One hundred years ago saw a desperate RNLI rescue mission, the success of which paved the path for a new phase of lifeboat development


RNLI is set to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the most

dramatic rescue in the charity’s long history this weekend.


series of events and tributes will take place in Whitby to remember those who

died in the Rohilla ship disaster and

the RNLI volunteers who helped saved 144 lives.


29 October 1914, the hospital ship Rohilla

set out to Dunkirk with a mission of rescuing wounded British soldiers.


vessel was navigating blind due to wartime blackouts when it veered miles off

course in storm force conditions and hit rocks a mile south of Whitby, causing

it to break in two.


of the 229 people on board were washed directly off the aft deck, drowning



made it nearly impossible for the RNLI to rescue survivors, despite the wreck

being only 600 metres from the shore.


more than 50 hours and receiving help from Whitby, Upgang, Scarborough,

Teesmouth and Tynemouth lifeboats, the mission eventually managed to save 144

people, including the ship’s cat. 


Whitby lifeboat alone rescued 30 men and five nurses, one of whom had

previously survived the sinking of the Titanic.


Henry Vernon, which was the first

motor lifeboat built, was called by telegram from Tynemouth and crewed by

untrained volunteers.


reaching the wreck, several gallons of oil were discharged from vessel, calming

the water, meaning the lifeboat could get close enough to rescue the remaining

50 passengers who’d been stranded for two days.


of the 229 people on board, 84 sadly perished.


rescue was one of the defining moments in the RNLI’s history and many medals

were awarded to volunteer crewman.


successful use of one of the first motor lifeboats in the RNLI fleet increased

the popularity of these ?new-fangled’ innovations, which were initially

distrusted by their crew – and paved the way for a new phase of lifeboat