Centenary of dramatic sea rescue prompts RNLI appeal

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This year marks the centenary of one of the most dramatic sea rescues ever to have taken place off the Yorkshire coast and an appeal is under way to trace descendants linked to the Rohilla.

Rohilla, a First World War hospital ship, ran aground near Whitby in horrific weather conditions on October 30, 1914. Of the 229 people on board, 85 lost their lives. Six RNLI lifeboats were involved in the rescue attempt, travelling from as far away as Tynemouth to come to the aid of those stranded on board the stricken ship.

A special exhibition will run from May to November at Whitby RNLI Lifeboat Museum and there will be a weekend of commemoration on the actual anniversary, culminating in a remembrance service at St Mary’s Church on Sunday, November 2.

Organisers are now appealing for anyone who may have relics or memorabilia of Rohilla to lend them to the exhibition. They are also hoping to trace descendants of those on board the ship and of the lifeboat volunteers who took part in the marathon rescue.

Peter Thomson, Whitby RNLI volunteer museum curator, said: “To help us commemorate this very special event, we would like to invite the families of anyone who was on board Rohilla and of lifeboat crew who were involved to join us in Whitby.

“But we are also hoping to discover artefacts from Rohilla to put into the temporary exhibition in the museum. We already 
have some fascinating items, including the ship’s bell, a trunk, and a pantry key with a piece of curtain which was clasped in the hand of a survivor when he was rescued.”

The rescue took place over three days and RNLI lifeboatmen battled bravely through colossal seas to reach the ship and bring 145 survivors to safety. Rohilla was on its way from Scotland to Dunkirk to pick up wounded soldiers.

Descendants of one of those involved in the rescue or who have artefacts to lend the exhibition should contact Mr Thomson on 01947 606094.