Surfman Roster

Surfman Roster: 1888 to 1940

The restoration of Wood Island Station is a remarkable story, but remembering the brave men that served there is why the restoration has been undertaken.  Honoring their dedication to duty starts by knowing who they were.

Wood Island Life Saving Station Assoc has been so fortunate to know Tim Dring.  He is the former Chairman of the Board of the US Life Saving Service Heritage Assoc.  His knowledge of all things life saving service is extensive, especially his knowledge of the various types of rescue craft that the Coast Guard used over the years.  For more information, see “American Coastal Rescue Craft” his definitive work on the subject.

WB Charles A. Hand, 1930

In a photo more than 100 years ago, former Portsmouth Harbor surfman Winslow Amazeen (right) of the old Life Saving Service is seen with fellow surfman Ernest Robinson (left) and local resident Howard Curtis. (Photo courtesy of the Andrew and Carol White Collection)

Tim was kind enough to visit Wood Island in the fall of 2018 and he was so enthusiastic and full of encouragement. He left Maine and went to Waltham, Massachusetts for a few days for the purpose of digging into the records found only at the National Archives, regional office there. What he was looking for is displayed here, the “surfman roster” from 1888 to 1940. We thank Tim for this wonderful result.

With this work, Tim has created a single source of data about who was serving at both Jerry’s Point Station (1888 to 1908) and Wood Island (1908 to 1940). WWII arrived and the Coast Guard departed as the US Navy moved into the building to help guard the entrance to the harbor. Additional records of the US Navy personnel that were stationed there are, likely, available from the US Navy – but have not yet been complied. After that war, there was a short period (1945 to 1947) when Wood Island was again a Coast Guard facility before it was decommissioned in 1948. Those personnel records are not yet in hand. Having the information from 1940 to the present day would complete this record of men and women who have been ready to risk their own lives to help mariners in distress in the Piscataqua River area.


See Tim’s notes at the end of the document. The numbers next to names indicate their rank at the Station. “S” indicates “surfman”. Notice Charles Hand arriving as the most junior man in 1901 and rising, slowly, through the ranks to become “Keeper” in 1919. He was reassigned in 1925 but returns to Wood Island for two more years in 1931. Although not shown here, he returned to active duty during WWII.