ALMOST 100 years ago the wreck of the Rohilla sparked one of the most dramatic sea rescues ever to take place off the Yorkshire coast.
A First World War hospital ship, she was on her way to Dunkirk to pick up wounded soldiers when she ran aground during atrocious weather to the east of Whitby on October 30, 1914.
She was only some 600m offshore but conditions were appalling and six lifeboats were involved in the heroic three-day rescue operation, with their crews battling colossal seas.
Although 85 of the 229 souls stranded on the stricken ship lost their lives, the remainder were saved by the efforts of those involved in the marathon rescue, one of the toughest in the RNLI’s illustrious history.
Now, to mark the centenary, a special exhibition is to be staged at the Whitby RNLI Lifeboat Museum from May to November while a weekend of commemoration will be held on the actual anniversary, culminating in a remembrance service at St Mary’s Church on November 2.
And the organisers are appealing for relics or memorabilia of the rescue as well as trying to trace descendants of those involved, on the ship and in the lifeboats.
Curator Peter Thomson said: “This was the greatest rescue ever to have been carried out off Whitby and it is very important that we mark the 100th anniversary this year in what is also the centenary of the start of World War One.
“To help us commemorate this very special event, we would like to invite the families of anyone who was on board the Rohilla and of lifeboat crew who were involved to join us in Whitby.
“But we are also hoping to discover artefacts from the Rohilla to put into the temporary exhibition in the museum.
“We already have some fascinating items, including the ship’s bell, a trunk, and a pantry key with a piece of curtain which was clasped in the hand of a survivor when he was rescued. I’m sure there are many other items out there which would help us tell the story of the Rohilla rescue.”
The commemorative weekend will include the launch of the historic William Riley lifeboat, which was used in the actual rescue, and a wreath-laying at the site of the wreck. A plaque will also be unveiled on the West Pier.
Anyone who can help the appeals should contact Mr Thomson at the RNLI Whitby Lifeboat Museum, Pier Road, Whitby, YO21 3PU. Tel 01947 606094. Email Whitby_Museum@rnli.org.uk