HMHS Rohilla
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90th Anniversary Commemoration Event

Mrs Naylor and Shirley

2004 marked the 90th anniversary of the loss of the Rohilla and in order to mark the anniversary of one of the most dramatic sea rescues ever to take place off the Yorkshire coast a service of commemoration was organised.

Planning such an event was going to be quite an undertaking and in view of my enthusiasm for the Rohilla I was invited to partake in its planning. I used a database set up when I wrote my book and contacted all those who are connected to the Rohilla in one way or another, especially those whose loss was that of a family member! One such lady Elsie Naylor seen here (right) with her daughter Shirley, she lost her father on the Rohilla and despite her ageing years was a wonderful woman full of spirit and vitality.

It was hoped that families of both those lost and those that survived would attend and have the opportunity to pay tribute to the RNLI lifeboat men who battered through colossal seas to rescue those trapped aboard the stranded vessel. Rowing lifeboats from Whitby, Upgang, Scarborough, and Teesmouth and the motor lifeboat from Tynemouth were involved in the rescue. This was the greatest rescue ever to have been carried out off Whitby and it was only fitting that the 90th anniversary be marked.

Lifeboat Crew New and Old

On the 27th October the south coast was hit by some severe weather and as the commemoration approached I hoped that we would not be faced with such severe weather. With many people travelling some distance any inclement weather would have ruined what turn out to be a special event. As the new day dawned on the 31st October 2004, it did so with what was typically a brighter looking day, especially being October. At lunch time I made my way down to the bandstand anxious and hoping for a good turnout, as it was I needn't have been concerned as there was a large turnout. The service went very well and those I spoke to later all commented on its success! It was a nice feeling to know that I was  involved in its planning and able to share some pleasant opportunities with people I  had not met until then.

A Large Public Gathering

There was however a small minority of motorcyclists that seemed intent on spoiling what was effectively a religious gathering. As a tourist resort we are often inundated with motorcyclists and as a rule they are generally well behaved. I found it disrespectful the way they continually 'revved' up their engines. There was no need to do so, they had no defence in not knowing what was going on, the bandstand area was surrounded by seated people and a chaplain was giving a sermon over a public address system. I have had a number of motorcycles myself over the years and know of no reason why the motorcyclists were so inconsiderate. People have been quick to knock them in the past and I have had sympathy for them, but on this occasion I could not excuse their behaviour.

At the end of the service I joined family members and those directly involved with the Rohilla boarded the old lifeboat Mary Ann Hepworth, the same boat used in the 1964 commemoration.

The former lifeboat was joined by a current lifeboat with older members of lifeboat crews aboard it. A third boat containing numerous film crews and other interested parties followed us out to a point above the wreck of the Rohilla where a number of wreaths were laid upon the water after a short prayer.

Positioning Over The Wreck

Although a number of television crews were at the service, little footage actually appeared on television as is often the case. Thankfully my daughter was about with the camcorder and she was able to capture most of the service (even with the overbearing motorcycle noise).

I was thankfully able to source video footage of the service captured by "Calendar News", camcorder footage taken on an underwater dive. Paul Wilson, a professional videographer was also present and with his facilities I am hoping to put all the footage together onto a DVD thereby archiving the footage.

The End of a Wonderful Day

I would like to thank all those who made the memorial service possible including the Chaplain, the Salvation Army Band, old and present lifeboat crew members and the many others not listed individually. I hope that all those who attended were pleased with our commemoration service. Finally I would like to thank Doug Jackson, the Whitby Gazette and Mrs Whitworth for allowing me the use of their photographs for this web site page. Middlesbrough's Evening Gazette had a small mention of the memorial service prior to it happening, I have added an Adobe pdf document courtesy of the Evening Gazette which you can access using the link.

The following link can be used to access the first of three gallery pages 90th Anniversary Commemoration Event.

© Colin Brittain 1999 - 2016