As a young man he worked as an ordinary seaman, working on small sailing vessels on the east coast of England. He is recorded on the 1881 census as a seaman working on the Charlotte Cole. He lived for most of his life in Pavilion Road, Gorleston, just a small distance from the Lifeboat station.
He joined the crew of the Great Yarmouth and Gorleston lifeboat in the mid-1880s.
Billy Flemming served on the Gorleston lifeboat through the latter years of the 19th century, and spanning the first four decades of the 20th century. He was in his late 50’s when he became coxswain in 1922, a post he held until 1934.
Over his 49 years of service he helped to rescue 1,188 people. Steamship Hopelyn During his lifeboat career Billy had been involved in many services of note.
In 1922 the lifeboat went to the rescue of the Steamship Hopelyn which had run aground on Scroby Sands.
The lifeboat Kentwell was unsuccessful in her efforts to get the crew of 24 from the Steamship Hopelyn to safety after damaging the lifeboat against the hull of the Hopelyn. The crew were eventually rescued by the Lowestoft lifeboat Agnes Cross which also attended the rescue.