The Research Panel of the Wilson Committee has asked for a background paper describing 'the lifeboat operation'. This paper is a response to that request, but, as its title suggests, goes somewhat beyond the lifeboat operation itself. Part I considers the nature and antecedents of the secondary banking crisis, to which the lifeboat operation was a response. Part II goes on to consider the crisis which broke in December 1973 and the action taken by the Bank and the banking system to deal with it, including the manner in which the lifeboat operated. Part III describes subsequent developments in their historical and economic context, covering both the lifeboat operation and the banking support operations undertaken by the Bank on their own account.