LETTER: Remembering lifeboat crew

Keyboard SUS-160615-124004001
Keyboard SUS-160615-124004001

On November 20, an overcast, cold windswept day, with drizzle in the air, I once again felt privileged and honoured as the lifeboat operations manager at Rye Harbour, to take my place among lifeboat crewmen from Rye Harbour and Hastings to honour, by laying flowers, those 17 men that lost their lives on November 15, 1928 aboard the ill-fated lifeboat ‘Mary Stanford’.

Along with relatives and non-relatives alike we stood in silence in the churchyard, after a spine-tingling rendition of the Last Post, played to perfection as in previous years.

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.

Two minutes of silence over and reveille was sounded, and on each name tablet a red rose with laurel leaves was placed in recognition that the original grave was decorated with laurel on the day of the funeral.

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

It was no mistake that the Dungeness crew did not attend this year, they were called out at 08.45 in similar conditions to those experienced by the Mary Stanford crew in 1928.

With wind speeds in excess of 70mph they launched to the assistance of a ship between Dover and Folkestone that had suffered engine failure and had been in collision with a barge.

As Dungeness Lifeboat stood by the casualty the thoughts of her crew were remembering the crew of the ill-fated Mary Stanford lifeboat, the coxswain asked his crew if they could imagine doing the call in an open rowing lifeboat as the crew of the Mary Stanford had done, almost 88 years ago, to the day.

Richard Tollett

Lifeboat operations manager

Rye Harbour

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