Monday 31 October 2011
William Riley of Birmingham & Leamington Lifeboat, 1909
Operated by the Whitby Historic Lifeboat Trust, and seen on display by the marina in Whitby, North Yorkshire, this is the 1909 built Royal National Lifeboat Institution Lifeboat the William Riley of Birmingham & Leamington. It is a standard 34 foot long self-righting pulling Lifeboat which were built in the hundreds in the 19th and early 20th Centuries for the RNLI. The two white end boxes are filled with air cases, so that if the Lifeboat is capsized, it will automatically self-right, which is a lot safer for the volunteer Lifeboat crews.
William Riley was built at the Thames Iron Works at Canning Town, London, and was powered by oars - rowed by ten men (although sometimes, in heavy weather, these would be double banked, meaning each oar would have two men to each oar instead of one). The Lifeboat went into service at Upgang Lifeboat Station, launching twice on service, and in 1919 when Upgang Station was closed, it was moved to Whitby where it served until 1931.
On October 30 1914, the Hospital Ship SS Rohilla, en route to Dunkirk to pick up wounded men from the front, struck Whitby Rock near Saltwick, south of Whitby, and ran aground with 229 people on board. Far from this making the ship safe, it meant the waves and damage would break the ship apart. The RNLI's voluntary crews attempted to rescue those on board, but high seas and winds made this extremely difficult. The rescue was to take fifty hours and involved six Lifeboats, including an early motor Lifeboat travelling from as far north as Tynemouth. The William Riley was one of the Lifeboats involved, travelling overland from Upgang Station, but when it arrived it wasn't able to launch from the beach in front of the Rohilla due to the seas. Of the 229 people on board, 85 died, however the rescue was an amazing feat by the RNLI crews, mostly using rowing Lifeboats, in awful conditions
Posted by Richard Hannay at 16:43