Whitby lifeboat disaster remembered

Memorial to remember the 12 lifeboatmen who perished at sea

Memorial services will be held next Wednesday, 9th February, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Whitby lifeboat disaster. Twelve lifeboatmen out of a crew of 13 died while carrying out their fifth rescue of the day when the lifeboat was overwhelmed by huge seas.

Fierce onshore winds had driven a succession of ships ashore, but each time the lifeboatmen rowed out to the casualty and rescued the crews. Their endurance can scarcely be imagined today, but by the time they returned ashore at midday they were exhausted.

The Harbour Master and John Storr, the lifeboat coxswain, agreed that if any more vessels got into difficulty the lifeboat would not respond. Two hours later another ship was driven ashore and the lifeboat crew decided they could not stand by while others were in danger and launched again.

The lifeboat managed to go alongside the casualty but was then rolled over and capsized. Henry Freeman (pictured above), who was serving on the lifeboat for the first time and was the only member of the crew wearing a cork lifejacket, was the sole survivor.