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The Loss Of The Lifeboat, The 'Solomon Browne'
In the year ninteen eighty one on the nineteenth day of December A day the town of Mousehole in Cornwall, will always remember An R.N.L.I. Watson class wooden lifeboat, the 'Solomon Browne' Launched from Penlee lifeboat station in that little coastal town. A coaster on its maiden voyage had set sail from a port in Holland With a large cargo of fertiliser for the town of Arklow in Ireland Eight miles off the English coast, water breached the engine room Hundred mile an hour winds blew, the darkness added to the gloom. The crew tried to restart her engines but their efforts were in vain Outside conditions worsened with hurricane winds and heavy rain The coaster was the 'Union Star' and it was floundering helplessly It had now lost the use of its engines and was at the mercy of the sea. The captain radioed the coastguard to report their dire situation Who then contacted air sea rescue at Culdrose naval station. A Royal Navy helicopter was scrambled to try and rescue the crew But in the powerful hurricane force winds, it was impossible to do. Sixty foot waves battered the ship and the sea showed no mercy Its tall mast rocked to and fro that would have caused a catastrophe The helicopters winch line was too short and so they had to abort And a distress call was made to Penlee Station, to launch the lifeboat. Because of the relentless hurricane conditions raging out on the sea The captain of the lifeboat chose seven, just one from each family That night the gates of hell opened as they struggled across the sea The helicopter pilot said he'd never before, witnessed such bravery. Eight people were on board the 'Union Star' and the lifeboat rescued four They radioed the helicopter to say, they'd try and rescue the other four The lifeboats lights went out and contact with the coastguard was lost Their heroic rescue mission was doomed and with their lives paid the cost. The helicopter was very low on fuel and had to head back to base And when they returned to the scene later there wasn't a trace Both the 'Union Star' and the lifeboat had been capsized by the waves Sending both ships crew and the lifeboatmen, to their watery graves. The next day wreckage from both vessels was washed up ashore That was a stark painful reminder of the events the night before Sixteen people lost their lives that night, to the unforgiving sea Eight from the 'Union Star' and the eight lifeboatmen of Penlee. The next day papers reported, on that heartbreaking tragedy And an appeal was made for the families of the men lost at sea All up and down the country people donated generously And people the world over, sent messages of sympathy. The lifeboatmen of Penlee were awarded medals posthumously For their dedication to duty and their extreme gallantry Within days volunteers came forward to form a new crew To carry on saving lives at sea, because that's what they do. Every year the Christmas lights on the nineteenth day of December Are turned off for one hour so that the bereaved families can remember. One illuminated cross and two angels, are left on in their memory Shining brightly across the town of Mousehole and out across the sea. After the disaster they closed down the Penlee lifeboat station And now stands as a memorial to those brave mens dedication Everything has been left in place as it was, on that fateful night And to have carried on using it, just wouldn't have been right. A new lifeboat station was built in Newlyn in nineteen eighty three Just over a mile up the coastline from the old station at Penlee It still bears the same name and that name will always be Associated with men of great courage and extreme bravery. Written 28th September 2021.
Copyright © 2022 Tom Cunningham. All Rights Reserved