Cowes RNLI Guild is 100 years old and will celebrate the momentous year with a number of special events including a Centenary Ball in October at the Island Sailing Club.

Founded in 1923, the historic guild has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for the RNLI in its quest to help save lives at sea on the Solent coastline.

The first event, by the then Cowes Ladies Lifeboat Guild, was a Lifeboat Dance which raised more than £33, equivalent to more than £2,500 today.

Cowes RNLI Guild is a fundraising arm of the national charity, supporting the local lifeboat station.

The committee organises a variety of monthly events throughout the year held at all the Cowes sailing clubs and attended by a dedicated membership of Island and mainland supporters.

Local celebrities, including Alan Titchmarsh and TV and film actor Celia Imrie, former president of the guild, have lent their time and names to boost the fundraising.

The guild’s raffles are legendary, particularly at the annual summer party, held at the Royal Yacht Squadron in August, when numerous local businesses donate generous prizes and help raise thousands of pounds.

However, it hasn’t always been plain sailing.

During the Second World War, guild members volunteered their services for the local war effort and narrowly escaped death during a heavy bombing raid over Cowes in May, 1942.

The women had been manning the forces canteen in the old town hall at the bottom of Market Hill and on leaving at 10.50pm saw ‘chandelier’ flares lighting the town.

They heard the sirens and the sound of the enemy Dornier bombers approaching the town.

They dashed across the road to the closest air raid shelter, the old Post Office, and managed to get inside before the canteen was completely destroyed by the prolonged attack.

Unfortunately, several members of the Army, stationed a few doors down, were not so lucky and lost their lives.

Civil defence volunteers escorted the women safely home at around 2am.

In 2008, the RNLI agreed to take over the town’s lifeboat provision, formerly run by an independent inshore rescue service with limited facilities.

But £1 million was needed to convert the old Custom House into a modern station with a launching slipway for a B class Atlantic 85 and dedicated changing and training facilities for the volunteer crew.

An appeal was launched in 2011 by Celia Imrie when a year of fundraising events raised £850,000 with over a quarter of the final total being raised on the Island and a whopping £71,000 being raised by the guild.

In July, 2012, Queen Elizabeth opened the new station on the last day of her Diamond Jubilee tour.

It was the only lifeboat station the Queen had opened during her reign and she watched the launch of the new lifeboat, Sheena Louise.

Over the years, members of the Cowes Guild have been rewarded for their dedication and hard work.

Many have received long service medals, some serving for over 25 years.

In 2013, the guild celebrated its 90th birthday party at the Royal Yacht Squadron.

Chair, Josephine Hinson, said: “It is an enormous privilege to be part of the Cowes RNLI Guild during this centennial celebration year.

"We have a great history and tradition to live up to and continue. To be able to follow in the footsteps of so many ladies who have raised funds for the RNLI over the last 100 years, often in very challenging times, is a wonderful way of being connected to them, and we look forward to raising funds for the RNLI in the future.”

To support the local RNLI and attend any guild events, contact membership secretary Margaret Peall, on 01983 295590.

Membership is £10 per person or £15 for a couple.

To become part of the fundraising committee, contact secretary Jennifer Hastings on 07869 126489.

To volunteer in the RNLI gift shop, ring shop manager, Fran Bracken, on 01983 296233.