Our story started in the garden shed of Reginald Foster Dagnall’s two storey Victorian home in London. In 1920, Reginald, an inventor and engineer, was tasked with creating flotation bags, stored in the fuselages of planes, to prevent them from sinking. This life saving innovation became the founding principle of Survitec, formerly known as RFD, paving the way for the world leading critical safety and solutions provider we now know today. 

Over the coming weeks and months, we will be sharing our fascinating story, delving into our history and showing you how it has shaped who we are today.

#SurvitecForLife | #Survitec100Years | #BuoyantInSurvival



In an area of Manchester called Newton Heath 21 year old Mr Philip Frankenstein founded P.Frankenstein and Sons Ltd . This became Beaufort later in history which was acquired by Survitec. His business was originally a textiles company, specialising in waterproof rubberised fabrics. Some of their early inventions included raincoats, boots and hospital sheetings.


Reginald Foster Dagnall was out of work after World War I but was delighted to bump into an acquaintance who worked for the Short Brothers. The acquaintance knew of Reginald's inventions and an order of £1,000 was available if Reginald could deliver flotation bags designed to be stored in the fuselage of their planes. Reginald made his way home and just like that, RFD was founded in his garden shed.


Wooden-framed biplanes had started being manufactured entirely of metal, requiring increased flotation bags or rubber rings should it land at sea. The personal safety equipment for the crew or pilot was lacking and Reginald Foster Dagnall wanted to make changes. With the support of the Air-Ministry and other aircraft manufactures, he soon adapted the rubber ring to having a floor, welcoming the birth of the liferaft.


Following the design of the first inflatable liferaft, Reginald worked alongside fellow inventor Alan H. Reffel on the design of the automatic inflation head. Together they applied for a patent for their cutting-edge method that offered both automatic and manual inflation. Having this option allowed all aircraft to be equipped with dinghies regardless of whether they were designed to carry them or not.


During World War II, RFD employed over 600 women from the local area to support with the war effort. This meant the local women could provide for their homes while many of their families were away, but additionally taught those left behind incredible skills in sewing, welding, inspection and servicing. The team worked extremely hard; the workforce managed to produce 100 barrage balloons per month.


On 17th August 1954, a huge fire broke out in the Godalming Factory, destroying the dinghy workshop, balloon workshop, the stores and many of the accounts. Anton van Beugen Bik who carried on RFD’s legacy after Reginald’s passing, ensured that every colleague kept their job. As a team they cleared the debris and within a day, customer orders were once again being fulfilled.


RFD led the way in liferaft design, becoming the design authority for the first inflatable liferaft, first liferaft with a canopy, first liferaft with automatic inflation, and much more. Inflatable liferafts became mandatory under SOLAS. RFD were thrilled to learn their range of liferafts would be the very first to be approved under SOLAS regulation standards.


We are incredibly proud to have spent the last 100 years helping our customers, creating solutions and applying innovation. This logo marks our history of innovation in our buoyant, survival products. We started with flotation bags for planes, and later went onto claiming many key market firsts including the world’s first liferaft and marine evacuation system.

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