RNLI Rye Harbour remembers

Lifeboats News Release

On Sunday 17 November members of the village community came together to honour the memory of the seventeen crewmen of the Mary Stanford lifeboat

The altar at the church of the Holy Spirit in Rye Harbour covered in the RNLI flag with seventeen lit candles on its front edge

RNLI/Martin Bruce

Seventeen candles for seventeen brave men

Ninety-one years ago, in a wild and violent storm, they launched to go to the aid of the stricken SS Alice of Dungeness: none returned alive. Their boat was powered by oar and sail and they had none of today's sophisticated communication and location equipment. Nonetheless these volunteers immediately answered the call of duty and paid the ultimate price. From five families alone twelve brothers were lost and the impact on the tight-knit fishing community was terrible.

Many descendants of the brave crew still live in the village and local area and for them this act of remembrance each November has an obvious significance. The church of the Holy Spirit in the Harbour was also packed, however, by others simply wishing to show their appreciation both of this historic sacrifice and of the continuing courage and selflessness shown by RNLI volunteers up and down the country in its 238 stations. Perhaps the recently dedicated Pebble Memorial next to the current lifeboat station added impetus to the need to express appreciation and support.

Stuart Clark, volunteer crew member at the station and great-nephew of two brothers lost in 1928 said, 'This was a moving tribute to the brave men of the Mary Stanford, and all the more poignant for me now that I am serving in today's crew. It was also a wonderful expression of community spirit.'

'It says everything,' added Richard Beattie, Chairman at Hastings lifeboat station, 'that many of our crew who intended coming couldn't be here today because they are out on a shout. We are proud, thinking of the Mary Stanford, to continue the tradition of volunteering to save lives at sea.'

Stuart Clark is handed a taper by Canon David Frost so that the candle may be lit

RNLI/Martin Bruce

Stuart Clark lighting a candle for his great uncle

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 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and 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.

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Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or by email.