Anniversary of Penlee lifeboat disaster commemorated in a Book of Remembrance

Lifeboats News Release

An online Book of Remembrance will mark the 40-year anniversary of the Penlee lifeboat disaster. The book, which has a foreword from President of the RNLI, The Duke of Kent, will be a place to commemorate the courage shown that night, to share sympathies with a community still grieving

and to celebrate the 16 lives lost on the on 19 December 1981.

On 19 December 1981 the cargo vessel Union Star suffered engine failure on its maiden voyage. Facing hurricane force 12 conditions it was driven towards the rocky Cornish coast. Penlee lifeboat Solomon Browne, led by coxswain Trevelyan Richards and seven crew launched to try and save the stricken ship. In horrific conditions, the lifeboat managed to reach the Union Star before all contact was lost with both vessels. The eight crew of the Solomon Browne and the eight onboard the Union Star perished in the disaster.

The book includes a timeline of the tragic events that unfolded as well as the names of those lost. It also details how Penlee RNLI endured; how in the midst of tragedy a new volunteer crew stepped forward and how the Penlee lifeboat crew of today continue to be on call when needed most.

Patch Harvey, Coxswain of Penlee’s current all-weather lifeboat Ivan Ellen said;

‘While for the families and the lifeboat community who lost loved ones that night, the 40th anniversary is no different to any other year, we wanted to acknowledge the continued support and compassion shown by people from all around the world for the Penlee lifeboat community and families of those lost.

The online Book of Remembrance gives everyone the opportunity to share their memories and messages of love and support.’

In January, the opportunity to sign the online book will close, it will be printed and put on display at the Penlee RNLI Visitor Centre at the station in Newlyn Harbour.

Patch continues;

‘It is important that we continue to recognise and remember the sacrifice made by the crew of the Solomon Browne, who gave everything to help others in need. They didn’t give up and their story, their memory should be kept alive for generations to come.

Thankfully, it was the last occasion that we lost an entire RNLI lifeboat crew during a service; with the help of modern technology, the charity has built faster, stronger and safer lifeboats and developed the training for our volunteers. However, the spirit of the Solomon Browne crew lives on in all RNLI lifeboat volunteers who continue to display the selfless commitment to saving lives at sea.’

Link to the online Book of Remembrance is

Notes to Editors

· Please find attached images of the Solomon Browne RNLI lifeboat and the crew who lost their lives going to the aid of the coaster the Union Star credit RNLI/Penlee for both

· Please see the link here to drone footage of the flotilla of lifeboats and boats that went to the old Penlee lifeboat station on 31 August 2021 to lay wreaths in memory of those lost. More information on that event can be found here

· More information on the Penlee disaster can be found here on the RNLI website

RNLI media contacts

For more information please contact Amy Caldwell, RNLI Regional Media Manager, on 07920 818807 or [email protected] or Elaine Trethowan 07704 669406 or [email protected]


Crew of the Solomon Browne


Solomon Browne Penlee Lifeboat

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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