Wartime Hartlepool RNLI crew awarded medals for brave rescue
As Remembrance Day approaches it was 76 years ago that the volunteer crew of the Hartlepool lifeboat were awarded medals for an outstanding rescue.
During the Second World War the RNLI awarded a Gold Medal to Coxswain Lieutenant W H Bennison, the Silver Medal to Motor Mechanic H W Jefferson and the Bronze Medal to crew members Thomas Gilchrist, Robert Horsley, Edward Wallace, Richard Coulson, William Horsley and Herbert Pearson for the rescue of five people from the ss Hawkwood that went ashore in an easterly gale with fierce snow squalls half a mile north of the Tees North Gare Jetty on 26 January 1942.
The lifeboat launched at 7.35am and on arrival found the wreck in two parts and in water too shallow for approach, so returned to the station. After waiting for the tide the lifeboat launched again and with heavy seas breaking over her took off five men from the fore of the wreck and landed them safely ashore.
The Master of the Hawkswood said in a letter of thanks, ‘We would like you to know that we will always remember the fearless and persistent determination displayed by the crew of the lifeboat under the command of Coxswain Bennison who showed such indomitable courage, initiative and superb seamanship.'
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Key facts about the RNLI
The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and, in a normal year, more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.