The story of how a Hastings lifeboat capsized in stormy seas has been fully revealed 74 years after it happened and was covered up.
The incident happened during the Second World War when the Cyril and Lilian Bishop went to the aid of a landing craft caught in a storm while making its way down the Channel.
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The story was played down by the Hastings Observer of the time at the request of the RNLI and the full facts were kept under wraps.
Dee Day White explained: “We knew the story from hand-me-down conversations.
“Then we were offered a hand-written account from one of the crew members, Charlie Haste (bowman), who was on the lifeboat that night, by his sons Robert and Charlie.
“So now the story of the 1944 capsize can be fully revealed.
“My dad’s brother Fred White was second cox on this terrible trip, which could quite easily have been a disaster. It was only good seamanship, team work and a lot of luck, which saved the boat and crew that day.”
Here is Charlie Haste’s first hand account of the incident. He writes: “It was blowing very strong with big seas coming over the harbour wall. I should think it was blowing more than a gale.
“We got the lifeboat down to the water, put the lifeline around her top to stop anyone going overboard.
“As we got to the end of the harbour wall, a sea came down on top of her and washed Doug White, who was foreward, over the canopy aft. He broke his nose.
“Dick Harffey and I were ready for it. We dived down under the air box and hung on.
“The landing craft we were after was off the harbour wall that morning but had gone down Eastwards, so we went where the wind was blowing right on the shore. We were taking all the seas on our broadside. The seas were just running over us as if we weren’t there. She was full on deck all the time.
“We got down to Winchelsea and over she went. As she started going, Dick Harffey and I were on the starboard bow.
“I don’t know what happened to Dick but I went over down the port side. I found myself with a rope jammed against my chest, down the back of my lifejacket.
“I tried to free myself but then it came to my mind that the boat ought to right itself in so many minutes. It seemed hours to me. I began to black out.
“The next thing I remembered she gave such as shake. When I awoke she was upright again and I was washing to and fro across the deck.
“The first thing I saw were two hands over the top rail. It was Dick. I grabbed his wrists but I didn’t have any strength left. I had a look aft but didn’t see anyone at first. I told Dick to put his feet on the side of the boat when I pulled, but his feet went under the bow.
“I shouted out and Tom Adams started to come forward. I was still hanging on to Dick and he seemed a long time coming. He had gone aft to get his brother Ned aboard.
“Sometime after a couple of hands came forward and we got Dick on board.
“What had happened aft was only told to me afterwards. Ned went over the wheel and had gone clean overboard.
“He was the only one there who saw everything that happened. He swam to the boat and was got aboard by those aft.
“Well then the trouble started. We were in a ripe old mess.
“Everthing that was not lashed down was floating on the water - the spare oilskins, lifejackets. We thought at first that some of the crew were missing until we had a count up and found that we were all there.”
See next week’s Hastings Observer for more of the dramatic first-hand account of the lifeboat capsize by Charlie Haste.