WHITBY LIFEBOATS

This Page is Dedicated to the Men and Women Who Risk Their Lives Saving Others Specially to My Great Great Great Grandfather Robert Leadley and Great Great Uncle Matthew Leadley Who lost their Lives In the 1861 Lifeboat Disaster 

TWO PHOTOS BY KIND PERMISSION OF THE SUTCLIFFE GALLERY
1 FLOWERGATE WHITBY NORTH YORKSHIRE ENGLAND YO22 3BA
TELEPHONE (01947) 602239
FAX (01947) 820287



henry freeman HENRY FREEMAN SOLE SURVIVOR OF 1861 LIFEBOAT DISASTER




Whitby's first lifeboat arrived at Whitby on Wednesday September 15th 1802. Built by greathead at the cost of 160 pounds. She was 30 feet long, rowed by 10 oars, and was kept on a carriage specially built for her on the west pier.

She was soon in action saving the crew of the sloop Edinburgh on December 11th. No other details have been found of anymore rescues this boat did and was taken out of service in 1817 as being unserviceable.

In 1822 two new lifeboats arrived at Whitby. The one built to replace greathead's lifeboat was 26 ft. 6 ins. long with a beam of 9 ft. 3 ins., rowed by 10 oars and cost 100 pounds she was built in Sunderland by Wake and was kept on the west side of town.

The other boat known as the east side boat was 26 ft. long and 9 ft. 3 ins. wide, rowing 10 oars, built by a local boat builder Chirstopher Gale, this was launched from davits on Tate hill pier and a boathouse was built out to protect the boat.

In February 1827, five ships were wrecked off Whitby in a storm. They were the Oak, Comet, Henry & Mary, all Whitby ships, the Traveller of Sunderland, and the Ann of Stockton. The crews from each ship were all saved by the two Whitby boats.

On December 1st, 1828, the Brig Henry was driven ashore in north-easterly gales near Robin Hoods Bay. The crew of six were saved by Lt. John Linguard. Again, on April 28th, 1829, the Brig Ester was wrecked on Robin Hoods Bay. All seven crew members were saved and for his outstanding gallantry Lt. John Linguard was awarded the R.N.L.I's Gold Medal. Lt. John Linguard was the Chief Officer of Coastguard.

On February 9th, 1861, tragedy struck Whitby. A north-easterly gale that had been blowing for days and churning up the sea.The schooner Gamma was driven ashore about 400 yards from the west pier. The lifeboat was quickly launched through very heavy surf, in command was John Storr who rescued the crew of four.

Shortly afterwards the bargue Clara was driven towards the beach and she ran aground, again the lifeboat was launched and the crew of eleven were saved.

At one in the afternoon the Brig Utility, and a few minutes later the schooner Roe, were driven ashore. Again the lifeboat was launched battling her way out in mountainous seas and reached the two ships and saved both crews.

The schooner Merchant was driven ashore and the lifeboat was launched for a fourth time. As the lifeboat tried to reach the stricken ship two waves broke underneath the lifeboat, throwing up a mess of water, which capsized the lifeboat. Of the 13 lifeboat men onboard her there was only one survivor. On his first day in the lifeboat he was awarded the R.N.L.I's silver medal for his gallantry that day. Henry Freeman went on to serve as a lifeboat man for forty years.

The first Robert & Mary Ellis stationed at Whitby from 1881 - 1909

robert & mary ellis LAUNCHING THE ROBERT & MARY ELLIS

After this incident the R.N.L.I decided to send a self-righting lifeboat as all previous lifeboats were non self-righting.

On January 19th, 1881, the lifeboat men of Whitby took part in one of the most outstanding launches in lifeboat history. It had been snowing and blowing, a south-easterly gale for days, piling the snow into deep snowdrifts. That morning a telegram was received by the harbour master in Whitby saying that a ship had sunk off Robin Hoods Bay and the crew had taken to the ships boat but were unable to land because of the heavy seas.

The wind had changed to a north-easterly making the launching of the lifeboat there impossible, so they decided to take the lifeboat overland to Robin Hoods Bay, six miles away, to launch it. The road to Robin Hoods Bay was very narrow and rising in some places to 500 feet above sea level. The snow was seven feet deep in places. Sixty Whitby men were given shovels and they began to clear the snow from the road, a team of horses was hitched to the lifeboat carriage and the team set off for Robin Hoods Bay, pulling the lifeboat Robert Whitworth.

More men joined in the snow clearing along the way and additional horses were supplied from farms along the way, until there were over 200 men involved in clearing the road to save the crew of the stricken ship.

It took two hours to clear the snow from the road and get the lifeboat to Robin Hoods Bay.

There was little clearance between the houses when they got to the bottom of the Bay, but once there the crew who had worked as hard as anyone to clear the snow and were tired, manned the lifeboat straight away and set off to rescue the ships crew.

For over an hour they struggled to get to the small boat when six of their oars and the steering oar broke. They had to return to shore without reaching the small boat.

While more oars were obtained the call went out from the coxswain Henry Freeman to double bank the oars, so with new oars and a crew of 18 on board the lifeboat Robert Whitworth set off again to save the crew.

After struggling for an hour and a half they reached the small boat and rescued the six sailors on board, they were from the Whitby Brig Visitor. They had to be carried ashore as some of the men were unconscious. Some of the lifeboat men needed medical attention as well; one man was so exhausted he had to stay in the Bay for some time until he recovered enough to make the journey home.

The rest of the men returned to their homes, going back to the Bay for the lifeboat when the weather improved, and sailing it home.

christopher THE NUMBER 2 WHITBY LIFEBOAT THE CHRISTOPHER 1887 - 1895

THE JOHN FIELDEN NUMBER 2 WHITBY LIFEBOAT 1895 - 1914 johnfielden

In October 1914 the hospital ship Rohilla, sailing from Queensfary, bound for Dunkirk, with a full medical staff and five nurses, a total of 229 people, onboard, ran aground in worsening weather off Saltwick nab. In these conditions the Whitby number one boat couldn't be launched.

So they lifted the number two boat, which was kept afloat in winter, out of the water, over an eight foot wall, then put it on skids and dragged it along the beach to a position opposite the Rohilla. Despite being holed twice and the heavy surf, they launched the lifeboat John Fielden.

And after a struggle they reached the ship that was lying 450 yards off shore, surrounded by jagged rocks, they rescued the 5 nurses and 12 of the men and landed them on the beach.

Returning to the ship they rescued a further 18 men. On returning to shore the lifeboat sustained further damage and she was too badly damaged to be used again.

The Upgang lifeboat, another Whitby boat, was brought from her boathouse and lowered down the vertical cliffs onto the beach, calls went out to Teesmouth and Scarborough lifeboat stations asking for assistance, the Scarborough boat arrived at 6 p.m.

By this time it was dark and it was impossible to get near the ship, so they waited a few hundred yards from the shore all night hoping to get a chance to go alongside the ship.

The Scarborough lifeboat, after spending 18 hours at sea in appalling conditions, and the men suffering badly, were forced to return home, towed by the steam trawler Morning Star.

The Teesmouth lifeboat stationed 22 miles north of Whitby was a 42 foot self-righting boat that had been converted to a motor lifeboat. As she was leaving the harbour at Teesmouth she ran into mountainous seas and sprung a leak. A tug had to tow the damaged lifeboat back to Middlesborough.

The next day the number one lifeboat, the Robert and Mary Ellis, was launched into the harbour and set out to sea, coxswain Langlands in charge, to await the arrival of the steam trawler Mayfly from Hartlepool, which towed the lifeboat to within half a mile of the Rohilla.

After a discussion between Langlands and James Hastings, the second coxswain of the Hartlepool lifeboat that was on the Mayfly, it was decide the lifeboat should return to Whitby harbour. At 9 o'clock the Upgang lifeboat was launched, but after struggling for over an hour, the crew totally exhausted, returned to shore.

It became apparent only a motor lifeboat could attempt a rescue of the remaining people on the wreck.  A telegram was sent to Tynemouth for the motor lifeboat Henry Vernon, a 40 foot self-righter. Within 15 minutes the boat was underway, they reached Whitby at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

Taking a quantity of oil with them to flatten the sea, they set out for the wreck. Heavy seas were still crashing over the Rohilla 3 days after she ran aground. Two hundred yards from the wreck the lifeboat men poured the oil onto the sea to flatten the waves. The effect was dramatic, the heavy breakers flattening out to a heavy swell. Coxswain Smith took the Henry Vernon in at full speed.

Within seconds the crew of the Rohilla lowered ropes and ladders and 40 men were taken on board the lifeboat. Two enormous waves engulfed the lifeboat, she shook off the water and the last ten men were taken on board, the rescue was completed in 15 minutes.

The danger was far from being over. The effects of the oil were wearing off, the lifeboat, as she was leaving the stern of the Rohilla, was hit broadside by an enormous herself and she was brought safely into Whitby harbour along with the remaining 50 men, who were taken to waiting ambulances then to the hospital. Of the 229 people on board the Rohilla, 84 perished.

The damaged lifeboat, the John Fielden, was broken in two on the rocks by the high tide. A relief lifeboat was sent to Whitby No 2 station.

She was the Forestar reserve No 4 boat, a self-righter built in 1900 for the No 2 station at Tynemouth. She was soon in action saving the crew of 16 from the SS Ingrid 2 after she ran aground on Whitby rocks. This boat served Whitby for less than five years, and saved a total of 98 lives.

in memory of the men who died

ALL THE ABOVE PHOTOS WERE KINDLY LOANED BY PETER THOMSON
LIFEBOAT MAN FOR 27 YEARS AND COXSWAIN FOR 16 YEARS
NOW CURATOR OF THE WHITBY LIFEBOAT MUSEUM

Open: Easter to October, daily 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. (subject to weather)
Charges: Free - donations for RNLI
Telephone: 01947 602001 or 01947 606094

Pier Road, Whitby, has as its main exhibit the last pulling lifeboat to be in service with the RNLI plus an exhibition of the history of Whitby's lifeboats.

robert & ellen robson

THE ROWING LIFEBOAT ROBERT &ELLEN ROBSON 1947 1957

mary ann hepworth

THE MARY ANN HEPWORTH 1938-1974

mary ann hepworth at sea

THE MARY ANN HEPWORTH PUTTING TO SEA

jacob rachel vallentine

NO 2 LFEBOAT THE JACOB AND RACHAEL VALLENTINE WITH THE MOTOR LIFE BOAT MARGRET HARKER-SMITH IN THE TRUMBLE BOATHOUSE 1925

uncles dave & george

UNCLES GEORGE AND DAVID PEART ON THIS PICTURE LAST ROWING LIFE BOAT IN SERVICE 1947 - 1957

whiterose of yorkshire

THE LIFEBOAT WHITE ROSE OF YORKSHIRE HITTNG 20 FOOT WAVES

whitegone

THE LIFEBOAT WHITE ROSE OF YORKSHIRE UNDER THE WAVE, THE LIFEBOAT SUSTAINED DAMAGE, & CREW WERE INJURED

city of sheffield

'RNLI City of Sheffield' was funded mainly by the City of Sheffield Lifeboat Appeal which raised 420,000 in its 18 month duration. The boat is a modified Tyne Class lifeboat and cost 500,000 in 1987 and is now station boat at Poole.Above picture kindly loaned by Maurice Spencer Sheffield Branch RNLI

the george and mary webb

Whitby`s new one million pound lifeboat the george and mary webb

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