The free-to-attend charity exhibition, funded by Arts Council England, will honour the bravery of RNLI volunteers who risked their lives to save others during WW1 by raising awareness of six heroic lifeboat rescues that are not widely known.
Opening to the public from 4 February 2014 at the RNLI’s Henry Blogg Museum in Norfolk, Hope in the Great War will start a 4-year tour around RNLI museums, lifeboat stations and other museums – the RNLI is currently planning the touring schedule and is welcoming applications from museums that would like to host the exhibition. Hope in the Great War will highlight the extraordinary achievements of ordinary people who volunteered for the RNLI throughout WW1, conveying a sense of hope with many lives saved at sea by the charity. The exhibition offers an ideal way for families and young children to learn about the work of RNLI volunteers during WW1 and will feature a special play area for the under-fives.
Following an application to Arts Council England a grant of £78,200 was awarded to the RNLI in order to share the role of the charity’s coastal community volunteers during WW1. The lifeboat services to feature within the exhibition include (more details available below):
• The 1914 Whitby RNLI lifeboat rescue of the wrecked hospital ship HMHS Rohilla which saw 144 people saved from the sea.
• Fraserburgh RNLI lifeboat’s rescue of the steamer SS Glenravel which saw 14 people saved from the sea on 8 August 1915.
• RNLI Port Eynon lifeboat’s service to the Dunvegan that took place 1 January 1916.
• The saving of 20 lives from the tanker Ponus on 3 November 1916 by Falmouth RNLI lifeboat crew and service men.
• The rescue of 23 survivors from the SS Alondra which was wrecked on the Kedge Rock off Baltimore on 29 December 1916 by Baltimore volunteers together with two R.N. trawlers.
• Cromer RNLI lifeboat’s rescue of the Pyrin and Fernebo, which saw 33 people saved from the sea on 9 January 1917.
Becky Fletcher, RNLI Heritage Project Co-ordinator said: ‘The outstanding efforts by many RNLI and coastal community volunteers to save lives in WW1 will now be given a national voice through this exhibition. Bravery and volunteering is central to the ethos of the RNLI and is as relevant today as it was during WW1. RNLI volunteers answer the call for help whenever it comes. Modern crews are fully equipped and trained thanks only to donations from a generous public. We hope that this exhibition will help to inspire current and future generations of supporters and lifesavers to enable the RNLI to continue to save lives at sea.’
The RNLI is working with local community groups to create inspirational artworks that interpret their own local lifesaving story. These items, including a giant jigsaw, a podcast and animation, will be included in the exhibition and allow the fullest story of the rescues to be told nationally, in an interactive and engaging manner.
Notes to editors:
RNLI media contacts
• Julia Sylvester/Pamela Saunders, PR Officers
01202 336225 / 01202 336064; email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org
• Becky Fletcher, Heritage Project Co-ordinator
01263 511294 / 07827976631 / email@example.com
Overview of the lifeboat services
1914 Whitby rescue
On the 30th October 1914 the HMHS Rohilla (a naval hospital ship), travelling to Dunkirk to pick up the wounded, struck Whitby Rock. Although metres from shore, the high seas and storm force winds made any rescue difficult. Whitby’s RNLI lifeboat was carried by hand over a seawall to be launched from the beach. Eventually six lifeboats battled the sea to reach the ship, fill up with desperate passengers and return them to the shore.
The unrelenting courage of the volunteer RNLI lifeboat crews and the community of Whitby, who worked for over 50 hours, saved 144 lives.
Three Gold* and four Silver RNLI Medals for Gallantry, the Empire Gallantry Medal and the Bronze Medal of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals were awarded to Whitby and Tynemouth RNLI volunteers, and to others, involved in the rescue.
1915 Fraserburgh rescue
On the 8th August 1915 the lifeboat Lady Rothes made her first rescue. The first motorboat for Fraserburgh RNLI crew had been donated by a Titanic survivor’s father only 4 days earlier. Following a report that a submarine had been sighted near two ships some 15 miles off shore the lifeboat was launched and made a search of the area.
The lifeboat found the steamer SS Glenravel, and 14 crew on a boat nearby, who had been fired on by the submarine. Bombs had been thrown on board, presumably to save torpedoes and shells. The 14 crew were all saved.
1916 Port Eynon lifeboat service
On the 1st January 1916 the steamer Dunvegan ran aground. When the lifeboat crew formed they were two short, but two men home on leave from the war volunteered to help. The lifeboat Janet was launched but, unable to get near Dunvegan, anchored nearby to await better conditions. After a couple of hours the lifeboat volunteers could see the steamer’s crew were being rescued by a land based rocket team.
Therefore the lifeboat crew started to head home, but the sea conditions capsized the lifeboat throwing everyone overboard. When they had at last got back aboard the Second Coxswain and another were missing. The lifeboat then capsized again and the Coxswain also failed to reappear when the lifeboat righted.
Unable to find the three men, (Billy Gibbs, William Eynon and George Harry), the crew eventually turned the lifeboat towards Mumbles. The crew spent the night huddled in the bottom of the lifeboat trying to keep warm and eventually landed at Mumbles on Sunday 2 January at dawn.
1916 Falmouth rescue
On the 3rd November 1916 the tanker SS Ponus was stranded during a full southerly gale in very heavy seas in Falmouth Bay. Some of her crew reached the shore in the ship’s boats but 19 sailors were taken off by volunteers from the Falmouth lifeboat. The Second Mate of Ponus remained aboard, but the tanker later caught fire so he improvised a raft which after boarding, became pinned against the burning vessel.
Second Lieutenant Badger and Lieutenant Frank Stephens, of the Royal Engineers and Royal Naval Reserves, went to the rescue in the rough seas in a dinghy. They caught hold of the Second Mate, and brought him ashore tied to the dinghy’s stern as it was too small to have him aboard. Both men were awarded the RNLI’s Silver Medal for Gallantry for their outstanding bravery.
1916 Baltimore rescue
On the 29th December 1916 SS Alondra was wrecked on the Kedge Rock, off Baltimore. Sixteen of her crew left in one of the ship’s boats but drowned before reaching the shore. The Venerable Archdeacon John Richard Hedge Becher (Honorary Secretary) and some volunteers launched a boat but failed to reach the vessel. They returned to Baltimore but launched again as some of the ship’s crew had made the rock. Failing to reach the wreck they returned to shore again. At daylight they set out with rocket apparatus.
About the same time two Royal Navy trawlers arrived at the scene and the efforts of all saved 23 survivors, some of whom were lowered down a 45 metre cliff. Archdeacon Becher and Lieutenant Sanderson were each awarded the RNLI’s Silver Medal for Gallantry.
1917 Cromer rescue
On the 9th January 1917 the Greek steam ship Pyrin ran out of control 2 miles offshore. 40 men, including troops, launched the lifeboat Louisa Heartwell into heavy seas and the lifeboat volunteers saved the 16 crew members of the Pyrin. Meanwhile the Swedish ship Fernebo struck a mine laid by a German submarine, and eventually split in two. Six sailors attempted to reach the shore in a ship’s boat, which capsized but all were saved by a chain of men reaching for them from the shore.
The lifeboat crew, recovering from the Pyrin rescue, launched to Fernebo. In worsening weather they attempted several launches, at last succeeding, but broke five oars and lost three more overboard. After returning for more oars, the volunteers launched again, rescuing all 11 remaining Fernebo sailors on the wreck. The Cromer RNLI volunteers returned to shore on January 10, having saved 33 people from the two ships. (27 saved by the lifeboat crew and six by the chain of men).
RNLI Coxswain Blogg was awarded the RNLI *Gold Medal, Second Coxswain Davies a Silver Medal and 12 of the lifeboat crew were awarded the first ever Bronze Medals. Private Stewart Holmes who took part in the human chain was awarded a Silver Medal. Coxswain Blogg is the RNLI’s most highly decorated lifeboat volunteer. Poignantly Private Stewart Holmes was killed in action only a few months later, aged 19 years.
(*The RNLI Gold Medal is often referred to as the lifeboat crew’s Victoria Cross).
Holyhead all-weather lifeboat and volunteer crew launched on service to six kayaks in difficulties off Middle Mouse, north west Anglesey.
One of the party capsized and was in the sea for some time but, with help, was recovered.
A sea king helicopter from RAF Valley was keeping them in sight until the lifeboat arrived.
Cemaes Bay coastguard were on shore watching and relaying information to the coastguard at Holyhead.
All the kayakers were recovered to all-weather lifeboat from Holyhead and brought to the safety of Holyhead marina.
The National Seafarers service has been held at St Paul’s Cathedral since April 1905, when a British shipmaster suggested that the centenary of the death of Nelson would be a fitting occasion for the inauguration of an annual seamen’s service in St Pauls Cathedral. The service has been held annually since, except for some gaps during the first and second World Wars.
Many seafaring organisations are represented at the service; this includes the Royal and Merchant Navies, the commercial world, shipping companies, mission and philanthropic societies, schools and museums, veterans’ associations, labour unions and youth and leisure organisations. The service is sponsored by a number of different organisations, with office facilities and staff required to organise the event provided by the Mission to Seafarers.
Andrew Putt said ‘It was a privilege to represent the RNLI and carry the RNLI Standard. There were several hundred people at the service and a number of organisations Standards were marched into St Paul’s at the start of the service. It is really great to think that the work of the lifeboat crews is recognised in this way’.
To find out more about The Lizard lifeboat station visit the station website at www.thelizardlifeboat.org.uk. You can also follow The Lizard lifeboat on Facebook and Twitter.
Notes to editors:
• The attached photo was taken after the National Seafarers Service at St Paul’s Cathedral, London and shows Steve Tattersall (left) Andrew Putt (centre) and Jeff Ashby (right) with the RNLI Standard. Please credit Paul Fisher/RNLI
RNLI media contacts
For more information about The Lizard RNLI lifeboat station news please contact the station’s Volunteer Lifeboat Press Officers: Bernice Putt on 07896522176 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or Tamsin Thomas, RNLI Media Relations Manager, on 07786 668847 or email Tamsin_Thomas@rnli.org.uk
Events kicked off with games and competitions for kids and during the afternoon there were more than two hundred people supporting the event. The children’s games were sponsored by the Noss Marina. The videos and light hearted talk on ‘Scary Sharks’ by Monty Halls in the crew room of the lifeboat station was a great success. It was packed with children and adults fascinated to hear about his underwater adventures.
Dartmouth Rugby Club organised a special kicking competition that was enjoyed by adults and kids alike, and the gig club showed people around their newest gig, Smudger.
Dartmouth Fire Brigade, the Coastguard and RNLI Flood Rescue teams also attended, giving the whole afternoon a real community feel.
There was a packed music programme with Richard Baker acting as M.C. throughout. Live music kicked off with Antonia Suner and Nick the Fish. They were followed up by Mitch & Mace and local favourites Sound Machine, whose line-up included lifeboat crew members Squiff Howitt and Yorkie Lomas.
Colin Brown ran a barbecue and Jim Brent set up a bar during the day. There was also a raffle organised by Michelle Conannon which was very well supported by more than thirteen businesses around Dartmouth. All profits raised during the day went into a fund for local sports clubs.
‘The day was extremely well supported by the Town and more than achieved our objective to give something back,’ said Yorkie Lomas, Dart lifeboat crewman, who with Squiff Howitt originally came up with the idea for the event. ‘We wanted to say thank you to everyone in Dartmouth, and at the same time help to promote local sports clubs. We hope that everyone agrees that we more than delivered’
The crew are planning to repeat the event in 2014.
It was later confirmed that the skipper’s injuries were unpleasant but not likely to cause long term problems.
Byline: The Plymouth inshore lifeboat was in action yesterday evening (6 October) to incidents on both of our local rivers. With an initial callout to a medical evacuation from a yacht on the Tamar at 4.25pm to another incident on the River Yealm.