The 1914 Whitby RNLI lifeboat rescue of the wrecked hospital ship HMHS Rohilla, which saw 144 people saved from the sea, is to be featured in an RNLI national touring exhibition commemorating the centenary of World War One.
The charity’s exhibition, funded by Arts Council England, is called Hope in the Great War and will celebrate the courage and bravery of the lifeboat crew who risked their lives to save strangers during WWI.
Whitby’s renowned lifesaving story has been chosen to feature alongside five other RNLI lifeboat services that took place in communities across the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland. Locally, the RNLI is teaming up with members of Whitby Art Society to create a piece of work for the tour. Members of the Society are getting involved, creating 64 individual items of artwork which will be collated to form a jigsaw that represents the rescue, within the exhibition.
Secretary of Whitby Art Society, Sue Morton said: ‘The project has created an amazing sense of working together for a common cause. We are hoping the whole thing will be a tremendous boost to Whitby and to the centenary commemoration next year.’
Work for this project comes ahead of 100th anniversary plans in Whitby which will see a weekend of remembrance for those who did not survive the wreck. Such events aim to join the community together in remembering the courageous work of RNLI lifeboat crews, their families and local communities a century ago.
Any memories, artefacts or photographs are welcome and may be added to the touring exhibition allowing the fullest story of the rescue to be told nationally.
Becky Fletcher, Heritage Project Co-ordinator said: ‘The outstanding efforts by Whitby’s RNLI volunteers to save lives in WWI will now be given a national voice. Although many details are already known about the Rohilla rescue, finding personal memories and connections would undoubtedly be of further inspiration.’
To pass on any family memories and anecdotes or photos, letters and so on, please email HYPERLINK “mailto:Rebecca_Fletcher@rnli.org.uk” Rebecca_Fletcher@rnli.org.uk or call the RNLI Henry Blogg Museum* on 01263 511294.
*The exhibition will begin its tour at the RNLI Henry Blogg Museum, Norfolk in February 2014.
Notes to editors
Overview about the Rohilla rescue
Whitby’s tale of courage and endurance took place on 30 October 1914 as 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 Whitby and Tynemouth RNLI volunteers, and to others, involved in the rescue. (*The Gold RNLI medal is often referred to as the lifeboat crew VC).
Whitby RNLI Coxswain Thomas Langlands. Thomas was one of the volunteers to be awarded an RNLI Gold Medal for Gallantry for the Rohilla rescue. (credit RNLI)
Wreck of HMHS Rohilla. (credit RNLI)