Rohilla-disaster-remembered-100-years-on

Byline: The centenary of one of the most dramatic rescues in the RNLI’s history is being commemorated in Whitby this weekend (Nov 1 – 2) with a series of events and tributes to remember those who died and the remarkable RNLI volunteers who helped save 144 lives.
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The Rohilla, a First World War hospital ship heading to Dunkirk to pick up wounded soldiers, ran aground on 30 October 1914 in horrific weather conditions. The three-day rescue which ensued saw the lifeboat charity’s volunteer crews stretched to the limits of their endurance while the people of Whitby flocked to the scene in a bid to help. Of the 229 people on board the Rohilla, 85 lost their lives.

This afternoon (Saturday 1 November) a flotilla of around 15 boats led by the Whitby RNLI all-weather lifeboat George and Mary Webb sailed to the site of the wreck at Saltwick Nab to allow RNLI volunteers and descendants of those who perished to lay wreaths and pay their respects.

There was a short service of remembrance on board the lifeboat, transmitted by loud speaker to the other boats, before the wreaths were lowered into the sea above the wreck.

Also in the flotilla was the restored rowing lifeboat William Riley, which 100 years ago was lowered down a cliff on ropes in an attempt to reach the Rohilla. Earlier today, the William Riley gave a rowing and rescue demonstration for the assembled crowds.

The William Riley was one of six RNLI lifeboats which took part in the Rohilla rescue. Also involved was the new motor lifeboat Henry Vernon, which travelled from Tynemouth and was the only vessel able to reach the last 50 survivors on board the stricken ship. People had been suspicious of motor lifeboats until then but this helped convince RNLI crews that they really were the future.

After today’s wreath laying, a plaque marking the anniversary was unveiled on West Pier while this evening sees a performance of a new folk opera, ‘Spirit of Whitby’, which tells the Rohilla story.

And tomorrow morning, there will be a service of remembrance at St Mary’s Church, Whitby led by the Bishop of Whitby, the Right Reverend Paul Ferguson.

People have come from across the world to take part in the weekend’s commemorations. Steven Kirk travelled with his wife Lorraine from Australia to pay his respects to his Great Grandfather George Kirk, a general hand on board the Rohilla who died in the disaster. 

Steven said: ‘It’s a great privilege to be here to share in this very special occasion.  Even though I never knew George and his incredible story wasn’t one I learned about until fairly recently, I felt it was important to be here to pay my respects to him and all the other people who died on the Rohilla. This has been a great honour.’

Several people from Barnoldswick, Lancashire, were also in Whitby to remember 15 St John’s Ambulance Brigade volunteers from the town who were together on the Rohilla when she ran aground. Only three of them survived.

Whitby RNLI volunteer museum curator Peter Thomson MBE, who was coxswain on board the William Riley today, said: ‘This commemorative weekend has been a very long time in the planning and I’m proud that we have been able to pay a fitting tribute to both those who died and to those who struggled against all the odds to rescue the survivors.

‘Fortunately, the weather was kind to us – we have had very different conditions to those experienced 100 years ago on board the Rohilla. It was very moving to be able to go out to the site of the wreck and to remember just what it must have been like for the poor souls on board the stricken vessel, some of them waiting more than two days to be rescued. We must never forget stories like this one, or the people who died during one of the worst tragedies ever to take place off the Yorkshire coast.’

Picture captions

Rohilla 15 – Restored lifeboat George and Mary Webb on its way to the Rohilla site to lay wreaths. Credit RNLI.
Rohilla 5 – The service of remembrance on board RNLI all-weather lifeboat George and Mary Webb. Credit RNLI.
Rohilla 3 – Whitby RNLI coxswain Mike Russell with the bell from the Rohilla, which was rung in remembrance of the dead. Credit RNLI.
Rohilla 7 – Wreath laying. Credit RNLI.
Rohilla 8 – A wreath at sea. Credit RNLI.
Rohilla 11 – Lorraine and Steven Kirk from Australia, whose Great Grandfather George died in the Rohilla tragedy. Credit RNLI.
Rohilla 14 – Peter Thompson (correct) representing the people of Barnoldwick with a wreath in memory of the 12 St John’s Ambulance Brigade from the town who died. Credit RNLI.

Notes to editors         

The 7,409-ton SS Rohilla was built in 1906 by Harland & Wolff, the Belfast ship builders who also built the Titanic. The Rohilla was originally a cruise liner owned by the British India Line and then requisitioned in August 1914 as a naval hospital ship.

For more information about the Rohilla disaster, click here: http://bit.ly/1wO30iN  

RNLI Rohilla tribute film: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lRgYujXxSTs  

Downloadable version of the film for media: http://www.rnlivideolibrary.org.uk/getvideo.aspx?vid=77sGLbvm  

British Pathe footage: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qUzIw_RS0qk   

RNLI Media Contacts
For more information, contact Alison Levett, RNLI Public Relations Manager, North, on 07786 668912 or at alison_levett@rnli.org.uk

Byline: The centenary of one of the most dramatic rescues in the RNLI’s history is being commemorated in Whitby this weekend (Nov 1 - 2) with a series of events and tributes to remember those who died and the remarkable RNLI volunteers who helped save 144 lives.
Page Content:

The Rohilla, a First World War hospital ship heading to Dunkirk to pick up wounded soldiers, ran aground on 30 October 1914 in horrific weather conditions. The three-day rescue which ensued saw the lifeboat charity’s volunteer crews stretched to the limits of their endurance while the people of Whitby flocked to the scene in a bid to help. Of the 229 people on board the Rohilla, 85 lost their lives.

This afternoon (Saturday 1 November) a flotilla of around 15 boats led by the Whitby RNLI all-weather lifeboat George and Mary Webb sailed to the site of the wreck at Saltwick Nab to allow RNLI volunteers and descendants of those who perished to lay wreaths and pay their respects.

There was a short service of remembrance on board the lifeboat, transmitted by loud speaker to the other boats, before the wreaths were lowered into the sea above the wreck.

Also in the flotilla was the restored rowing lifeboat William Riley, which 100 years ago was lowered down a cliff on ropes in an attempt to reach the Rohilla. Earlier today, the William Riley gave a rowing and rescue demonstration for the assembled crowds.

The William Riley was one of six RNLI lifeboats which took part in the Rohilla rescue. Also involved was the new motor lifeboat Henry Vernon, which travelled from Tynemouth and was the only vessel able to reach the last 50 survivors on board the stricken ship. People had been suspicious of motor lifeboats until then but this helped convince RNLI crews that they really were the future.

After today’s wreath laying, a plaque marking the anniversary was unveiled on West Pier while this evening sees a performance of a new folk opera, ‘Spirit of Whitby’, which tells the Rohilla story.

And tomorrow morning, there will be a service of remembrance at St Mary’s Church, Whitby led by the Bishop of Whitby, the Right Reverend Paul Ferguson.

People have come from across the world to take part in the weekend’s commemorations. Steven Kirk travelled with his wife Lorraine from Australia to pay his respects to his Great Grandfather George Kirk, a general hand on board the Rohilla who died in the disaster. 

Steven said: ‘It’s a great privilege to be here to share in this very special occasion.  Even though I never knew George and his incredible story wasn’t one I learned about until fairly recently, I felt it was important to be here to pay my respects to him and all the other people who died on the Rohilla. This has been a great honour.’

Several people from Barnoldswick, Lancashire, were also in Whitby to remember 15 St John’s Ambulance Brigade volunteers from the town who were together on the Rohilla when she ran aground. Only three of them survived.

Whitby RNLI volunteer museum curator Peter Thomson MBE, who was coxswain on board the William Riley today, said: ‘This commemorative weekend has been a very long time in the planning and I’m proud that we have been able to pay a fitting tribute to both those who died and to those who struggled against all the odds to rescue the survivors.

'Fortunately, the weather was kind to us – we have had very different conditions to those experienced 100 years ago on board the Rohilla. It was very moving to be able to go out to the site of the wreck and to remember just what it must have been like for the poor souls on board the stricken vessel, some of them waiting more than two days to be rescued. We must never forget stories like this one, or the people who died during one of the worst tragedies ever to take place off the Yorkshire coast.’


Picture captions

Rohilla 15 – Restored lifeboat George and Mary Webb on its way to the Rohilla site to lay wreaths. Credit RNLI.
Rohilla 5 – The service of remembrance on board RNLI all-weather lifeboat George and Mary Webb. Credit RNLI.
Rohilla 3 – Whitby RNLI coxswain Mike Russell with the bell from the Rohilla, which was rung in remembrance of the dead. Credit RNLI.
Rohilla 7 – Wreath laying. Credit RNLI.
Rohilla 8 – A wreath at sea. Credit RNLI.
Rohilla 11 – Lorraine and Steven Kirk from Australia, whose Great Grandfather George died in the Rohilla tragedy. Credit RNLI.
Rohilla 14 – Peter Thompson (correct) representing the people of Barnoldwick with a wreath in memory of the 12 St John’s Ambulance Brigade from the town who died. Credit RNLI.


Notes to editors         

The 7,409-ton SS Rohilla was built in 1906 by Harland & Wolff, the Belfast ship builders who also built the Titanic. The Rohilla was originally a cruise liner owned by the British India Line and then requisitioned in August 1914 as a naval hospital ship.

For more information about the Rohilla disaster, click here: http://bit.ly/1wO30iN  

RNLI Rohilla tribute film: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lRgYujXxSTs  

Downloadable version of the film for media: http://www.rnlivideolibrary.org.uk/getvideo.aspx?vid=77sGLbvm  

British Pathe footage: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qUzIw_RS0qk   

RNLI Media Contacts
For more information, contact Alison Levett, RNLI Public Relations Manager, North, on 07786 668912 or at alison_levett@rnli.org.uk