30 years since Penlee

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Incredibly it is 30 years since this terrible tragedy unfolded, litrally to the moment.

The Solomon Browne Watson Class lifeboat was launched from the Penlee slip at 20.12 after the horrendous weather conditions rendered the Sea King rescue attempt of the captain, his family, and crew from the powerless Union Star inefective.
As we now know the Solomon Browne and her brave crew were all lost alonf with the ships crew.

Coxswain Trevelyan Richards
Second Coxswain/Mechanic Stephen Madron,
Assistant Mechanic Nigel Brockman
Emergency Mechanic John Blewett
crewmembers Charlie Greenhaugh
Kevin Smith
Barrie Torrie
Gary Wallis

Captain Henry Morton
Mate James Whittaker,
Engineer George Sedgwick,
Crewman Anghostino Verressimo, and
Crewman Manuel Lopes
Dawn Morton
Sharon Morton
Deanne Morton

Russell Smith the American exchange pilot of 'Rescue 80' said this about the crew,

"the greatest act of courage that I have ever seen, and am ever likely to see, was the penultimate courage and dedication shown by the Penlee [crew] when it manoeuvred back alongside the casualty in over 60 ft breakers and rescuing four people shortly after the Penlee had been bashed on top of the casualty's hatch covers. They were truly the bravest eight men I've ever seen who were also totally dedicated to upholding the highest standards of the RNLI"

This link is worth reading through, http://westcoast-news.org/story-penlee.htm

There is a programme on this tomorrow on BBC4 at 22.00.

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Profile picture for user longshot

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Penlee Lifeboat

Exercising with a Wessex off Penzance Promenade 2 years before it was lost

Penlee Lifeboat, 'Solomon Browne', August 1979

RNLI Solomon Browne, Penlee Lifeboat August 1979

This was part of the RNLI Summer Holiday event on Penzance Promenade, shot from the prom with a 200mm lens .

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The RNLI do a fantastic job, and 9 out of 10 times, although conditions are atrosious, they manage to pull it off and save lives.

Considering they are prepared to go to Sea in any weather conditions, and are not paid, speaks volumes for these unsung heroes.
Having had several boats, (Sea going) myself, I realise the value donations to the RNLI mean, WTSHTF.
Jim.

Lincoln .7

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Lovely (and touching) shots Longshot, would you be prepared to post them on the 'Sea King 80' thread in the Historic section?

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Fully endorse what has been said here about the tragedy that occured 30 years ago as well as the courage of those who put their lives on the line to save those in peril on the seas. Their's is a special kind of courage.

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Loss of the Union Star

As I recall it this accident was an example of the dilemma calling for help both sea and aircraft captains face with mechanical problems .....the Union Star was a brand new coastal ship on its first commercial voyage and had engine failure in filthy weather in the English Channel off Cornwall.... the Captain delayed calling Mayday and the ship drifted in too close to the coast in worsening conditions for an effective rescue

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I think that was the basics of it, though ISTR the operating company balking at potential towage and insurance costs.
The fact that the Captain had his wife and two teenage daughters aboard at the time only adds to the tragedy.
There is no starker illustration of what RNLI crews knowingly face when they launch in such conditions, the Sennen Lifeboat had also launched but couldn't get around Lands End due to the weather and sea state being against it.
My uncle was with coastguard at the time, but wasn't on duty, he went to the cliffs near Tater Du and recalls the smell of diesel and oil and the feeling of utter helplessness.
There's two very sad events that I remember vividly as a child in Cornwall, this and the loss of the S-61N on the way to the Scillies, an operation that my Grandad worked for.

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Was on the same engineering course at Camborne tech with a guy who lost a relation on the The Solomon Browne, think it was his cousin IIRC http://www.mocgb.net/forums/images/smilies/yahoo/39.gif

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The RNLI do a fantastic job, and 9 out of 10 times, although conditions are atrosious, they manage to pull it off and save lives.

Considering they are prepared to go to Sea in any weather conditions, and are not paid, speaks volumes for these unsung heroes.
Having had several boats, (Sea going) myself, I realise the value donations to the RNLI mean, WTSHTF.
Jim.

Lincoln .7

More than 9/10 Jim! 999/1000 more like.
I think the whole of the World respects them.

One of the best ever "This is your life" programmes was the Cox. of a Lifeboat. They brought on stage some of the people he'd rescued..to not have a tear in yer eye would be unnatural. IIRC, it was a special, 2 hours long? The only other special was Lord Mountbatten.
I'd really like to see those again.

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That was Matt Lethbridge, coxswain for the St Marys Lifeboat, mainly on the Guy & Claire Hunter Watson boat, before the Robert Edgar Arun class.
he was involved with many couragous rescues including the British airways Sikorsky crash in 1983 that I mentioned earlier.

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Pagen01.
Oddly, I had a memory of this TV programe being in the 70's...and mid 70's at that.
My brain needs a reformat and OS re-install!

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Just read the link in your first post. I'm speechless... those guys were heroes, without a shadow of a doubt.

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I've just watched the programme on BBC4 and they really were (and still are) the ultimate heroes, volunteer locals, friends, and family who will launch in any conditions and not give up.
If you can catch the programme (Cruel Sea: The Penlee Lifeboat Disaster) on I player it is a must see, with great interviews with relatives, witnesses, and the Sea King pilot and winchman - it takes a lot for me to be moved by something I watch, but this programme is incredibly moving.
The pilot describes the Lifeboat being lifted out of the sea and dumped down upon the deck and hatches of the Union Star, my uncle also told me this from a witness there, but he recalls that as the lifeboat had hit the deck all its timbers split in the force and that was effectively the end for the Soloman Browne.

I didn't realise that this disaster was what introduced the Coastguards authority to be able to order a tow over the captains own wishes.

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Lifeboat Solomon Browne Song

Found on youtube via the Sea King 80 thread, Cornish Wurzells involvement? and the current Penlee crew singing backing....on the pop side of folksong I guess
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mTr41HTpx0k&feature=related

and a link to pagen01s BBC4 program
http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00794gz/Cruel_Sea_The_Penlee_Lifeboat_Disaster/