85 lives saved from ‘Rohilla’: November 1914

In 1914 the Whitby lifeboatmen, along with four other boats from the treacherous north east coast of England, saved 85 lives, including wounded soldiers and nurses aboard the  hospital ship ‘Rohilla’. We bring a report from the RNLI along with another iconic photo from the Frank Meadow Sutcliffe Collection, showing Whitby lifeboat c.1890 and video footage of the rescue from the Pathé News archive.

Whitby lifeboat c.1890 Photo: Frank Meadow Sutcliffe Collection

Gold Medal awarded to Coxswain Thomas Langlands, and Silver Medal to Second Coxswain Richard Eglon, and George Peart for saving 35 lives when the hospital ship Rohilla on her way to Dunkirk to evacuate wounded, with 224 men and five nurses on board, ran onto a dangerous reef at Saltwick Nab and almost immediately broke in half in a terrific east-south-easterly gale at 0400 on 30 October.  Lifeboats from Scarborough, Teesmouth, Tynemouth, Upgange and Whitby nos.1 and 2 were involved in this rescue which resulted, on 1 November when the rescue finished, with 85 lives having been saved by lifeboats and the loss of 83 people. Whitby number two lifeboat with her coxswain and second coxswain showing undaunted enterprise and determination in the face of what to lesser men, would have been insurmountable difficulties, rescued 35 of these lives. Other survivors made their own way ashore assisted by a number of onlookers, prominent amongst them was Mr Peart, who rushed into the surf at great personal risk to drag them out. This was the most outstanding service of the war and one of the greatest in the whole history of the lifeboat service.

History of Whitby Lifeboat Station, RNLI

The story of the ‘Rohilla’ rescue reported on Pathé News

Created at the beginning of the 20th Century by the Pathé brothers, the newsreel was the world’s first televised news platform. Pioneering the technology and methods of cinema, British Pathé stayed at the forefront of filmed news for decades. Releasing three newsreels a week during that period, British Pathé was the way the people of Britain experienced world events until the advent of television.