After more than 40 years away from East Anglian waters, Gorleston’s historic lifeboat the Louise Stephens is finally coming back to her home port as she takes the first step on her renovation journey.

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The heroic vessel, which also served as one of the Dunkirk Little Ships, has been moored on the Isle of Islay off the western coast of Scotland for several years, after being taken out of service in the 1960s.

But she is now being made ready for her homeward bound journey after campaigners secured her safe passage back down south, where they will then embark on renovating her.

She is due to be launched from the boatyard in Islay on April 9 and make the passage to the mainland under her own steam. She will then be lifted on to road transport on April 12 and is hoping to arrive at her temporary home in Lowestoft on the weekend of April 13/14, where she will undergo refurbishment.

The mission to rescue the Louise Stephens was launched by marine project manager Peter Johnson, who is among the surviving crew members that served on her as a lifeboat.

“I’m very much looking forward to achieving what we set out to do,” he added. “For many years, every time I drove down Great Yarmouth harbour I looked across at the old lifeboat tied up near the ferry and thought ‘what on earth happened to the Louise Stephens?’ It’s just an amazing twist of fate that I can help bring her back.”

Campaigners hope to return the Louise Stephens, which saved 177 during her service at Gorleston from 1939 to 1967, to ship shape and Bristol fashion so she can be used for educational, heritage and training trips.

And they hope her restoration work will be finished, or at least advanced enough, so she may be able to appear at the Great Yarmouth Maritime Festival in September.

Mr Johnson, from Corton, said plenty of people had pledged their support to the campaign but he is hopeful more will come forward –including potential financial sponsors – once they see her home.

A second public meeting is being held to galvanise further support for the project. Anyone interested in the campaign is invited to the meeting on April 20 at Great Yarmouth and Gorleston Sailing Club from 10.30am.

For more details, call 01502 730550 or email lspg2012@hotmail.co.uk

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