Rye Harbour RNLI tragedy to be remembered

Stanford 2012 1 ENGSUS00120121119142125
Stanford 2012 1 ENGSUS00120121119142125

Members of Rye Harbour RNLI will join with residents to mark the 87th anniversary of the Mary Stanford disaster on Sunday (November 15).

All 17 crew members of the Mary Stanford lifeboat lost their lives when the boat capsized in heavy seas off Rye on November 15, 1928, while answering a distress call.

A fishing boat in Rye Harbour

A fishing boat in Rye Harbour

All of the men were Rye Harbour residents and included fathers, sons and brothers.

It remains the worst disaster in the history of the RNLI.

A service of remembrance takes place at Rye Harbour Church on Sunday at 3pm.

It will be followed by wreath laying at the Mary Stanford Memorial in the church-yard and a rose will be placed on the memorial stone of each crew-member.

Fairlight resident Fay Shearer said her mother Grace Barke was so moved by the tradegy, she wrote a poem to commemorate their sacrifice.

Her poem reads: “Oh gallant men of British shores, who on a winter morn, gave up their lives for others sake, midst wind and rain and storm.

“They feared not rough and stormy seas, not one would be a traitor, so with true and vallient hearts, they went to meet their maker.

“Oh mothers wives and little ones, of those dear men so brave, your men tried hard to do their best, although their lives they gave.”

The 17 men who lost their lives were Herbert Head (47), coxswain and his two sons James (19) and John (17); Joseph Stonham (43), second coxswain; Henry Cutting (39), bowman and his two brothers Robert (28) and Albert (26).

Three brothers Charles (28), Robert (23) and Alexander (21) Pope; William (27) and Leslie (24) Clark, brothers; Morris (23) and Arthur (25) Downey, cousins, and Albert Smith (44), Walter Igglesden (38) and Charles Southerden (22).

The lifeboat was launched in a south-west gale with heavy rain squalls and heavy seas to the vessel Alice of Riga.

News was received the crew of the Alice had been rescued by another vessel and the recall signal was fired three times but apparently the crew did not see it.

As the lifeboat was coming into harbour, she was seen to capsize and the everyone on board perished.

Speculation was rife as to the cause of the capsize. It was said that the lifejackets were water logged and had drowned the crew due to the weight.

The main question raised was ‘what was the Lifeboat doing in the position where it capsized?’.

The lifeboat house was abandoned and still stands as a reminder of the tragedy.

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