Mary Stanford lifeboat disaster remembered

Rye mayor Jonathan Breeds and others laid wreaths at the Mary Stanford memorial in Rye Harbour. Photo courtesy of Rye Harbour RNLI SUS-161123-164119001
Rye mayor Jonathan Breeds and others laid wreaths at the Mary Stanford memorial in Rye Harbour. Photo courtesy of Rye Harbour RNLI SUS-161123-164119001
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Rye Harbour paid tribute to the Mary Stanford lifeboat crew members who died in the worst tragedy in RNLI history on Sunday (November 20).

Villagers, RNLI volunteers and many more gathered at The Church of the Holy Spirit for the memorial service which was standing room only as it was so full.

All 17 crew members of the Mary Stanford drowned after it capsized during heavy seas off the harbour on November 15, 1928.

Current lifeboat operations manager Richard Tollett said he felt ‘privileged and honoured’ to pay tribute with his fellow crewmen.

“It is now 88 years on and there were over 100 people at the service. We must continue to remember the sacrifice that these men made,” he said.

“It was and still is the worst loss of life from a single lifeboat that the RNLI have suffered.”

Rye rector Canon David Frost conducted the service to a packed church which included lifeboat volunteers from Rye Harbour and Hastings.

A two-minute silence was held in the graveyard afterwards as well as a ‘spine-tingling’ rendition of The Last Post.

Rye mayor Jonathan Breeds laid one of the wreaths and on each name tablet, a red rose with laurel leaves was placed in recognition of the decoration on the day of the funeral.

Dungeness crewmen were unable to attend as they had been called out to rescue a ship between Folkstone and Dover which had suffered engine failure and hit a barge.

A Rye Harbour RNLI spokesman said the service served to remind us all of the bravery and dedication of our lifeboat crews who often risk their lives to save others.

The Mary Stanford was launched to help the stricken cargo shop SS Alice during a storm, but it never made it and the whole crew died.

The disaster is still the largest loss of life from one lifeboat in RNLI history and the average age of the crew was only 29-years-old.

“We stood in silence in the Churchyard, after a spine tingling rendition of the last post, played to perfection as in previous years,” Mr Tollett said.

“One can only wonder what went through the minds of that crew pulling on a 12 feet sweep, heading into that ferocious gale, the worst in living memory, while others battled to hoist the sail, as away they went into the storm.”

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