The RNLI is well known for its life-saving activities. Less celebrated are the volunteer life brigades, set up in the late nineteenth century to provide shore-based rescue facilities around the British coast, complementing the RNLI using rocket equipment and breeches buoy. Created during a time when loss of life from shipwreck was almost on a scale of national disaster, it was volunteers who set up the brigades, trained the recruits, raised funds and gave their time - and sometimes their lives - to save others. Sunderland VLB was established in 1877 and has saved over 800 lives around this coastline. One of just three remaining VLBs in the UK, its story reveals the people behind it, its development over the years, and its great significance to the maritime history of the north east.