RNLI Rye Harbour and the Mary Stanford

Lifeboats News Release

A village remembers

The church altar covered by the RNLI flag has seventeen candles on it in memory of the seventeen lost crewmen


Seventeen candles in memory of seventeen men

Each year at this time the villagers of Rye Harbour in East Sussex gather at their church to honour the crew of the Mary Stanford lifeboat. On 15 November 1928 in a dreadful storm the seventeen RNLI volunteers responded to a call for help from a stricken vessel off Dungeness: not one of them survived. Last year's Covid-19 nineteen restrictions put paid to the annual service of remembrance so it was with gratitude that folk resumed their tradition in 2021. Particularly poignant is the fact that a candle is lit in memory of each crewman by a direct descendant, many still living in the village. In the context of the painful losses of the pandemic those attending were perhaps better able to appreciate the impact on the Rye Harbour community at the time. The Mary Stanford shanty puts it like this:

'For ever will the memory live of seventeen men so true,

Who left their homes and families: the Mary Stanford crew,

Facing wind and weather in the hope of saving lives at sea.'

Today’s lifeboat station proudly maintains the values exemplified by these brave men who put their duty before all else.

The Mary Stanford memorial in the churchyard at Rye harbour


The Mary Stanford Memorial

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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Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

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