Donate now

Littlestone RNLI remembers the fallen - and lifeboat crew who gave their lives

Lifeboats News Release

On Remembrance Sunday Littlestone RNLI remembered those killed in wars and also three crew who were lost during a storm on March 9 1891.

Susan Pilcher

Crew Headstones in St Nicholas Church graveyard
Each year volunteers from RNLI Littlestone honour those who died at the Remembrance service on Remembrance Sunday. It's also an occasion where the lifeboat station's volunteers take time to remember crew members who made the ultimate sacrifice.

The annual service takes place at St Nicholas Church New Romney with various representatives from the Town Council, Royal British Legion, Burma Star Association, Police, Fire Service, RNLI, Coast Guard, local youth groups including Air Cadets and Scouts.

Following the church service the volunteers pay their respects and visit the grave yard where the crew gravestones are.

During one of the worst recorded storms in history in 1891 the three crew lost their lives. The three crew who drowned were William O’Ryan, Samuel Hart and Thomas Sullivan-chief boatman in charge of the station.

It was on a stormy 9 March when the schooners Echo and Hugh Barclays were reported to be in difficulty in the bay off Lade. After being swept back to the shore three times, the lifeboat ‘Sandal Magna’ broke through the surf, only to be hit by a large wave turning her over and throwing her crew in the freezing sea. All but three of the crew made it ashore alive. Such an event led to the writing of a poem:

The Men of Littlestone-A Plea.

Lo, the signal! Soaring through the angry sky rose rockets red,
As the hellish waters chafed beneath the storm kings thunder-tread,
And the mad foam-crested billows surged both pitiless and vast.
And death grimily road along the pinions of the blast!
Round the rock-bound coast of Albion wilder night was never known,
On the night was launched the lifeboat by the men of Littlestone!

“Man the lifeboat!” Well they answered, on that bitter stormy night,
Stirred to action, fearlessly they braved the elements to fight-
Fight for life. To death and duty they were sailors staunch and true,
By their fellow-creatures’ peril stirred to do of derring-do!
By the hurricane’ undaunted, life to save, was theirs alone,
So to answer duty’s summons went the men of Littlestone.

Danger- was their watchword; help- their battle cry; and the storm
Was their music on the battle-valour theirs of purist form!
All the dear ones-wives and children, joys of home, behind were left.
Now alas! - Of husbands, fathers- wives and children are bereft.
Hearken, to a child’s deep sobbing, and a grief-wrung widow’s moan,
There is mourning in some erstwhile homes at Littlestone.

Three of those who, with hearts willing, went poor shipwrecked souls to save,
Ne’er came back to tell the story, With the bravest of the brave
They shall be for ever numbered, They have done their work-how well
Annals of our stormy sea-shore shall in golden letters tell;
For the lives of fellow-creatures they have nobly risked their own;
Now are left the widows, children, of the men of Littlestone.

Listen to the plaintive pleading, lovers of heroic deeds!
Loud and clear the voice of mercy through the length of England pleads-
Give the children food and shelter, you whose children snugly lie,
Never feeling pangs of hunger that you cannot satisfy!
Be a friend unto the widow; now be acts of kindness shown
To all the dear ones who deeply mourn the men of Littlestone.

Who will aid the sad-eyed mourners? Who will aid this noble cause?
Dear are husbands, fathers-heroes, whose brave deeds have gained applause.
We, who sit in happy homesteads by our firesides bright and warm,
By the lifeboat may have dear ones succoured in the raging storms;
We, in fact may be in peril, and brave heroes risk their own
Lives for us upon the oceans, like the men of Littlestone!

A poem written by Annie Brown in 1891

Futher information about the tragic event can be found here

Media Contact details:

Clinton Marshall, Volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer at Littlestone Lifeboat Station
(07758) 616581
[email protected]

Paul Dunt, Regional Media Officer London and South East (07885) 296252 [email protected]

Susan Pilcher

Standard bearers in St Nicholas Church


Crew funeral


Sandal Magna Lifeboat and her crew

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.

Learn more about the RNLI

For more information please visit the RNLI website or Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. News releases, videos and photos are available on the News Centre.

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.