100 years ago on 27 October 1916, 13 of the crew of the Salcombe lifeboat William and Emma drowned. Returning from a fruitless mission near Prawle Point, the lifeboat capsized in near hurricane force winds as it attempted to re-cross the infamous Bar and reach the safety of Salcombe harbour. Of her 15-man crew only two survived. The loss was one of the worst disasters in the history of the RNLI and had a devastating impact on the town which had already lost many men fighting on WWI battlefields.
On 27 October Baltic Exchange chief executive Jeremy Penn attended an event marking the centenary of the Salcombe lifeboat disaster.
The Baltic has a long running affiliation with the Salcombe Lifeboat Station and financially supports The Baltic Exchange III offshore lifeboat.
Over 100 descendants of the 15 crew attended the commemoration ceremony at Holy Trinity Church in Salcombe, alongside RNLI volunteers and people from the town and beyond. The church and marquee outside showed a live stream of the proceedings. This was necessary as the church was packed to capacity with many of the town’s resident’s coming out to pay their respects.
A flotilla of six lifeboats led by Salcombe’s all weather and inshore lifeboats, Plymouth’s all weather lifeboat and a number of former, retired lifeboats headed to Salcombe Bar where a wreath laying ceremony took place. Spectators attended on leisure craft and lined the shore to watch. Cadets from the Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, fired a 13 gun salute for each of the lives lost from the gardens of The Bolt at South Sands and Coastguard helicopter 924 joined the lifeboats for the ceremony.
A lone piper aboard Salcombe’s all-weather lifeboat The Baltic Exchange III led the flotilla back into the harbour.
Go to salcombelifeboat.co.uk/lifeboat-disaster-centenary to see details of a book written on the disaster by Lifeboat Museum curator Roger Barrett, drawing on contemporary eye witness reports.