buoy was used to save life from a shipwreck in 1866.

With the co-operation of the North East Maritime Trust, a restored fishing boat will be acting as the wreck of the schooner Tenterden, near the Watch House, off the South Pier.

A commemorative documentary film has been commissioned and a new brochure is being produced highlighting the achievements of the past and celebrating the search and rescue work of the Volunteer Life Brigade today.

There will also be a major exhibition at South Shields Museum and Art Gallery from May to September 17 and a small touring exhibition will support a programme of open days and illustrated talks at the Watch House throughout the year.

In addition there will be visits by local schools and a major new digital educational resource is being created to make the brigade’s Always Ready story accessible online to schools.

l For more information, go to www.ssvlb.org.uk.