Robert Smith was coxswain of the Tynemouth motor lifeboat, Henry Vernon, and had spent most of his 65 years as a mariner.
A few months earlier, he and his crew had distinguished themselves by their brilliant, though unsuccessful, rescue attempt at the wreck of the S.S. Dunelm off Blyth.
Captain Burton accomplished the lifeboat, although he was not required to do so by his appointment. This did mean that he was officially in charge of the rescue although the coxswain was in command f the boat and had to make the decisions.
The crew consisted of Second Coxswain James Brownlee and nine men. Two other volunteered to join the boat but due to a shortage of lifejackets they had to remain behind.
Copyright © Ken Wilson 1981